The Difference Between Leaving and Saying Goodbye

On my third appointment with my therapist I hit her with two big questions. The first I wrote about here. The second was this: how do you say goodbye?

Our denomination moves it’s clergy from place to place. They teach us how to leave but not how to say goodbye.

This discussion with my therapist was more complex. She asked: What were my expectations? Did I see saying goodbye as more emotional?

We talked about the directions we’re given when we leave an appointment. There is a detailed list about cleaning the house and packing. It goes so far as to say “label the boxes” (as if anyone would pack a box and not label its contents).

There’s another list with specifics to include for the people who will be following us. There is no shortage of information on how to leave.

But where’s the list telling you how to say goodbye? When do they tell you you’re likely to have feelings of loss and grief and that these feelings can come before you leave?

No one tells you that months after you’ve left you’ll remember a funny moment when you were there and laugh out loud. Or that you may have feelings of sadness or depression; that leaving is hard.

It’s easy to outline the tangibles; to make a to-do list for packing and cleaning and preparing the way for the next people.

It’s even easy to smile at your farewell reception. You’re going through the motions because you’re living on adrenaline and it’s reminding you of all you have to do next.

It was years before I realized that isn’t saying goodbye. I recognized I had learned some tricks along the way. If you didn’t get too close to people, if you treated them as congregants or volunteers and kept them at arms length then saying goodbye seemed easy. Only that’s not real. It’s superficial and you’ve cheated them and yourself from genuine fellowship.

Now, as we prepare for our last farewell as we enter retirement I want to know how I can do more than leave.

I’ve been journaling my feelings and trying to figure out this goodbye thing. As I worked on a draft for a blog post Emily Freeman’s name came up in my inbox with the subject line reading: 3 Simple Ways to Say Goodbye

There was no mistaking God was hearing my concerns and answering my heart cries.

I’m including the link to her article because you really should read it. We’re all going through goodbye’s of one kind or another so consider her words.

Here’s a couple of things that spoke deeply to me:

Maybe one reason you’ve not been able to move forward into your next right thing is because there’s an ending lingering in your life that never ended with a period.

It was Christmas break of my 8th grade year. I was enjoying school, where we lived and life in general. A day or two after Christmas my parents packed us up and we moved to another town. We would soon learn they left their life as ministers and would divorce. There were no goodbyes, no farewells. We just left. Almost 50 years later this is still a tender spot in my heart.

 As Emily writes, “the first thing is to put a period on the experience.

Don’t let the stuff outweigh the sacred.

Photographs and memories help us mark special times in our life. They are the stuff. The sacred is the impact those moments and people had in your life. How did it change you or help shape you some way?

The sacred things we mark from the ending will be brought forth into our beginnings, not necessarily because of an external thing we bring with us, but because of the person we have become.” 

I have viewed our retirement as an ending. When someone told me it’s the next chapter I corrected her and said it’s the last chapter.

As trite as it may sound it’s true that every ending is also a beginning. I’ve chosen to look at the ending without considering how it’s been preparing me for a new beginning. This is the space I need to give more thought. This is what will help me say goodbye without that unfinished feeling that lingers. It’s a hollow feeling when you fail to mark the sacred things from the time that was.

I know I’ve been changed from those surrounding me. I am full of gratitude for how they’ve impacted my life and given me more understanding of grace.

This is how to say goodbye: with a heart full and running over with gratitude for God’s gift of unending grace and His reckless love.

In the Changing Room

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

I see the soft capes draped over the models. They look perfect for our mild winter temps in South Florida. But I know what they’ll look like on me. Or, rather, what I’ll look like with them draped over my 5’4” frame. 

The same can be said for some cuts of jeans or the trendy untucked shirts. I’m not the 111 pounds I was at 18 and 20 extra pounds make a huge difference on the hips of a borderline petite person. I will look squatty and feel dumpy. 

Sometimes I will buy the shirt anyway. I will convince myself it’s only my eyes that see this, and that may be so. But one day, I’ll put it on and what looked good in the dressing room looks bulky and frumpy now. 

Up and down I go, trying to hold on to things no longer there: youth.

When I fit into the demographic called young, I knew my purpose and felt sure of it. I was confident in mothering. I was sure of my place in the church as a respected and valued leader. I considered it a privilege to be counted on to shuttle our kids classes on field trips and to sports games. 

I knew what was ahead. Most of the time. There was a certainty to life.

And then I blinked.

I wonder if this is how Rip Van Winkle felt when he woke from his years of sleeping. I’ve wakened to a time of unknowing and uncertainty. Mothering has changed and become more difficult as I’m not always certain when, or how, I’m needed. (The double edge of raising good, able, smart adults.)

Retirement is coming is now weeks away and what started as a fun thought is fraught with fear and uncertainty.

My youth is gone but not my life. There is more, much more to come.  But I’m not the same size and I’m not sure what fits?

I’m back in the dressing room realizing the low rise jeans aren’t working anymore nor is the size 6. Do I really HAVE to shop in the women’s department? Am I relegated to Ann Taylor or Chico’s? No offense but they aren’t my style.

That’s how life feels these days. I appreciate today’s technology and not having to worry about long distance charges to talk to friends and family on the phone. I try to stay current with culture and trends. I’m just not sure I fit into any of it.

Perhaps the best thing this part of life offers is there isn’t a one-size-fits-all pattern. It’s going to be custom made, one of a kind, for me.

“You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.” Psalm 139:13-16 Message

Mother’s Day 2019 The baby is grown up with her own “baby”

The Balance Between Saving and Numbing

Many Years ago now, a wise old priest invited me to come speak at his church in Alabama. “What do you want me to talk about?” I asked him. 

“Come tell us what is saving your life now,” he answered. It was as if he had swept his arm across a dusty table and brushed all the formal china to the ground. I did not have to try to say correct things that were true for everyone. I did not have to use theological language that conformed to the historical teachings of the church. All I had to do was figure out what my life depended on. All I had to do was figure out how I stayed as close to that reality as I could, and then find some way to talk about it that helped my listeners figure out those same things for themselves. – Barbara Brown Taylor, author

With our life in major transition mode for the past few months I needed something to save my life. I needed something that would take my mind off the to-do list and the longer list of unknowns. I needed something to give me breath.

I found myself letting art absorb me. I grabbed my basket of fabric scraps and set up the sewing machine that’s been in it’s case for months.

I scoured Pinterest for ideas, bought more bits of fabric and sewed piece after piece.

Then I grabbed my paints and again went to Pinterest for inspiration. I painted watercolors, determined to learn more about the method I so admired. I used my acrylics, some mixed media and even did a collage or 3.

In the process I had an idea that I’d start a new blog that could encompass all these art mediums: photography, making and writing.

Several months later I’m asking myself has that been saving me or numbing me? And is there a connection between the two?

When I was having extensive dental work done I welcomed the numbing ability of the Novocain. It would be poor medical practice not to give a patient something to numb the extreme pain cause by some procedures.

Working in recovery we talk about numbing our feelings and how that isn’t a good thing. As Brene Brown has told us, when you numb the pain you numb the joy.

So what gives here? I feel a little like all this busy-ness of making is numbing my emotional distress as it saves me. It’s a healthy distraction from seemingly endless lists.

When I’m in the creative process my mind is free to wonder. I’m not thinking about work or politics or what I should have done. It’s focused on what’s in front of me. Did I sew that line straight or does it matter? What color will look best on this painting? Should I ink in details or leave soft?

There are no right or wrong answers to those questions. Even the mistakes I think I’ve made aren’t mistakes. I have no one to answer to so I can think freely if I allow myself. Is this numbing or saving?

detail of bird mini quilt
watercolor of Sarge

Maybe the saving isn’t numbing but taking the edge off of my mind that struggles to shut down. Maybe it’s putting things into better perspective as most of the overthinking I engage in won’t change things and doesn’t really matter.

I posed this question to my therapist. Is art saving me or numbing me? She tilted her head and thought a moment and said, “Does it give you joy?”

We talked about the beneficial and harmful powers of numbing. She asked a few more questions. Is art causing me to neglect or ignore other things? Is it taking me away from life?

My floors might go a little longer between sweeping but the laundry is done, groceries bought and meals prepared. I still feel the pangs of loss and celebrate the joys of life. I am engaged in life.

As time gets shorter before our move I’ve had to put the sewing machine back in its case. Fabric and notions have been boxed up and most days my camera sits idle. Soon my paints will be packed except for my watercolors, 2 small watercolor tablets, and a few brushes. 

God saves us in many ways. Art is my gift from him. His way of giving me breath.

What is saving your life today?

Why Are We Telling Each Other to Breathe?

The first time I remember telling someone to breathe I was following the teenage son of a friend being wheeled into the emergency room several hundred miles away from his family.

I was on staff at a camp and Wesley was playing 3 on 3 basketball. The competition was physical between the older teens, all of them 6′ and more. Wes and an opponent went up for the ball when the other guy fell down on top of Wesley’s foot. His 6′ 3 frame crumpled to the ground.

The hospital was in a nearby town. It was an agonizing ride for Wesley. He was placed on a cart to wheel him into the ER. He bent over his foot holding it in silent agony. I realized in his pain he was holding his breath and I said firmly, yet as calmly as I could, “Breathe, Wesley”.

Today we see that word on memes, mugs and T-shirts. We have it on our phones. We choose it as our word for the year. Breathe

My cousin gave me this necklace as a reminder

My cousin and I have been texting it, writing it and saying it to each other for a few years now.

Why do we have to tell each other to do something we’re already doing? We are all breathing or we wouldn’t be alive.

Just like I noticed Wesley holding his breath when he was suffering we hold our breaths in a figurative sense.

Grief cripples us and our breath becomes shallow. We are trying to hold back the pain.

A hurricane demolishes a community and the effects continue long after the rest of the country has forgotten. Our breathing becomes angry gasps.

Divorce, job loss, miscarriage, empty nest…..they take our breath away. We gulp for air to stay alive but we aren’t breathing in real life-giving breath.

And we say to ourselves and to one another, “breathe“.

To do this we have to loosen our grip around the pain.

Wesley’s pain didn’t go away until he got medical attention. Some of us might need to start with appropriate medication to help us loosen our grip on what’s holding us.

When Beki tells me to breathe I know the she means slow down. Be in the here and now. Stop thinking about the what ifs and what was and what should be. Stop thinking about the unknowns and start with slowing down my mind. When I do that my breath follows and they are in rhythm together. 

The thing I’ve learned is I have to repeat this day after day. My mind is ready to race away with anxiety and worry. When it became overwhelming I sought professional help. While that has brought some relief, it doesn’t release me from needing to create practices that will help my mind and breath find a healthy rhythm.

I often find that healthy pace in the creative process. I read, journal, spend time with people who are healthy and not afraid to remind me to breathe when they see me gasping. I have faith in a God who loves me and restores my breath.

As my son has reminded me, let people help you. It’s how God has always worked in my life – through the hearts and hands of others.

Breathe, friends. Breath in deeply and exhale peace.

“Fragile” – Handle With Care

The boxes are stacking up in our garage. It started well. Boxes of books, cd’s I’m afraid to part with (hey, vinyl came back), extra linens. We packed like items together and marked clearly on the box.

Then we had a box with a little space at the top to fill and contents are now marked “MISC”. Basically, a little of this and little more of that.

More than one box is marked FRAGILE. Pottery and glasses have been wrapped with bubble wrap. A favorite cookie jar and old mason jars are packed carefully.  

One of the boxes marked fragile will have a carefully wrapped tiny ceramic cow. My husband has glued its tail and one leg back on. It still doesn’t stand without leaning it against something. My son paid a quarter for it at a rummage sale when he was in middle school. His small act will forever be precious to me.

As we continue to sort through photos, papers, and trinkets I’m reminded at how fragile I’ve felt during this period.

For every note, recognition and photograph we’ve packed we’ve found joy and sadness in both. Happy memories of the celebrations and sadness of the years passed.

One day I’m energy-filled to get this room packed up and cleaned out and the next day I’m mourning. It’s enough to have me going down the bi-polar check off list in my head.

This is life: a mixture of strength and fragility.

This is a life well lived and well loved.

In the poetic words of Bono, “A heart that’s broken is a heart that’s open”. (Cedarwood, 2014)

When my heart feels fragile I remind myself it’s because it’s open to love and joy. Just as you can’t numb the bad without numbing the good an open heart is often a broken heart. It feels the lows as deeply as it feels the highs.

Have you read the Psalms? Read the ones attributed to King David and you will find joy and anger mingled together.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. and my place of safety 3 I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies. Psalm 18:2-3P

In Psalm 22 David starts with these words:

“My God, my God, why have you rejected me?”

This is life. One day we are praising and moments later questioning.

Some days I’ve felt like that tiny ceramic cow that can’t stand without leaning on something. Parts of me are broken and need mending.

Not every period in life has felt this fragile. For now, I’m trying to wrap the tender places with grace. I’m walking in the thin space between what was and the unknown of what is ahead. But, I am not walking alone.

God continues to make His presence known in my life with caring family and friends; with good doctors and counselors. He is my provider.

And a heart that’s broken, is a heart that’s open. Open, open.

Compassion Fatigue in Ministry

How do you tell them you’re tired? That your smiles aren’t as real as they use to be? That, many days, you have to make yourself show up.

This isn’t suppose to happen. Not to us. Not to people who are the ones who hug you when you’ve come back after your last relapse. Not to people who are grace-givers and hope-peddlers. 

This isn’t suppose to happen.

But it does. It has and I don’t know what to do with my tired heart and pretend smile.

In the early days I held a little distance between these men with their addictions and lives I knew nothing about. I watched and listened and let God soften my words and make wise my heart. I walked carefully into this new ministry, a foreign world on home soil. 

I let their stories pierce my heart and I let the tears fall when one didn’t return home because we want this place that houses 100 men to be a home for them. We want this to be the home that loves and cares about their comings and goings, a home where they can know love and grace and mercy and that love and mercy don’t exclude rules for communal living.

God was using this community of residents and staff to show me that grace was more than a prayer said before a meal. Yes, I’d grown up in the church and sang Amazing Grace but this, this acceptance of the guy who was holding a sign on the side of the road yesterday, this was grace.

This was compassion and mercy and love and they will steal your heart and leave you empty and tired with no more tears to cry for the next one. 

We pull away, we take vacation, we have creative endeavors, we do all of the things that should keep us healthy and our souls fit for caring one more day. But now, my tears are from feeling numb to it all.

I want to feel like I did a dozen years ago, when it was fresh and I was learning about the disease of addiction and finding my place in this story of recovery and relapse and grace. Now, it seems like the same song on repeat. 

Caring too much can hurt. When caregivers focus on others without practicing self-care, destructive behaviors can surface. Apathy, isolation, bottled up emotions and substance abuse head a long list of symptoms associated with the secondary traumatic stress disorder now labeled: Compassion Fatigue

Where is the renewal of my soul? 

One of the perks about our ministry is the competent counselors on staff.  What could be better than a licensed mental health counselor, who I also consider a friend, just down the hall from my office? So I told her. I told her I’d lost it. I’d lost the passion and energy and that I had to make myself show up.

She looks me in the eye, listening to my words as well as my heart. Her voice softens and she asks me, again, ‘What about you? You’re a nurturer but are you taking care of you? What are you doing that’s for you?‘ 

You know I am, Marian. You know I’m taking a photography class and that I write. You know I do those things for me.

She pressed on, ‘But who are your friends? Your girlfriends? The ones you do things with, not your husband, yourfriends?

Ah, yes. The ones who live in other states. Those friends? The story gets complicated and our talk grows quiet as she knows I’ll walk out her door and nothing will change.

We are wired to tend to the needs of others while ignoring the weakening pulse in our heart. The bible is full of verses about putting others first and serving the least and how the last will be first in the Kingdom. These verses of works walk hand in hand with the faith on which they are built. One without the other is dead so we carry on until we slowly die on the inside.

There is that one verse. The one I like reading in the Message, the one that makes me think of music and the ocean and the graceful rhythms of both.

It’s as if Eugene Peterson was reading my mind when he wrote this paraphrase:

“Are you tired? Worn out ? Burned out on religion?” 

Well, yes. Yes, I am.

“Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” – Matthew 11:28-30

Sometimes keeping company with Jesus looks like a phone call with a girlfriend, a heart to heart with my sister or laughing at an eleven-year old’s joke. These are life breaths to suck in deeply, slowly and remember that I’m refreshed and walking in the rhythms of grace-land. 

Naming the Losses – Embracing Hope

“I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process.” ― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

From my art journal

The word I chose for this year is embrace. I want to be mindful to take hold of what is in front of me be it change or grief.

One of the tangible things I’ve begun as I process my grief is to name things I’d lost. My hope is that specificity would help me name what my feelings represent.

Two specific areas have impacted my life: frequent moving and the loss of parents.  Here’s what I wrote several months ago.

Loss (as it pertains to moving)

  • Schools
  • friends
  • familiar place
  • doctors and dentist
  • hair salon
  • stores
  • knowing where you’re going
  • belonging
  • culture of place
  • sense of history
  • knowing where you’re from

The loss of a parent:

  • confidence
  • cheerleader
  • shared history
  • teacher
  • one who has known you all of your life
  • family stories
  • wisdom
  • encouragement
  • stories you’ve yet to ask them

Recently I’ve added these losses:O

  • Youth
  • position
  • titles
  • recognition
  • job
  • pets
  • home

Moving has had as much impact on me as my parent’s divorce. Perhaps it’s because their divorce created and accelerated the moving to once every 6 months during my high school years.

Moving, no matter the circumstances, is considered one of life’s major stressors. By the time I was 17 I had lived in 13 cities, 7 states and attended 13 schools from grades 1-12.

I think there is value in naming our loss. I believe it helps validate our feelings. It reminds me there is a legitimate reason for my feelings. I don’t have to stay in mourning but there are reasons grief looms like a shadow in my life.

If grief is going to be my faithful companion I’m going to do my best to learn what it has to teach me.

I’m going to let it move me to the point of tears but I’m also going to let it move me through the tears. 

Yes, grief is the process of sorrow. People will say you’re so brave to go through this. Grieving isn’t the brave part. Having hope is brave

Feel your way through the grief and embrace the hope of a new beginning.

My Faithful Companion

My husband is a dog guy. We’ve had several in our 40+ years of marriage but the last was the best. He was a young pup when we got him from the shelter. He liked to get himself around Henry’s feet as if to say “don’t leave me”. We named him Tripp because he couldn’t walk without tripping over him. As Tripp grew to over 70 pounds he remained at Henry’s side. He was his constant and faithful companion.

Over the last dozen years grief has been my faithful companion. It will leave for months or even a year at a time but it always returns.

In these 10 years or so we’ve lost all of our parents and a dear uncle. That is enough to cause the feelings of loss and sadness to come in and out of my life. Add to that realizing more and more the loss of youth and working in the unpredictable world of addiction. Actually, addiction is predictable: some will die.

It only hurts when you care and at times it seems I care too much. Of course that’s not true but those I love, I love deeply. The family I’ve lost have all left lasting imprints on my life.

The ones we’ve lost to addiction are the most painful, yet, where I guard my heart the most.

I’ve been public with my grief in hopes it’s helpful to those who are struggling or just haven’t found their voice to sing the chorus of lament.

I write to dispel any shame associated with sorrow or sadness.

In the church, we have a habit of celebrating death. We try to avoid the pain of loss by jubilantly celebrating their eternal life in heaven. We talk about the suffering that is no more. Yes, I believe that. But let me feel their loss. Let my soul mourn their absence. Let me express my sorrow.

Grief has also become a teacher. I’ve learned that it’s not only associated with physical death but it also arrives on the heels of change.

It’s not that I don’t like change. If I’m the one creating it I’m all for it. But imposed change like getting old(er) or moving or retirement? My faithful companion is at the door of my heart again.

Grief shows itself in different ways to each of us. For me, it looks like a combination of anxiety and depression. It often means unexpected tears for apparently no reason like a commercial. Or a fictionalized story of a family going through a hard time. It was a good book but I was bawling as if they were real people!

My anxiety also showed up with physical symptoms like lack of concentration, excessive worry, change in sleeping patterns and, at times, what felt like heart palpitations.

This was the point I realized I needed help beyond caring family and listening friends.

A quick Google search will tell you there are 7 or 5 stages of grief. I’m choosing 5 because who needs two more stages!

You’re probably familiar with them but here’s a reminder: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

I’m pretty sure I breezed through denial and went straight to anger and then completely skipped bargaining. Our lives aren’t text books. Sometimes we’ll repeat a stage and feel like we’re on a hamster wheel of grief.

Recently, I’ve sought medical help for the second time. I’m fortunate to have been directed to a psychiatrist I’m comfortable with. After consultation she’s put me on medication to help alleviate the anxiety. I’m also going to start therapy, which will be a first for me.

I think I’m moving out of the depression stage but I’m not sure if it’s because of the meds or I’m moving into acceptance. I don’t know that it matters. I do know my balance is still wobbly. I also know I’m loved, cared for and I have hope.

Hope is what I want to share. Sometimes it starts with a phone call to a doctor or a stranger writing a blog.

Yes, pain is real but so is hope.

Moving On or Moving Forward?

This man is talking about grief and one month and one day ago my sister-in-law, sitting in front of me, leaves the room. Her eyes are red with tears ready to spill. She has this thing about tears being weakness and not showing tears to anyone. Ever. But they flood her eyes.

I know that line of defense and it doesn’t work. Tears are often beyond our control and aren’t about weakness at all. The first part I know from experience. Tears come at the worst times and you can only blame allergies or contacts so many times before people catch on. 

The second part, that tears aren’t about weakness is what I want to believe. I think it is true. But. To not be in control always feelsweak, so tears are visible signs of weakness. This is what is ingrained in my being and what I’m fighting to dispel.

“Feelings, and feelings, and feelings. Let me try thinking instead.” ― C.S. LewisA Grief Observed

Dr. Pue is talking about grief and it’s the third time this month we’ve been in the room with the grieving. The children and grandchildren, the spouse, friends…we’ve stood alongside, hugged close and listened to their stories.

At its best, grief spills out in stories. The grieving smile and laugh and for a moment the heart is not weighed down by loss and sorrow. In the quiet, in the alone time when visitors and family have left, the same stories that brought laughter bring tears and an ache that won’t be soothed.

“Aren’t all these notes the senseless writings of a man who won’t accept the fact that there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it?” ― C.S. LewisA Grief Observed

People want to remind us it’s time to move on. It sounds cold and the words sting as how can we move on from love?

Dr. Carson Pue reframes this thought as he describes it this way:

“There’s a difference between moving on and moving forward. Moving on, implies we leave the other behind but moving forward…no, moving forward leaves no one behind.”

The time to move forward will come. And we can do this without fear or sorrow when we remember we move forward together.

Love is never left behind. 

When Grief Feels a Little Like Being Lost

Photo by Kristina Tripkovic on Unsplash

The first time I felt literally lost was on a red dirt road in the middle of Arizona with my husband and two young children. If I could choose two people to be with in an emergency, my husband would be one of them. That combined with knowing the need not to alarm our children are the only things that kept me from panic. I immediately thought about the cooler of ice we had that would provide us water should we be stranded in the desert over night. Mom thinking. 

A few years ago my husband and I went hiking with some extended family. To this day the men won’t acknowledge we were lost but when you ask other hikers for directions you’re lost. It was frustrating. The map was useless as were our “smart” phones that were out of signal range in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The trail, such as it was, wasn’t marked or at the least, not marked clearly. The moderate 2-hour planned hike turned into a frustrating 3 hour search of the trail we had apparently lost.

Lost is not a good feeling. I get impatient with others. I shut down except to utter a few sharp words. 

The kind of lost I feel today is worse. I know where I am. I am not in danger of the elements. My phone has a signal. I know the landscape, the streets, the faces. I just don’t know where I’m going. I am adrift, caught in the in-between. This is the place where emotions can take you under. And they are rising up in my eyes day after day.

It would be understandable if there is no faith to tether your fears to. But what is said of one who claims a faith in a God who cares? Yes, I play that through my mind. Do I think God to be a liar? His word says he cares for me – all of me. I know the counsel that friends and scripture give. I know the songs but this lingering feeling of being without purpose and aim haunts me like looming shadows. 

I wrote those words in my journal last summer. That’s when the emotions of grief began to hit hard again.

I was in my 40’s before I realized grief could be brought on by more than death. Our life had taken an unexpected turn that had us moving from the state I’d lived in for 30 years and plopped us into a ministry that left me wondering how I would fit.

Since then, grief has often been my unwelcome companion.

There was leaving our son a long two day drive away with our next move. My father-in-law’s death. Family concerns and heart break. Then mama’s obvious memory lapses that eventually confirmed dementia. The following succession of deaths of a dear uncle, my mother-in-law and eventually mama.

It’s been a long 12 years and one that has found grief waiting at every turn.

This time it comes with the anticipation of retirement. Another surprise. Not retirement but the grief I didn’t know it would bring.

For months I was trapped with the thoughts of everything I would lose. I began to mourn the loss of place (this is home), position, the known for unknown but mostly I sensed the loss of purpose.

The tears came and I was overwhelmed with a sense of loss. The kind of loss you feel when you don’t know where you are. Like being on a dirt road with no signs in the middle of Arizona.

I journaled. I made a list of things I will miss about this place. I daydream about furnishing our retirement home and being 20 minutes away from our daughter and granddaughter. But I still feel an ache in my heart. I still wake in the middle of the night feeling a little lost.

Mostly I’m holding on to these words written by another familiar with grief:

“God was faithful before; God will be faithful now. 

We weep for that which we have that is so good. We don’t diminish how desperately we will miss it. We let ourselves feel the ache because grief is good and necessary. And mixed in with the grief is gratitude for the undeserved goodness to have the gift of this life, this place.” Gina Butz, SheLoves

Let me feel my grief and cry my tears. It’s okay, I’m okay. God was faithful before and He will be faithful now.