The Box

I have come to believe it is through the engagement of sorrow that God is known and our own purpose on earth is best understood.

Dan Allender

Did you know that grieving is a skill?

I’ve never heard anyone talk about it like it’s something that can be learned. Can you take a class that teaches you how to grieve? Or maybe it’s just one of those skills you have to learn through the School of Life.

I’m brand new to the skill of grief. The idea of leaning into sadness and pain has always scared me. I’ve always looked the other way. Pretended it wasn’t there. Run away from sadness as fast as I could, smiled bravely and moved on.

When my dad got cancer at 58, I felt shock and disbelief. I pretended it wasn’t real. I did things to keep me busy, to keep both my time and my mind occupied. I managed. I managed all the things. I managed my mom and my three siblings. I managed hospital visits and communicating info to our friends and family and 11 weeks later, I managed plans for the memorial service.

And then, oh look! I had a three month old baby who needed me and a still newish marriage that needed my attention and I found, conveniently, I “didn’t have time” to be sad. I had a life I really needed to live.

The truth was, I desperately looked everywhere and anywhere but at the sadness. (Like a child I reasoned … if I don’t look at it, it doesn’t exist, right?)

But the thing about pain is that it doesn’t go away when it’s ignored. It gets hidden, stuffed away in a box at the very back of the heart’s closet and for a while forgotten about. But it always finds its way out eventually.

And so here we are in 2021. Eleven years after my dad died. Twelve years into my marriage. Thirty years after my teen years. A series of life changes over the past year have culminated in bringing me to a place where I could no longer pretend I wasn’t aware of the box in the back of the closet.

I think about it every day. In fact, the box is overflowing now.

Several weeks ago, I realized that even after 43 years of avoiding my pain and pretending it didn’t exist, it hadn’t gone away. It was still there, informing how I view God. Informing how I relate to my husband. Informing how I interact with my kids. Informing how I engage with the world and interpret life.

I realized that if I didn’t face it, it would never, ever go away. It would always be there, stuffed in the closet, spilling out at the most inconvenient times. It would always have a say in my life.

I needed to acknowledge it’s existence. I needed to look it square in the face. I needed to haul the box out of the closet, open it up, go through it, sit with it and allow myself to feel it.

So this is how I’m learning to grieve. Finally not running away from the sad, but diving into it. Not hiding it or hiding from it. Not pretending it doesn’t exist. Naming it, facing it, feeling it.

I’m at the very beginning of the journey. And even though I’m anxious about feeling all the pain, I do know that it is only through this process that I can get to a place of true healing. And that is where I meet God. He meets me in the darkest place. And being the Redeemer that he is, not only will he heal my heart, but through this journey of pain and healing, I’ll discover my purpose. As I heal and share my story and walk with others through a similar journey, he’ll give deep meaning to my pain.

Grief. Healing. Redemption. Story. This is why my life matters. This is what I’m here for.

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