I continue to hear these words, Grief is such hard work.
For many months, I thought, Of all the ways to describe grief, why those words? Certainly there are many more accurate ways to describe grief than "hard work"? Like "hell on earth", for example. Why not those words? As I continue in my second year, I am coming to realize the depth of truth imbedded in those words... Grief is hard work.
I have written before about the changes that occurred in my grief crossing over into year two. During year one, I was empowered by some sense of purpose, like I was climbing a mountain that actually had a top. The anniversary was like a goal set before me, something to push towards, like a finish line that I could cross, collapse, and celebrate at the end of a marathon. But, the anniversary brought no fulfillment, climax, or culmination to my grief, and left me with a sense of wandering... If there is no "finish line", than what I am I working so hard for? If there is no goal, no top of the mountain, than what am I trying to accomplish? Where is my motivation? How do I focus my energies and keep climbing when I know there is no real end...
Recently I watched the movie, The Way Back. These men, later joined by one young woman, set off on an unimaginable trek through Siberia, the Gobi Desert, and the Himalayas, escaping a World War II labor camp and crossing over the border into freedom. Every day, they got up and walked. The odds were almost impossible that they would make it. Several of them died along the way. Starving, freezing, dehydrated, and burning under the desert sun, they walked. I used to think that grief was like climbing a mountain. But now I know it is just living. It is just getting up and walking an impossible, unimaginable trek, lived out in the context of our everyday lives.
Sometimes, I am asked, Are you working? I never know what to say to this question for numerous reasons, but not the least of them being the desperate emotional response of, Are you kidding me??? Do you have any idea how hard I have to work to get myself up in the morning? To take care of my family? To be alive and breathe?
I am a widow. But on the outside, contextually, I am 29 years old, with two beautiful young daughters. I have a lovely home with a gorgeous view. I have loving family and friends. I should be thriving. I should be at the top of my game. I should be in my golden years. But on the inside, I am like an 80 year old widow, who has lived an entire lifetime, literally, my husband's entire lifetime, a full and complete lifetime with one husband, that is over, and he is gone. How exactly am I supposed to keep going? How exactly am I supposed to just choose a career or a job or some new purpose to live for???
Grief is terribly hard work. The heaviness of chest, the nausea, the sleep deprivation, the crushing sense of loss, the removal of all joy and pleasures of life, of all reasons worth living (other than Jesus and my children...)
I am facing the reality today that grief without a goal is terribly challenging for me. I have little desire to do anything with my life. I keep trying to push myself forward, but there is a sense in which I feel I have died with my husband. I think of things I could do, often feel like I should do... But I don't want to do any of it. I want my husband back. I want to wake up from this nightmare and find joy, a release from such tremendous pain. I want to weep on my husband's shoulder, and crawl into the safety of his embrace. I want to feel like life is worth living again, not just assent to its intellectual probability.
Once again, I swallow the lump in my throat, I rise to yet another day of desert, with swollen feet on burning hot sand, lips chapped and bleeding from the sun... Day 420...
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus... (Phil 3:14)
I renew my commitment to plunge East, face the darkness, trusting that I will come upon the dawning of a new day... I will lean into my grief. No matter how much it feels like it will crush me. No matter how unbearable the unending pain. No matter how HARD it is...
Grief is HARD WORK!!!!!