How Grief Works

Grief is one of those familiar, yet foreign emotions. Sometimes it’s expected. Other times it washes over me, coming on suddenly in a “sneak attack”.

I was down in the basement making photocopies of math pages for Little Miss’ week of homeschool.

As I was photocopying, I was thinking about the struggle we have with math in our household: no one likes it.

I tried to come up with new ideas for how we could make it interesting and get the kids more engaged. For Little Miss especially, this is how my thought train travelled:

“I used to work on math problems with my Dad. He always helped me with math.”

“Dad and Little Miss have a great relationship.”

“Maybe it’s because she is his only granddaughter.”

“….his only living granddaughter.”

And that’s when the tears started to fall. I went from trying to be creative about math to grieving Harlynn in under two minutes. Unexpectedly. Out of nowhere.

Which is usually how grief works these days.

Sometimes it’s a song. A smell. Something will trigger a memory, and the floodgates open – not just of tears, but of thoughts and remembrances.

Other times it seems as if there is no real trigger, and the emotion still breaches the dam.

It will be nine years this coming spring since we said hello and goodbye to Harlynn. These nine years have held a lot of growth and healing.

That said, there’s one thing time doesn’t do: erase it all.

No amount of passing time can erase the experience of holding my dead baby in my arms, or choosing her tiny casket, or burying her in the cemetery.

No amount of time passing can prevent me from wondering what our family dynamic would be like were she here in our household today.

None of the experiences or feelings or heartache are erased, simply because a certain amount of time has passed.

I am thankful I am no longer in the days of being completely consumed by grief and mourning. I am grateful for the the amount of healing and heart-mending that has transpired since we heard those five words that forever changed our lives, “I don’t see a heartbeat.”

Yet also, I’m grateful for the surprising waves of grief that catch me off guard. For the tears that sneak up on me. For the memories, thoughts, and feelings I can still experience as fresh as the moment they happened.

Because sometimes the grief is all that remains of her, and when it crops up, so does she.

It’s just how grief works.

There is no formula. There is no step or stage.

It’s a process. A cyclical, ongoing process. It changes over time, and no day will be the same as any other.

I could be photocopying math worksheets when it hits. I could go months or longer before I am overcome again. There is no telling what, when, or how.

I only know it’s always possible to have that foreign, familiar visitor – grief – eke into the crevices of my ordinary every-day.

There is no figuring it out, really. It’s more about recognizing what it is when it hits, and allowing it to run its course.

Don’t fight it, don’t feed it. Just let it run.

For me, that’s just how grief works.

One Reply to “How Grief Works”

  1. I had a normal day, nothing out of the ordinary, I was getting ready to head home and I looked at the calendar and it hit me. It was the 20th anniversary of my mother’s suicide. Then it hit me I had forgot and that was worse to me than remembering. I cried all the way home and it had been twenty years. You are right let grief come and go as it wishes, it will show up at the most inopportune times and then not show up when you want it to. Time does not heal, it puts space between the event and your current life, that is all time does. God is the one that gives you grace to handle and enjoy the memories and grief.

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