If you remember anything about Robert Frost from your high school CliffsNotes, it’s likely some version of “the best way out is always through.” Maybe that’s true sometimes, but other times I think the way out may be to go back or even to be still. What I’ve come to believe is more true, particularly in navigating grief, is that the way through is forward.
One step at a time. Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.
The morning after my Dad died, I received a very clear message that the timing was on purpose. Tough days were ahead for my girls, and how I behaved would be what they looked to and what they remembered later. I needed to show them how to live and how to grieve – specifically how to do both at the same time.
In the last 10 weeks, my girls have lost both their grandpas and their Dad. They’ve watched me cry and they’ve watched me laugh. They’ve watched me watch the same old episodes of Criminal Minds repeatedly, they’ve watched me do the crappy paperwork that comes with notifying companies that someone has passed away, and they’ve watched me excitedly buy all the shirts we even remotely liked at the VCU bookstore. They’ve watched me in funeral homes, shopping malls, church, the hospital, prom dress boutiques, long car rides late at night, and even doing my own yard work which they know I hate. They’ve watched me very purposely put time into projects where we could all see the progress and then the completion, and they’ve watched me take steps to plan things we can look forward to later in the summer and year. They have heard me pray for healing, peace, and knowledge of God’s presence in their lives and in the lives of people that I didn’t pray for for a very long time. And I am just not sure it was enough. Or that I showed them good balance in terms of moments of sadness and Easter basket hunting.
I’ve been thinking a lot in the last few weeks about the word forward and how it relates to grief. What propels us forward, what stops us from moving forward, how best to move forward. Especially when life is unfair, or things are unfinished or unresolved. How will I help the girls move forward? What can I say? What can I do? How can I show them the way?
I think maybe the key to forward is found in 3 other f words. (None of which is that f word.)
Forgiveness. Forgive that they left, and believe they didn’t want to. Forgive yourself for relief they are not in pain anymore. Forgive them for old wounds you’ve been hanging on to. Forgive yourself for having mixed feelings about these people you grieve and love. Forgive that they weren’t perfect and forgive that you aren’t perfect.
Freedom. We must give each other and ourselves freedom to grieve anywhere, freedom to grieve differently, and freedom from any timeline. We must also acknowledge that someone’s death brings them and us freedom, and that’s not something to feel badly about. They are free of all the yuck that comes with living in this realm and we are free to live without them here. The people who really love us, our people, delight in seeing us thrive – whether they exist here on earth or in our great cloud of witnesses.
Faith. Holding on to your faith can be especially hard in this time but is especially important in this time. People will say things like God needed another angel. They mean well, but they are just wrong. (And if I find out this happened, the fourth F is Fite and I will make it stop.) God does not make people sick and God does not need more angels. You know who God is. It is deeply ingrained in you. HE is deeply ingrained in you. He grieves with you. And He promises in Matthew that those who mourn are blessed and will be comforted. Whenever you question this, and you will, it’s remembering His faithfulness at other times in your lives and in other areas of your lives that will give you peace.
I guess the simple truth – without steps and f words – is that the way forward is on a path of grace. Grace for ourselves, grace for those around us, grace for those who are gone.
2 thoughts on “Forward”
What a beautiful tribute to your daughters! In the end, they will be okay because they are blessed with such an incredible and insightful Mother. You have summed up death, grief, and the way forward better than any minister I have ever heard. May God bless you and your girls and grant you peace and strength as you move forward.
Love and blessings!
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It’s been years since I last spoke to you. I realize it may be strange getting correspondence through your blog, but I am honestly lost about how else to do so since I’m not on social media. I’m reaching out because my sister shared an article about Chris. I’m so deeply sorry! I’m sure this has been terribly difficult for all of you, especially your girls. Please know I am lifting you, your girls, Tara and his mom up in prayer. May peace, comfort, and eventually joy, come to all of you in the days to come. With my deepest condolences, Lauren (Gordon) from Bayside HS