Some Thoughts on Grief
First time in the water – she floats!
Just before Christmas Chris and I bought a beautiful Acorn sailing dinghy, with the intention of exploring the beautiful coastline together over the summer. I was so excited about it, and yet, as we drove home, the tears came. I was crying for the fact that Dad wasn’t waiting for me in Whangarei, eager to see the boat, excited to take it for a sail. I longed to be able to drive to their little cottage and see his animated face at the window as he caught sight of the trailer and its special load. I longed to share the excitement of examining all the finer points of the boat together. I suppose it’s a poignantly fitting ‘sailing’ analogy to say that grief still washes over me at times like waves.
As Chris and I travelled home together on Sunday after visiting Mum and Dad Boom in Hamilton, we listened to an interview with a writer who has written a book about her experience of training a goshawk. She said it was something she just had to do after the death of her father. She said that when he died she had been ‘unmoored’. Instantly I felt the prick of tears. That is exactly how I’ve felt at times. She went on to explain how deeply the death of her father impacted her, and the strange way grief sometimes affected her. And I suddenly realized that some of my seemingly unrelated emotions and feelings are probably all tied up in the grief of losing both my parents in such a short time. Looking back I don’t think I properly stopped to grieve Dad’s passing – instead I was thrust into the all-consuming commitment of caring for Mum. They were busy, wonderfully fulfilling months, which I wouldn’t trade for anything. But when Mum died nine months later, my grief wasn’t just for losing her. I was grieving Dad’s passing as well. To be honest, I think I’ve coped with the loss of Mum and Dad fairly well. Things didn’t fall off the edge of the earth. Life went on, most of the time smoothly and beautifully. I had great joy in knowing that they both had lived long and blessed lives, with an unswerving faith in God. I knew they were now rejoicing in heaven. I felt grateful that I had been loved by them for so long. I felt incredibly grateful for my loving husband and children. And yet… I find myself desperately trying not to think about the time when my last three children will leave home. The thought of Jake finishing school and going to university is enough to make my eyes fill with tears. I choose not to watch any sad movies. I won’t even contemplate reading a tragic book. Something in me shrinks from hearing about other people’s sorrows or losses – the suffering of the world seems too big for me. The refugee crisis takes on very personal proportions as I think of children losing their parents, or parents losing their children. I occasionally feel an undefined sense of melancholy, even on the sunniest, brightest days. I find myself dreading change. I hate saying goodbye to Kate and Ellie when they leave Whangarei and go back to their lives in Hamilton and Wellington. I hate saying goodbye, full stop. Sometimes, not always, tears lie in wait and pounce on me when I drive past Mum and Dad’s cottage… And I realised on Sunday that I’m still grieving. And somehow, just knowing that helps. In fact, I can’t believe I haven’t recognized it before. It’s okay for me to sometimes feel like I’m unmoored. It’s okay for joy or excitement to be swallowed up in tears suddenly. Now is my time of grief.
John 16 has some beautiful verses: “You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” Hallelujah! We don’t grieve like those who have no hope. But we do still grieve. And every day is an outworking of that grief. But eventually there comes a ‘turning’ of sorrow to joy.
Chris and I had a wonderful first sail of our boat the other day. Dad, the passionate sailor, was ever in my thoughts, but there were no tears that day. Just joy. I’ve named the boat Leone Adelle in honour of my darling mum. Penny (my sister) laughed when she heard that and said that she doubted whether Mum would appreciate a boat named after her. She was never fond of sailing or boats. But I bet Dad would love the name. I do.
David and Penny sailing with us around Limestone Island
Exploring the ruins of an old house on the island before our picnic
The beautiful view from the window