I wouldn't wish the pain of grief on my worst enemy. It's brutal. It's exhausting.
When I was standing on the side of the road and the officer told me, "We've found no survivors," I thought that included me. How could I bury my husband, 5 1/2 year old daughter, and 2 1/2 week old son, and still live?
Over the past eleven years, I've walked the hard road. I've learned about myself, about others, and most importantly, about God.
I hate that my relationship with the Lord grew from tragedy, but I wouldn't trade the intimacy I have with Him now. I've made more mistakes than I can count, and He continued to patiently love me back home. His love bore my rebellion. His love bore my mistakes. His love bore my sin.
Some people are surprised that I still have faith in God after such a tragedy. My faith has grown exponentially. You see, when you know Him, and not just of or about Him, you know His goodness. You feel His presence during your worst times and your best times.
I don't know how anyone moves forward without Him. Without Him, I would never be where I am today. Yes, I still have hard days, but I also know joy and peace that passes all human ability.
Right after the wreck I frantically searched online to try and find others hurting as much as me. I desperately needed to know what to expect and that I wasn't alone. Though I found a few articles, they felt clinical and sterile. I needed someone to shoot straight with me. That's the purpose of my writing. It's raw and real and far from eloquent, but these are the things I wished someone had told me at the beginning.
The devil will lie to you and make you believe you will always feel this way.
You won’t. You won’t be the same person you were before, but you will not always feel like you are in the depths of hell. The acute pain lessens over time.
People mean well, but they will say stupid things
- I know exactly how you feel
- It happened for a reason
- Just give it time
- God never gives you more than you can handle
- You’ll remarry/ have more children
People want to connect with you in some way. They want to help. See below about giving grace.
Night time is the hardest
I don’t know what it is, but night time is harder than day time. I had a hard time sleeping for a long time. Night is lonelier. Night feels scary and never-ending. If you’re not sleeping, I’d strongly recommend talking to your doctor. Grief coupled with sleep deprivation is a brutal combination. And there’s no need.
It’s not day by day…. it’s second by second
After the initial shock of grief wears off, pain sears through your body, the take-your-breath-away, kind of pain. It’s normal. It’s terrifying and horrible and scary. I urge you not let your mind wander too far in the future. It’s too much to process. Get through 10 seconds… then 10 more.
Take help, even when you don’t want to
There comes a point when you have to go back into the world and start seeing people. Let those around you help. You don’t have to entertain them. The devil uses isolation to feed your fears. Combat this. Especially when you don’t want to.
Find people willing to listen.
They are a rare breed. The ones who just listen. When you find them, cherish them.
Grief makes people uncomfortable
We live in a world where we want rainbows and unicorns all the time. We avoid pain at all costs. Seeing you in pain causes the people around you pain. They don’t know how to deal with it. They’ll get busy in a hurry or run to grab a box of tissues at the first tear drop. It’s not you. It’s them. (And unfortunately, it was probably you before you experienced soul devastating grief.)
Your friendships will change
You will deepen friendships with some, and you will lose friendships with others. It’s normal. You’re not crazy. It’s just grief. It’s hard. It’s hard on you and hard on those around you.
You will not get a gold star on the one year anniversary
People kept telling me to get through the first year. The way they built it up, I just knew I was getting a certificate or a gold star or a medal of honor. I thought I’d be fixed. I wasn’t. You won’t be either. The truth is, you will never be the same. You’ve lost your innocence to that level of pain. You are different, and that’s okay. It's not a negative. You will be wiser, more empathetic, but still wounded. Deep wounds take time to heal.
The days leading up to the anniversary dates are typically harder than the day itself, but not always
It’s as if your body knows the impending date before your brain. Again, do what you can. But know that the intense range of feelings is normal. You are normal. If you feel like being around people, then be around people. If you need time and space alone to process, that’s okay too. There’s no manual for grief.
Don’t look for love in the wrong places. It won’t fulfill you
Everyone handles grief differently. And, if someone tells you they have all the answers, they’re lying. The only thing I can say with absolute certainty is that anything aside from God will not bring you lasting peace. The hole in your soul can only be filled by Him. Even if you’re mad. Even if you are struggling with Him. He’s still there.
Give yourself grace
As you know, some days are harder than others. On the hard days, do what you can. Some days are a win when you get out of bed. Other days you may get a few things done on your to-do list. You’re not super woman. Be kind to yourself.
Give others grace
Those times when people say the “stupid things” and you’re frustrated, give them grace. Give them the benefit of the doubt. The last thing they want to do is cause you more pain.
It’s okay to talk about or not talk about your loss
If you feel like talking about your loss, talk about it. It’s also ok not to talk about it. Some days talking is therapeutic and others it’s draining. When you’re in the thick of grieving, do what you can do.
Grief might knock you down walking around the grocery store on a random Tuesday
There’s no rhyme or reason to grief. At first, you may feel panicked like you’ve gone down the slippery slope of grieving and are starting over again. You’re not. It may last a few minutes or even a few days, but you’re not back at square one. Oh how I wish I had known this one.
Tears and sweat are healing waters
There were times I feared if I allowed the tears to fall that they would never stop. They will. Your body can’t hold that much pain in forever. You can avoid it for a period but your body will eventually rebel. Tears are not weakness. Tears serve as a release of pain. Sweat does the same. When I felt as if my insides were racing a million miles an hour, doing something physically exhausting gave me release.
You’re not crazy
You may feel crazy, but you’re not. Your emotions will be all over the place for a while. You will probably cry at the drop of a hat. You may be raging mad the next. You may feel like a zombie. You know, like your arms weigh a thousand pounds each and you’re walking in quicksand. Again, you will not always feel this way. Eventually, your emotions will even out.
There’s no magic bullet
I kept wishing over and over that I could fast forward through that first year. I thought if I could just get through the first year, I would be healed. The only semblance of a “magic bullet” is when you realize that you can’t do it in your own strength. This level of grief requires someone much stronger than you. And grieving is hard work.
The hardest part is getting your head and heart to match
Reconciling the facts of your loss and finding peace within your heart… that’s the lifelong process of walking out grief.
God doesn’t hate you and isn’t punishing you
If this thought crosses your mind, it’s a lie. I’m not going to throw the hundreds of scriptures on you that back this up now, but this is a lie straight from the enemy. Disciplining your mind becomes paramount to your survival. There is no truth to that thought.
God’s grace is sufficient, and you will know joy again.
I have to share this truth even if it makes you mad right now. You may be in the stage of grief that any thought of happiness or joy repulses you. This is where I need you to trust me. I will never lie to you. I’m no different from you. I am you.
I thought I would never smile again. I thought I would exist my days out filled with excruciating pain, sorrow, and loss. There are still those excruciatingly painful days, but there are far more days with peace and joy. I couldn’t do it in my own strength and neither can you. A mustard seed of faith is enough….
With God's grace, I have known more joy than I ever thought possible the day of the wreck. It has been a long journey full of highs and lows. I tell you these things so you know you are not alone. Your feelings are normal. You will begin to move forward. And, most importantly, you have hope.
(If you've been grieving for a long time, feel stuck in your grief, and want to move forward, go here.)