On Grief and Motherhood

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Two weeks ago, Phillip and I spent Friday afternoon at Starbucks followed by a dinner date. I worked on my plans for the local IF:Gathering I’m hosting and had some great conversations with Phillip about our family, our callings, and our future. I spent that Sunday afternoon working on my Powersheets and left the coffee shop feeling so energized and focused and excited about 2015. It was a great weekend!

Later that night, I received a call from my sister that our grandpa was ill and had been admitted to the hospital. I packed up and made the 500+ mile drive north to be with him, unsure of what this illness and hospitalization meant for his future. No real prognosis was given but he was holding steady. Then he took a turn for the worst on Friday morning, and he died very suddenly, just minutes before we were able to make it to the hospital.

This is only my second time to lose someone that I was very close to. I lost my dad four and a half years ago when he was killed in a work-related accident. His death brought so many feelings in addition to grief…shock, anger, confusion, hurt, fear. In losing my grandpa, I am thankful that my feelings aren’t quite as complicated. I am just so very sad.

Sad that I will never hear him call me “Sis” or eat one of his home cooked breakfasts again.

Sad that my grandma is alone.

Sad to be losing so many from his generation through sickness and death.

Sad that he and my dad, two men who seemed so strong and invincible, are no longer in my life.

On Wednesday, the drive home took over 12 hours and when we finally arrived, I collapsed into my bed in a puddle of tears, reliving the events of the past two weeks in my head. First my grandpa was sick and we were visiting him at the hospital, and then all of a sudden he was gone and we were planning the funeral, and then there was the visitation and funeral and burial and reuniting with all of our distant relatives and then having to leave them all behind. All while chasing a very busy toddler around.

I came home physically and emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed at knowing when morning came, I had suitcases to unpack and three little ones and a house to care for.

You can’t take a bereavement leave from motherhood. Diapers still have to be changed, tummies fed, and smiles and hugs given. So Thursday I forced myself out of bed, wiped the mascara stains from under my eyes, and slowly pushed myself back into the rhythms of our daily life.

I made breakfast and cleaned the kitchen and did math lessons and unpacked suitcases and washed laundry and continued to process the events that now felt so dreamlike and far away, with only the flowers in my kitchen serving as a physical reminder that it was all very real. And with each step, I found healing and felt a little more like myself.

I listened to Bethel and let the tears flow freely as I sang “It is well with my soul” and “The joy of the Lord is our strength.”

That Friday at Starbucks seems like years ago. Feeling happy and excited and focused with goals and priorities seems lost to me at the moment. Those things that I find pleasure in like reading and knitting and writing and planning all seem so meaningless in the face of death. But I know that it is all of those little things woven into the bigger picture of motherhood and homemaking and ministry, that make up this life that I love.

I know that as I take continue to be faithful in the small things, my joy will return.

I also know that the grief and sadness of losing my dad and my grandpa will never truly go away. I will just tuck those feelings a little deeper inside my heart where they aren’t so raw and exposed and carry them with me always.

Sorrow and joy. The bitter and the sweet.

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