Saturday, December 21, 2019

Grief and joy

I'm finding myself in a raw place this Christmas season. I don't know what it is--I'm not typically a sentimental person. But this year, I find myself swallowing a lump in my throat and blinking back tears way more often that I would like.

Grief is such a bizarre thing. Here I am, 15 years out, fighting tears as I'm driving down the highway. It hits out of nowhere, and it really doesn't care how inconvenient the timing. Like Sunday, after a bad day where I had made my husband, daughter, and son all frustrated with me (for different reasons--I'm talented like that). Then I had fought the crowd at WalMart, something I'm never a fan of, in search of gifts and stocking stuffers. I was driving home in the dark, which is already not such a great thing for me because my night vision is terrible.

And there was the flag.

After Michael's death, my family had a flagpole installed at the cemetery. There's a light shining on it at night so it doesn't have to be taken down at sunset each day. When you drive down highway 21 at night, you see the flag highlighted against the night sky, behind a glowing church steeple. Sunday night, that flag hit me like a punch in the gut. I can't tell you why; normally when we drive by I like to see it there. It usually gives me comfort, somehow, seeing it waving in the night breeze.

But Sunday, it brought instant tears and a lump I just couldn't swallow.

Here's the thing about grief, though--we grieve because we love. The deeper the love, the deeper the grief.

This Christmas, if your heart is breaking--whether it's from a new grief or one that just seems to have snuck up on you again--I wish you peace. I wish you memories, even the ones that bring tears to your eyes, because that's how you heal. I wish you the time to slow down and take a breath.

But I also wish you joy. It seems strange to put joy and grief together, but I've come to believe that it's normal. It may not seem that way to people who've stayed on the outside of grief looking in, but let me be blunt--unless you've lived through a loss that has rocked you to your core, you don't get to tell people what's "normal" in grief.

So I hope you'll have a moment like I did Sunday night. I hope you'll cry ugly tears, but then I hope you'll think of something that makes you snort and laugh through them. I hope you'll let the memories that hurt your heart also heal it.

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