Choosing Grief

We sang “Blessed Be Your Name” at Awana the other night, and the tears came suddenly, unexpectedly.

They began as that all-too-familiar tightening in the back of my throat. Amid the sound of the electric guitar and three dozen pairs of young hands clapping off-beat, they filled my eyes and, despite my best efforts to hold them back, they brimmed over and spilled down my cheeks. I brushed past the other adults in the back of the room and sank down against a wall in the hall outside, head on my knees. I was powerless to stop them, and so I let them come, great wracking sobs that shook my shoulders and left me gasping for breath.

I’m learning that grief is like this, or, at least, it is for me. It comes when I am not ready, when I have had a string of “good days”, when I haven’t cried – really cried – in more than a week. (And this in itself as an interesting thing – that not crying in a week is remarkable – for I am not a person who cries easily.) It comes when she is not on my mind, when I am not thinking of my loss, and it brings me to a halt, and there’s nothing I can do. Some word or scent or song touches me in some way, and all I can do is ride the wave and let the tears fall.

This is hard for me, because I like to be in control, and grief allows no such thing. I cannot manage when or where it will strike, cannot tuck it into a neat little box to be dealt with in the safety and comfort of my own home. Oh sure, sometimes I can put on a smile and pretend like things are normal, even on my not-so-great days. Sometimes I can fool myself into thinking I have moved on. Sometimes I really, truly do have good days, and I think the worst of it is behind me. But then, then a sweet two-year-old boy looks at me in confusion when I show up without a baby girl, or I see a mom with her infant daughter in the grocery store, or I hear thirty young voices singing “You give and take away” and it hits me once again that she is no longer here with me and the sorrow feels like it is brand new.

I know – or at least, I hope – that there will come a day when this grief fades to something more like an old friend, when it loses the vicious sting it brings now, when I will be able to sing in worship without fighting back the tears. Truth be told, I wish that day were today. I wish that moment were now. I do not want to be present in this sorrow. I do not want to choose this moment when this moment means pain.

And yet, somehow, I must. Indeed, I have no choice in the matter, for the grief comes whether I want it to come or not. And I am doing my best not to fight it, to let it come when it must come. I do not choose this moment, not actively, but I allow it to come, and perhaps that is the best I can do for today.

This Thing Called Life

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