By nature, I tend to be a glass half full kind of gal. I like to read and write inspiring things, focus on the sun and not the clouds, look at the bud about to bloom instead of the thorns along the stem.
But I’m stuck. I’m grieving the loss of my Father. He used to be right here in our home, taking up every inch of time and ounce of energy. Life revolved around him, around caring for his needs. He’s been in a facility for nearly three months now and there is no ‘out of sight, out of mind’ for me. Instead, there’s a vacuum day and night. I’m not asking why? I’m asking how? How do I get back to who I was? How do I make it stop hurting so much?
Last week our Bible study met for dinner before taking a break for the summer. Part of me wanted to go. I wanted to sit with friends, chat and enjoy their company over a good meal. But a part of me just wanted to stay home. I’m not good at wearing faces. I can’t fake joy. And I didn’t want to be that girl. The one that brought everybody down, the one who told people I’m struggling when asked how I was doing. I didn’t want to pour black ink on everybody’s rainbow. I didn’t want to be the one that cried when everyone else was having a good time. But I decided to go anyway.
I walked across the parking lot, feeling like I had shackles on my heart. I made myself put one foot in front of the other till I got to the restaurant and greet everyone while we waited for our table. It’s always nice when everyone is in a good mood and having a great day. Even if they’re tired from a long day at work, there’s still a sense of achievement and purpose, of working toward something, even if that something is figuring out life and your place in it.
This is what we do. We hang out with friends. We catch up with each other. We have a meal and do life together. But what about those of us who are just trying to hold it together? Three people asked me how I was doing and I was honest. I’m having a hard time. I’m trying to get used to this new stage of grief. I’m trying to recover from all those years of caregiving. I couldn’t go into too much detail because I felt the lump rise in my throat and the tears well up in my eyes. So I stopped talking.
I have never lost anyone close to me. And even though I can take a short drive to see my Father, I feel like he’s dead. And I’m in mourning. How long does this last? When does it get better? When do I start to feel better? When will I be happy again and how do I get there? When will my heart feel light again?
We chatted throughout dinner and I tried to ask questions instead of talking about myself. I wanted to hear from other people, what their days were like. I didn’t want to talk about my hard place. I wanted to listen.
After dinner, we walked outside and sat on couches surrounding a fountain, talking about the study we’d just finished. It was a beautiful evening with people milling around and children chasing each other. What I saw with my eyes was so different from what I was feeling. I wanted my inside to catch up with the outside. I know one day it will. It just takes time. As I drove away, I actually felt a little better. A little lighter. And I thought about Paul’s encouragement to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
There was no Dr. Phil session. I was just there. I didn’t go into detail about my grief, but I was honest when people asked me. Carrying each other’s burdens doesn’t mean you have to divulge everything you feel to people. Sometimes, it’s just about showing up. Forcing yourself to spend time with friends that are safe when you’d much rather lose yourself in a book or binge on Netflix.
Maybe you’re going through your own difficult time. Maybe you’re trying so hard to put on a happy face when happy is the last thing you feel. Well, maybe it’s time to surround yourself with people who have your best interest at heart. Sure, it may take a while before you feel better, but being real with people who love you for you and give you a safe haven is a step in the right direction.