The Goodness that Grows from Grief

“The dance of life finds its beginnings in grief……Here a completely new way of living is revealed. It is the way in which pain can be embraced, not out of a desire to suffer, but in the knowledge, that something new will be born in the pain.”  – Henri Nouwen

It has been nearly a year as I write this, since my mother’s passing. March 20th to be exact. The first day of spring and the beginning of Holy Week. Her passing as the death of winter gave way to the new life of spring continues to shape my journey through grief.  There was something about my Mom dying at Easter that helped me get through her death with hope and faith. I felt a strength and peace I didn’t know possible carrying me through her memorial on Good Friday and the celebration of her resurrection alongside that of my Lord, Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. The promise of the new eternal life we have in Him enabled me to push through my grief and resume living or at least tried to.

But time is not the great healer as I was told. I will be honest, despite my best efforts to be strong and shine brightly in honor of my mother, the sorrow is still right there, just below the surface, waiting to turn my eyes into pools overflowing with the emptiness her absence has left in my life. However, my mother and father raised a rather stubborn and determined daughter and as such, I am determined that this season of sadness will nurture the goodness that grows from grief.

You see, my mother’s death plowed my heart, turned over the broken stubble of the past, and inspired new shoots take root.

“So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16

I am a year older. If anything, the events of this past year – my mother’s passing, my Dad’s rapid decline in health, and my own health crisis – have affirmed that I am closer to my expiration date than I was yesterday. This past year has brought me up close and personal to the reality of my mortality. Through the goodness of grief, this grim awareness has sparked a sense of urgency in me – not in a panicky sense – but rather a determined urgency that calls me to shine in the sorrow and shine in the joy of each day.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” – Romans 12:12

A common phrase shared between my brother and I of late as we deal with some of the sad realities of life has been: “It is what it is,” but the goodness of grief calls me to rebuke that sort of thinking. Rather than take each day “for what it is” I am decidedly giving thanks for every day that I have no matter what emotions the events of the day conjure up.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” – Romans 12:15

Having my heart plowed by death did a good job of breaking down my belief that sorrow should be a silent and a solo affair. Through the goodness of grief, I have come to realize that sorrow is meant to be shared with others just as joy is. The key words here are shared and with. Not just my sorrows and joys, but sharing with others in their sorrow and joy.  This means not just praying for but praying with someone and not just sharing in someone’s celebration but truly rejoicing in their joy.  Bearing grief with others means being vulnerable to one another but also means we find comfort in one another. Through that vulnerability we are made stronger.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. ‘Be still, and know that I am God!’”  – Psalm 46: 1, 10  

Having my heart plowed by death also forced me to pause the chaos of life. Perhaps my own health crisis was the final till that cultivated this new sense of being. Through the goodness of grief, I have let go of some of my past busyness and grown more comfortable with being alone. I have learned to relish moments of solitude and carve out time for them. Moments where I can be still and let my emotions be raw and real in the quiet of His presence.

“And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly… But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” – Romans 5: 3-6, 11

Turning over the broken stubble of the past is not an easy process. The deepest furrow was my broken relationship with my mother and the regrets I experienced in her last months over the state of our relationship. Unfortunately, so much of what I truly felt – the love and appreciation I had for her was left unsaid. The mother-daughter bond we shared – though different from a Hallmark card – meant everything to me, a truth that I will forever live with and pray that she knew in her heart how I felt. Through the goodness of grief, I have accepted the past, the broken parts, the unrealized goals, the lessons learned the hard way – the stubble of life –  for what it is – the nutrient rich soil from which new life springs every day.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” – Psalm 147:3

Through the goodness of grief,  I have found new shoots taking root in my life—I have been spurred to change  and to grow because the temporal nature of this life has been made real to me. I have taken on new studies, reinforced relationships, and discovered new interests. I have become more intentional in the things I do rather than just going through the motions. Each day  is an opportunity to become more  alive and make more of life.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” –  John 8:12

Through the goodness of grief, I have come to know what true joy is. To see light, you must first know darkness. The two are not incompatible but rather depend on each other. Seeing light from the darkness and shining light into darkness is the beautiful dance of life. The goodness of grief has shown me that I must walk through the darkness to dance in the light and it has called me to share with others that new way of living.

Let your light so shine!

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