I'm no stranger to grief.
My parents never left my brothers or me home when they attended funerals. We were always dragged along and told to be good and quiet while my parents paid their respects to people we knew and strangers from their past.
I've also lost a lot of family members. I was never the kid that had lots of stories about their grandparents. Mine, except for one grandmother and a great aunt that we called grandma even though she wasn't even blood related, passed away before my memory could take hold of them.
And as I got older, the funerals we attended became more personal, began to happen to people I cared about. People I loved.
Death is never convenient, but in my family especially, it always seems to interrupt holidays- specifically Christmas. A dear uncle passed away close to Christmas, interrupting our lives in a heartbreaking way and our present-opening from my child's perspective. My grandmother, the one I did know and love, also passed away near Christmas time. And my dad died the day after Christmas.
My dad. That has been, by far, the hardest grieving period of my life. There are days when I'm still not over his death... when the pain of losing him still cuts at my heart and brings tears to my eyes.
I lost him when I was twenty-one. Barely married for four months. And I took it very hard.
His death changed me. Put me through a refining fire that I had to claw my way out of. I faced depression for the first time, anger like I never had, deep despair and confusion.
I wrote about the five stages of grief in The Five Stages of Falling in Love. And for the sake of fiction, I made them very linear. Liz got to experience each stage by itself, in an organized order and with obvious intention for her process of moving on.
My five stages happened all at once and for a long time. They didn't tick off nicely or prepare me for the next. They hammered and railed at me like an unrelenting hurricane. I was tossed and turned and nearly drowned in the agonizing force of them.
But there was joy in that time too. And I was refined. I was made better. Matured. Strengthened. Pieced back together again.
I lost myself. And when I found who I was again, I was not the same. I was a better version of the girl I had been before.
Last week, one of my friends and a woman I respect very much, suffered unspeakable grief. She lost her child. Her infant. Her baby boy only a few days old.
Ever since I received the news, I have been mourning with her. Grieving this unfair loss deeply.
It is not something I can get over. And my depth of empathy for this beautiful, young mother does not end.
This world we live in is so broken. My God created it in perfection, but sin has made death a reality. Pain and loss and heartbreak our realities.
Life is not fair. It will never be fair. And until we cross into glory or Jesus Christ comes again, this is the truth we have to face.
But that doesn't mean that grief or pain or heartache is meaningless. Losing my dad was awful, but allowing the grief to mold me into someone better has changed my life. I will never be okay with the loss, the pain might never ease, but I am a stronger person because of what I went through.
A few weeks ago, I went to a conference called Belong. It's a women's only venue that has multiple speakers empowering, encouraging and uplifting thousands of women over a 24 hour period.
One of the sessions featured a band called Johnnyswim. I had never heard of them before, although they can SING. So I'm making it a priority to listen to them now.
During their show, they sang a song that was about grief. They had both lost one of their parents only a month apart and struggled through severe grief of their own. Before they sang the song, they shared that there were a lot of people around them pressuring them to get over their loss. They wanted them to move on and get back to work. But as a couple, and a singing duo, they banded together and basically told everyone around them No. They didn't want to rush through their pain. They didn't want to "get over it." The people that had died meant something to them and they deserved the couple's mourning.
I so related to their words. I didn't rush through my grief. I couldn't have even if I wanted to. Physically I had no choice but to suffer through.
Although I didn't have this outlook. I didn't have the perspective to think about allowing the grief. I was only worried about getting out of it... getting back to the person I was before the loss... finding the pieces of me that had shattered in the wake of my dad's death.
And because of that, I paid the price. I lost a lot of friends. I gained a lot of weight. And I spent a lot of hours too concerned with what was wrong with me.
I love Amanda and Abner's thoughts on this. These people that we lose, these loved ones that are ripped away from us too soon, they deserve our tears. They deserve our heartache and attachment.
We loved them. Just because they're gone doesn't mean we love them less. Just because we won't get to be with them again this side of glory doesn't mean we will ever love them less.
I think, as a culture/society/human race/whatever, we need to stop treating grief like a disease. Or an obstacle to get over. It's not an epidemic that requires a cure or a personal flaw that requires more effort to overcome.
It is an integral and unavoidable part of life. And if we allow it room to breathe, we will also learn to breathe again.
Life goes on whether we want it to or not. That's the nature of time and our lives and being human. But when we're told to move on from our pain or to get better or be better, we're not given the opportunity to enjoy the journey. If we're rushing through the fire, our refinement process won't be complete.
I'm not going to lie, grieving sucks. Losing someone SUCKS. But sometimes the hardest times produce the best version of us.
If you've lost someone, I am sorry. I'm sorry for your pain and heartache. I'm sorry that life has hurt you and taken someone you love.
But I also encourage you to give into your tears. Give into the pain that your loved one deserves. That you deserve. Don't be afraid of the grief.
Allow yourself to mourn for your loved one with the emotion they are worthy of. Allow your tears to be the final gift to this person that impacted and changed your life. Even if it was for the worse. Allow your heartbreak to make you stronger, deeper... more full of life and love and understanding.
And on the other side of it, allow the pieces of your heart to mend back together and your soul to shine brighter than it ever has.
Who is Rachel?!?
Rachel Higginson is the author of The Five Stages of Falling in Love, Every Wrong Reason, The Star-Crossed Series, Love & Decay Novella Series and much more! She was born and raised in Nebraska, and spent her college years traveling the world. She fell in love with Eastern Europe, Paris, Indian Food and the beautiful beaches of Sri Lanka, but came back home to marry her high school sweetheart. Now she spends her days writing stories and raising four amazing kids.
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