No Matter how hard your heart is broken, the world doesn’t stop for your grief. Faraaz Kazi
Today, in church, we celebrated All Saint’s Day, which is a Christian holiday. It is also known by the name of All Hollow’s Eve or the Feast of the Saints. It began in the 4th century by the Catholic Church as a feast to celebrate the life of the Christian martyrs. In later Christian history, a belief developed in a strong bond between those in heaven and the living. Depending on the area or country, rituals of leaving flowers, candles, and blessings may occur at cemeteries and gravesides.
For our worship service, it was a day for us to name and remember. They invited people to share the name of loved ones who had died. Following each group identified, they rang a bell. It was a meaningful ritual.
When my turn came, It was difficult for me to say the two names of the people I lost to death, for the tears of my heart were in my voice. During the rest of the service, I started reflecting on my life and losses.
The past year and a half was an exhaustive and emotionally draining time for me, but I know I wasn’t alone. It’s been hard for so many of us, caught in the middle of the pandemic, a turbulent election, racial injustice uncovered, violence, and divisiveness. has been hard for many of us.
What losses did you suffer this past year?
I lost two people to death. One was my big sister, or other mom, as I called her. She was my only sibling, twelve years older. One of the difficult pieces was that I had power of attorney and had to make all the decisions, including the final one. The second person I lost a longtime friend who walked the journey from a young bride to a mature and wise woman. Then, halfway through the year, I experienced a third loss, while not because of death, was no less painful. From a deep friendship, our relationship shifted to a casual one, and I never understood what happened.
Because I had a difficult upbringing, I didn’t grieve my parent’s loss like I did my sister. So this was the first time in my life I really grieved. I worked as a counselor, chaplain, and pastor, I knew a lot about grief. I’d read books about grief, stories of people and their grief process. and walked beside people dealing with grief and yet, as any who have experienced loss, it’s different when it is your own. So I am going to share what I’m learning about grief.
This is what I know today . . . about my experience with grief.
Grief is harder than I ever imagined. I knew it was hard, but I never comprehended how hard it would be. We can’t explain it to another. Terms are used to describe grief: a hole left in your heart, incomplete, no longer whole, devastated, and broken-hearted. Yet, those words are only fragments of the whole and say so little.
Grief guts you, leaving you raw and empty, and wondering if you’ll ever feel okay. At the same time of the empty feelings, you are consumed, full of pain and sorrow, and you wonder if there will ever be space open up for joy and laughter again.
Grief is the loneliest place to be. Our memory is filled with the before, even as living is the present—longing for the phone calls that will no longer be shared. How is it that something so universal can be so individual? And lonely?
We grieve, each in our own way and time. One of the most important elements that make a difference is the relationship we shared with the person we lost. As I said earlier, my family was dysfunctional, my father gone from the family at an early age, and my life with my mother was fraught with pain. It wasn’t until my sister’s death that I experienced the depth of grief so many others have when a parent dies. I grieved my mother but not like my sister because each grief was built on the foundation of the the relationship.
Finally, Grief has a life of it’s own. It comes and goes, not by our bidding. Instead, it shows up on it’s own volition – not by our control. When least expected, it sideswipes you, like a match lit and the flame of sorrow rises up. I remember grabbing a dishrag to wash some dishes and began to cry. The rag was hand knitted and part of the last birthday present I received from my sister. All I can do, is choose how I will respond. I cried.
And so, on this All Saints Day, I have named and remembered.
Who are you remembering?
For those of you who are grieving intensely, I’m sending warm thoughts, that you may comforted, surrounded by a blanket of caring.
To My sister, Karen, who loved me unconditionally. I miss you terribly.
To My friend, John McCully, who taught me the difference between truth and fact. You loved me dearly and I miss you.
To my friend. Though you have stepped away from our friendship in many ways, you taught me so many things that healed and made me more whole. I miss our long conversations we use to have.