The grief series and Mornings on the Front Porch will be going on a two month break after this entry. We'll be back in mid-July!
We don’t realize it in the moment, but grief signals a new beginning. It is a beginning of something new for those who grieve. It is something new for those who have died.
In Christian faith, our mortality is not all there is. We understand that we to shall rise with Christ. We shall live again. With Paul, we ask, “Death, where is thy sting? Where is thy victory?” In Christ, we believe that those who die simply sleep awaiting the resurrection at the last. We believe in life-everlasting. Our grief signals that new beginning for them, yes. However, grief is an opportunity for a new beginning among those of us who remain.
A type of new beginning is the one often portrayed in movies. The senior member of the family died, the estranged relatives come back together, reconcile, and at least for the purposes of the movie, they all live happily ever after. These types of things happen in our day-to-day lives, sometimes. Sometimes, the ending is happily ever after. Sometimes, the ending is further estrangement. This is a type of new beginning, but not the type of new beginning toward which I am pointing: the new beginning of reconciliation.
Another type of new beginning is the one in which a new adventure is undertake. Grief can be a catalyst to try something new and to become adventurous. Grief opens the way for the permission someone needs in order to take the step they would have never taken. Grief cleared the pathway for them to receive the permission they needed. My father never planted a crop until the Spring my grandfather died. It is a radical way to give permission, but it is a permission giving. Yet, in grief my father planted a crop for the first time.
Grief ushers in change in family dynamics. Matriarchs and patriarchs shift from generation to generation. The storytellers and story-keepers in families shift along with those generations, too. Grief clears a pathway for another generation to write and tell the family story in their own way, to make the story their own while remaining faithful to the story told by previous generations. In the generational story of families, grief makes room for each generation to add their part. I can only imagine the stories which will be added to the ones I know and keep.
I found my own new beginning in grief, too. Grief allows for that burden to be laid down. I can lay the burdens and worries down for they no longer need to be carried. I think unintentionally through the years, I picked up my parents’ anxieties, burdens and worries. I don’t need to worry about any of the those any longer. I don’t have that yoke around my neck. Grief offers a freedom when we can lay down the burdens which we have carried for those we love.
Grief will obscure our laying down the burden. I became so accustomed to carrying the worrisome, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong as my grief for my parents was more active. Something was missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it. The world was off kilter. Months went by; I couldn’t understand why my grief for my folks was so wonky. Finally, in the middle of a snowstorm when I needed to bring in more firewood, I realized why things were so wonky for me. All the normal worry and fret which I had carried with my parents had no place to go, no focus. There was no need to worry for those matters any more. I’d been so accustomed to carrying the worries and burdens of my parents, I forgot to let go of those unneeded burdens once they had died. Adding those pieces of wood to the fire became symbols of letting go that night.
I don’t struggle with wanting to pick up the old burdens and worries; I have enough of my own. I don’t need the old ones. I can look back and thank grief for helping me see what I was carrying. When I had the surgery on my colon, I weighed 382 pounds. I’ll never forget weighing that much standing that in the operating room preparing for surgery. Nearly ten years later, I’ve shed nearly 180 pounds the same way I put it on: a little a time. Those 180 pounds is nearly a whole other me! That’s the extra burden my body was carrying. I can feel the difference physically. The emotional and spiritual difference I feel letting go of the old burdens and worries I carried is like losing those 180 pounds. It’s liberating.