Why Grief is Hard
The hardest parts of grief usually aren’t the parts you think. It’s the unexpected moments that catch you off guard and leave you speechless.
Keith’s birthday was on Sunday. I dreaded that it came within the first week of Keith’s leaving us. I was also thankful that we could “get it over with”. It took until Sunday morning to even have an idea of how to celebrate. We had greasy 5 guys burgers and lit luminaries on the front porch. Caleb saw the candles and wanted to sing Happy Birthday as well. That was too much for me, but it made me smile that he understood the significance of what we were doing. In the end, it wasn’t as scary of a day as I’d thought.
As I’ve learned in my grief journey throughout the last several years, the anticipation of a significant day is often worse than the day itself. I reminded myself of that and it proved true once again; I was also happy to have our first big milestone behind us.
Sunday night, Caleb started limping for no reason. He said his foot hurt, but it didn’t appear to be injured so we put him to bed with meds and hoped the rest would help. Monday morning, it was clear he needed an x-ray to rule out some kind of break, so my aunt and I packed ourselves up and headed to the hospital. It suddenly dawned on me that it’s not the big birthdays, anniversaries, etc. that accentuate grief, but the little moments. The moment when I walked into the hospital where our daughter will be born for the first time and without Keith. The ER visit that his doctor daddy should’ve been there for. Having to tell the nurses and PA that Tricare is switching to my social security number because I was widowed last week. Seeing Caleb so excited and proud of his “boot” and not being able to text Keith or show him when he got home from work.
It’s those unexpected, unpredictable things that make grief seem impossible. You can’t get ahead of grief. You can’t plan for it. You can’t even be prepared for it. You have to let the moment come, feel the weight of it, and know that in time it will pass.
There are also the joys amidst the struggles.
Caleb was not intimidated by the hospital. He was so brave; just like his daddy. He also wiggled himself out of the hospital bracelet while I wasn’t looking; just like his daddy. It wasn’t being in the hospital that made me teary, but seeing my boy be so much like his dad and seeing how much of Keith is in Caleb even though they only had a bit over two years together. I almost laugh/cried at the smirk on my boy’s face when I accused him of pretending he was fine, just like his daddy. I may not have Keith by my side, but I certainly have lots of him in my son.
When I rocked with Caleb before putting him to bed that night, I told my sweet boy that he always knows how to comfort me and what I need. He lifted his head, looked straight at me, and just said, “Daddy.” He has more perspective and understanding than any of us adults. I am so thankful that amidst the struggle, the tears, and the hard work of grieving, God equipped Caleb to comfort and encourage me. He is right by my side through the celebrations and the dark moments and is constantly reminding me of his love.
Grief is hard because it’s so unpredictable and impossible to be prepared for, but I am so thankful for the equally unpredictable moments of grace and peace and joy amidst it all.
“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” [Isaiah 46:4 NIV]