My Grief Observed
In a nod to the incomparable C.S. Lewis, whose book A Grief Observed I recently read, I thought I’d write about some of the things I have experienced the past twenty-five days. How I have grieved has been surprising to me, though I’m sure many will tell me that my experiences are nothing new (and that is actually a comforting thing).
When I first received the news that Tom had died, I felt overwhelmed. I don’t think I could even understand what I was being told. I felt detached from what I was doing and though I cried as I shared the news with my parents and with Spencer, I couldn’t really believe it was real. For about two hours I couldn’t stop thinking but I couldn’t really feel that this had happened. It wasn’t until I started noticing that my hands were cold and tingly and that I was feeling kind of queasy that the emotional impact of what had happened began to hit me. The tears started then – not continuously but in waves that varied in intensity from sobbing to weeping. I don’t even know all the things that I was thinking – but I felt powerless in my life and so very sad.
The queasiness lasted – for the rest of the day I felt sick. I couldn’t eat but was so thirsty. I hurt physically and every hug or embrace felt so comforting. When I finally went to bed, Haley came with me. I don’t think either of us slept well, but the oblivion was welcome as a relief from all the pain. Fortunately, the acute pain of that first day subsided. Tears came frequently over the next week, but all the hugs from family and friends brought a lot of physical comfort. Being busy was a distraction, but I began to notice that even before I consciously thought of Tom and of his loss, my body would start telling me I was grieving for him. I would begin to feel sick or shaky and about the time I realized these physical symptoms were making me feel uncomfortable, the full impact of what I was facing and the loneliness I was feeling would overcome me. I never really understood how emotional pain could translate to physical pain, but now I have experienced it and I am amazed at how completely Tom’s death has impacted me.
The surprising thing about all the physical expressions of grief that I have gone through is that they make me feel better. After I have had a good cry, I feel comforted and strengthened. I feel reassured that things will be well. I don’t know that it is the crying that brings those feelings, but somehow expressing my grief allows me to feel closer to my Heavenly Father and to feel His love and His mourning with me. I have seen evidence of that love in all the people that have reached out to me and our family – in all the acts of service that have done on our behalf, in all the tears that others have shed with us. I have felt the prayers and support of so many and it has given me irrational hope for the future. I can’t imagine how I will move through the next weeks and months and years, yet I have hope that there will be happiness and even joy because I know that Heavenly Father loves me and He will make even this terrible event into something that will be for good. I have often thought that I hope when I’m asked to do something hard (like when the children of Israel were asked to cross the Red Sea or when the early Latter-day Saints were asked to leave their homes and travel a thousand miles into the wilderness) that I could have faith to do my best. Right now I’m heading into the wilderness and I hope I can live up to the examples of those who went before – who stepped into the darkness with faith that the Lord would light the way.
This hymn has given me comfort this month:
Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom;Lead thou me on!The night is dark, and I am far from home;Lead thou me on!Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to seeThe distant scene–one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor pray’d that thouShouldst lead me on.I loved to choose and see my path; but now,Lead thou me on!I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years.
So long thy pow’r hath blest me, sure it stillWill lead me onO’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, tillThe night is gone.And with the morn those angel faces smile,Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!
How I look forward to that morning when my love will be there waiting for me with a smile.