There’s no wrong way to grieve.
At least, that’s what a therapist told me six years ago when my mom passed away.
Upon the death of my mom, I grieved by not grieving. I didn’t have the time for it. I kept myself busy and plunked along. Ironically, I was a church secretary who helped plan funerals. I never did take any time off from work after her death and even worked at a funeral just days after. When I first started this job, people would ask me if I was going to seminary. I always chuckled and answered, “no.”
“Never say never!” they’d respond.
I’d reply, “In six months, when you know me better, you will laugh at the fact that you ever said this.” Sometimes I did remind them and, indeed, they did laugh.
Funeral ministry is so important and I greatly respect people with hearts for working with those who grieve. I was not one of them. A large part of our congregation was aging and we sometimes planned two to three funerals in a single week. My role included receiving death calls, attending funeral planning meetings, ordering the funeral meal, printing bulletins, and preparing the sanctuary for the services. When my mom died, I discovered I was literally unable to sit with my own grief. How effectively could I sit with others?
In our day-to-day work lives, we talked about death all of the time and relied on humor to cope. My coworker and I loved to play pranks on the Sr. Pastor. We took his children’s sermon puppet hostage and held it for ransom. One winter, I transformed the display of Christmas dolls located in his office into a scene straight from a Tim Burton movie. The dolls had these red velvet smocks and removable foam heads with beady felt eyes. Nobody noticed the scene until he hosted a meeting in his office that included the Bishop.
The Sr. Pastor always responded to our pranks by saying, “I don’t get mad, I get even.” We always waited for him to retaliate and he never did. One year later, the church laid-off their little secretaries due to budget cuts and it was the best thing that could have happened to me.
It wasn’t until three years after I left this job that I could bring myself to visit my mother’s resting place at the mausoleum. I forgot to bring flowers so I left sprigs of asparagus from the farmers market, instead. They were all I had and I’m sure whoever found them was confused.
I know there are many stages of grief, but I don’t remember exactly what they are. Until Amy’s memorial service, I wallowed in disbelief. I felt too sad to write and wrestled with a great deal of anger. Last week, I may have cursed at everyone driving along 4th Street SW. I wanted to shout fury at everyone who tailgated my vehicle and dismissed them with waves of my hand. I yearned to have words with one of our local news companies (still do) and had to shake my head when I found myself seething over a disappointing rotisserie chicken breast I had brought home from a grocery store that week.
Anger’s a stage of grief, though, right? It’s exhausting and I’m not sure it looks good on me, so I pray for peace. The silver lining on my dark, angry cloud is that I’m never so deep into a rant or flood of tears that someone can’t make me laugh.
Upon the loss of our friend Amy, I’m trying to ride the waves of grief and feel things as they come. For the first time in years, I didn’t feel like writing. So, I didn’t write for a few days and it felt good. I think I’m ready now.
One day I cooked up a frenzy and baked my feelings into a homemade apple pie, with Patty Griffin’s song “Making Pies” on my mind. Griffin sings about a woman who lost her loved one in a war. In his interpretation of the song, Jim Beviglia writes, “It doesn’t even matter which war, because the loss felt by those left behind is always the same.”
He adds, “Her choice tells it all: ‘I’m making pies.’ . . . making pies becomes an act of seemingly limitless courage.”
It’s hard to sit with these feelings of grief. It’s uncomfortable and it’s scary and it’s overwhelming. To grieve is to be courageous. Take heart in this and remember that there really is no wrong way to grieve.
My heart is filled with gratitude for you, my dear readers. During this week of loss and heartbreak, you have shown not only me, but my other North Iowa bloggers a great amount of care and encouragement. I’m so humbled by your kind words, emails, comments and other expressions of support in remembering our friend and grieving with our community. You are so very special to me. Thank you for also keeping her family in your thoughts and prayers.