An Open Letter To Grief

Dear Grief,

The truth is, I want to break up with you. In fact, it’s a little more intense than that: I’d like to stuff you into a box and send you deep into the ocean so no one else has to deal with you either. I’ve tried to find the best in you, to learn from you, to help others navigate relationships with you… but I’m just at my wits end right now. I’ve “had it up to here” with you.

Many times I’ve tried to break up with you. I’ve told myself that after this event, or that date, that our relationship is going to be over and you’re going to move on to some other poor soul. But, you. never. leave.

The fact that I’m in a relationship with you, it doesn’t determine my identity. No, not at all. Sometimes I feel like describing myself as a “Griever.” Yet, that is not who I am. I am grieving, but I am not a griever. I do not know how long this will last, but I know this: you are not a permanent addition to my personhood. No, you are a guest who has outstayed his welcome in my house. You live here, but this is my house and your presence does not rattle the foundation nor change the structure of its walls.

Why do I want to say farewell! Too-da-loo! Aurevoir! Afedersin! Goodbye forever!”? You are a thief.

You stole from me:

Breastmilk… Subtly for my first born when my grandfather died, but obviously and with malice for my second child when his father died. You caused the tears that fell from my eyes and landed on my desperate child who I could no longer comfort with milk.

Memory… I do not remember significant periods of my children’s development. Without pictures, I would have no memories of my son’s first birthday, or Christmas, or hundreds of thousands of other tiny important things. These secondary losses are acutely painful.

Health… to be fair, your ill-placed road bumps caused my to stumble but I did not fall. You stunted me significantly when I stopped caring, but I keep getting back up. There are full days, and weeks, and there have been months of “I couldn’t care less,” but I wanted to move forward from the beginning and I still do. My positive eating, exercising, and thinking choices are my own. But the way you targeted my immune system? That puts you in a pretty significant category of evil.

I could go on. I really could. I could write a book solely devoted to how much I have loathed you. But I know that I am not stupid, that there is a reason that my mind has hung onto you for so long. You’ve caused a whole lot of trouble, but you’ve also set in motion a whole lot of good. You have stollen precious things from me, but you have also given me some special gifts.

You gave me:

Perspective… It is rare for a girl in her twenties to be able to look at life as precious because it is not permanent. As a matter of daily living, I constantly evaluate the relationships and priorities on my plate for eternal value. In almost every conversation, the line-of-thinking runs through my head, “what if these were the last words I said to her?” And I try to change them accordingly. I measure and calculate with grief at the back of my mind offering me perspective to move forward in love. I give one more hug, one more kiss, one more I love you.

Empathy… Recently I heard a cancer patient thank the Lord for her Cancer. Why on earth would someone be grateful for such a terrible disease? With tender eyes, she said “I didn’t realize how I treated people with cancer until I had it myself… and now I know how to love them.” I have not had cancer, but I have faced my worst nightmare. I’ve been so far low that I couldn’t look up. I have felt so broken that I feared I would never be whole. But now I have more compassion for others in those places than I did before I had them myself. There is a lot of judgement naturally found in ignorance. But in first hand understanding, there is mutual comfort with which I have the experience to say, “this sucks,” and “we’ll get through it.”

Resilience… Had I not been faced with the obstacle of you, I would not have learned to overcome you. When you forced your way into my life, I learned how to cry in a deep, guttural way. Raw tears stained my cheeks as my heart emptied itself. In the weakest places, Jesus was my strength, drawing me to himself in an inward embrace. He never left me. Through many moments I just showed up, I stayed, I put one foot in front of the other, I did the next right thing. Soon, I began moving forward – even if sometimes it was only two steps forward and one step back. My body got stronger, my confidence grew alongside compassion and perspective.

So I guess this isn’t the break-up I expected it to be

You and I are still together. There may never be a time when you are completely absent from my life. When I focus on what you stole from me, and the pain you make me feel, I hate you and I want you gone. But when I think about the ways your presence has actually enriched my life, well, it’s taken a while but I am ready to say that I’m thankful you’ve been here. It’s evident to me, that God uses the nice things for good, but he uses the hard ones too. He’s working all things for good, and that means you too.

Featured Photo by Antony Xia on Unsplash

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for being so honest. I like the way you listed what grief has taken from you and what you’ve been given.

Leave a Reply