Grief is the evidence of love. When you opened your heart to love another person, you gave grief a master key to your heart. Now grief has permission to come and go as it pleases. Grief is a very complex and unpredictable response to loss. It is emotions and physical reactions. It’s fluid and sticky… sometimes hiding discretely in the background and other times erupting uncontrollably at the worst possible moment. Sometimes it whispers sweet memories and other times it screams with unbearable pain, anger or confusion.
A commenter who called himself “old man” wrote this piece about how grief comes in waves. It is so true and so touching. It reached so many hearts it went viral.
As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.
Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.
Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”
How many times have you heard you need to ride the waves of grief? There are so many resources that compare the road of grief to waves in the ocean. I was watching a Hallmark movie last weekend about a young woman learning to surf. She was facing one of life’s many crossroads. She made the courageous decision to face her fear of the water. In the process she discovered not only was she stronger than she thought, but she found new perspective so she could move confidently forward.
I learned a little bit about ocean waves from the movie. I thought waves were waves, just faster or slower and bigger and smaller depending on the weather. The movie was titled Groundswell. A groundswell is a particular type of wave. It is a broad, deep swell or rolling of the sea, triggered by a distant storm or gale. It is loved by surfers because these waves are faster, further apart, not as steep, thicker, and more powerful than short-period swells created by local winds. Groundswell waves come in clean and are well spaced to give the surfer the experience they enjoy so much.
I thought it was so interesting these waves are born from a storm. The loss of our husband, for most of us, is one of those storms in life we never wanted and will never forget. I’ve experienced tornados and hurricanes I won’t forget, yet they pale in comparison to the impact my husband’s passing has on my life.
Finally, as I’m nearing three years without my love, I think for the most part I find myself riding the waves of grief and emotion with more experience and finesse. Perhaps the storm is far enough away the waves now have a strength and depth to them that allows me to adjust my balance better and not get thrown back into the churning ocean. I’m still stumbling at times, or find myself trying to claw my way through the water to find air before I pass out… but I am healing… I’m learning… I’m forging a life and reconnecting and engaging in the world around me.
The most important lesson the instructor gave the young woman was to keep facing forward. Every time she tried to look back or to the side, she slipped right off the surfboard. She was sinking in the water and the fear she might drown flooded her. Her instructor dove in after her and guided her to the surface to try again. He gave her pointers and encouragement. It took her a long time to trust. First, she learned to trust the instructor. Then she learned to trust herself.
My instructor is Almighty God, and my manual is the Bible. If I know anything at all, I know I can’t get through this earthly life without God on my side. He keeps telling us to live in the present and to press ever forward.
I fought an excellent fight. I finished my full course with all my might and I kept my heart full of faith. 2 Timothy 4: 7
When Paul was nearing the end of his ministry, he trained up young Timothy to carry on the message of salvation. He encouraged him to stay strong and fight the good fight by using his faith and trusting God. This is as true today as the day Paul penned it. It applies to each and every one of us.
It’s not about how capable you feel – it’s not about feelings – it’s about how incredibly powerful God is inside you. He takes over where our strength, hope, and ability end. With Him on the inside all things are possible.
We too need to keep our eyes on the future. Just like when you are driving a car, you need to keep your main focus on the road ahead—where you are going. Yes, you need to stay aware of your surroundings and alert to sudden changes, but your eyes must be on the road ahead to keep you going in the right direction.
We kept our covenant promise to our husband to love him until death separated us. Now we need to take care of ourselves and finish our course in this life strong, fulfilling the purpose and plans God created us to do. Take courage today and take that next step forward. Let hope be your companion, and faith in God be your strength.
Remember 2 Timothy 4: 7 by thinking 24/7. Remember day and night to fight the good fight of faith, looking forward, and finish strong.