When you experience tragedy, even in all its finality and permanence, the grieving process sets you out on this desperate, insane journey to find clues, look for signs, or discover some piece of truth that, when brought to light, will give you the strength to go on, will extract the thorn in your flesh, somehow produce the pearl without any more pain. Really- all of this, I think now at 13 months today- is just a way to distract yourself from your bedridden heart.
In your grief process, if you look and listen, you’ll discover essentially-who you are and have always been. I have always been thorough and detailed- a close reader and amalgamator of experiences and writings. I have always loved and trusted the written word. So- I’ve been hammering on these keys for thirteen months trying to get somewhere.
But also, I discover, I have looked up to people very much in my life. I have viewed certain people as spiritual mentors- as possessing some secret wisdom or closeness with God that I did not have. Unconsciously, I now know, I would think, every time I met someone who seemed to have this, “Ah, maybe they’ll have some answers for me.” This was before I suffered this tragedy. I believed in human beings. Often they disappointed, but sometimes, they did not.
But now, the list of people I could look up to and hope had some answers, shortened drastically. I soon came to realize as I questioned many believer friends that they weren’t as sure of their faith as they had seemed all along. I wasn’t sure if they were trying to be polite, but very few reassured me that my husband was in heaven with God- in the interim place before the new heavens and new earth. Perhaps they thought it would seem wrong to tell me that at a tragic, painful time- too Christianese- too small a consolation.
My old therapist, in one of two sessions I persisted at with him in the first month, when I described how the sky even appeared different and it was a strange surreal world I found myself in, told me the world was exactly the same as it had always been. He’d always been someone I admired before, but no, the world is not exactly the same. Later after I explained what a trip to the grocery store was like- how I felt I was carrying this huge secret about me no one could see- he told me, “Yeah, but you don’t really want everyone to know, ‘Hey, I’m a widow- my husband just died.’ ” I was silent. “You do?” he asked. Yes, yes, I do.
I meet with a well-known pastor to whom I’m able to pose some of my theological/crisis of faith questions- I come away with intellectual surmises, but the realization that counseling widows or reading apologetics can’t come close to the experiential…to suffering as a teacher.
A spiritual mentor from many years before mailed me something when she heard the news almost a year later, which I hoped would be a long letter full of wisdom and instruction. It was a postcard with a poem that I didn’t connect with.
My current therapist, who has experienced sudden loss, tells me simply, “It’s very painful,” a lot. When I tell her, “You’d think God would give me something- some kind of assurance,” she just answers with “Yes, you would,” in that calm therapist way.
I used to think pastors knew something I didn’t. Now, the pastor of the church we’re attending seems type A and overly concerned with order and structure.
It’s like I have been given X-ray vision and see people as they truly are- weak and unsure of what all of this is about. It’s possible I am projecting- seeing now myself as I have been all of these years. And I am not as bitter or silly as to blame anyone.
Even those who have been through it, the ones I am connected with and call up hoping to hear a cheerful, peaceful voice tell me that it gets better- instead sound tired and some even start to cry when they tell me their own story.
But I can say- after over a year of still holding out the hope that there was someone out there- someone that could tell me how to make this better- there is not. There is no one that can do this.
This means accepting silence.
This means accepting crying by myself at night.
It also means more openly accepting what people can and do have to offer without hoping they have the answers to the universe.
Strangely- this thought- that there is no one with the answer, is no longer frightening. It is restful.
Just as in marriage, your husband can not possibly be everything to you- and if you try to make him this – you both suffer- so not any one single person can bring me the comfort or answers I am seeking. Instead, I can do what that one pastor suggested- use each bit of wisdom as a foothold on this climb up the mountain.
This searching for answers has been a necessary delay- not a waste of time. I haven’t been dilly dallying or pulled off the trail following the wrong scent.
There is simply no one here who has ever died and come back to tell us what the f— this is all about. And that- is really what I’m looking for I suppose. Even the books on near-death experiences and documentaries on out of body experiences leave me feeling flat.
So I’m back to Jesus- the only one who even possibly did die and come back and possibly offers me communication. I don’t pretend to really get prayer anymore and I don’t want to make up answers in my mind, but maybe I am (almost) ready to listen if there are any. If I am anything- I see in my grieving process- I am methodical. This seems like the next logical investigation. I am ready to sit in silence with my eyes closed- waiting for that presence- not a strange New Agey one- not an emotion-based charismatic one- but one that is just that- a presence. The way another physical person’s presence is felt in the room before you, even when your eyes are closed.
“Call on me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33.3