January 7, 2021 my life changed forever. It was the day my only sibling, my sister Rosanne, lost her fight against COVID-19. Rosanne was my best friend, my confidant and my hero. Our family’s grief was compounded by the intense controversy, the world shutting down, not being able to visit her in the hospital and the horror of the refrigerator trucks in the parking lot.
The process of grief can feel like an emotional loop as the stages of grief come and go and come again. During that time I began to read over and over the accounts in the Bible about sackcloth and ashes. I was moved by the practice and saw the benefit. They mourned and sat with their grief, they lamented and felt their sorrow without avoiding the pain. Not that I tore my clothes and literally sat in ashes, but I began to lean into mourning and lamenting. I realized by sitting with each emotion I was experiencing the healing of God. Not running from the pain meant I was not running from God and His healing work in me. I stopped, rested and took long walks not trying to be busy or avoiding the pain; I read books on grief and had a grief community to share my journey. I found that although grief is very lonely I was not alone. I learned the movements of God’s grace, kindness, mercy and love in the midst of my sorrow.
I discovered the difference between moving on and moving forward because they are different. Moving on says “I’m done”, it implies that the loss no longer holds meaning, we deny the pain and we suppress it. The truth is when we lose someone moving on eventually catches up with us. Moving forward walks through the pain, remembers and allows our grief to live side-by-side with our changing life. Moving forward allows us to live a life that can embrace both joy and heartache.
“To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.” Isaiah 61:3
In life we grieve over so many things, the loss of a marriage and loss of a friend, the loss of a job, a loss of our health and the loss in death of a loved one. Grief comes in many ways and looks different.
It’s been two years since my sister‘s death but I find myself celebrating her memory with great joy and freedom more and more. I’m not sure what you’re going through in life or what you will face in the future but loss is inevitable. Grief is lonely so you need trusted wise friends to love you patiently through, connect in a group whether it is Grief Share or something else. Read books, pray, journal, give yourself grace, rest, sleep, exercise, and above all sit with God in the pain allowing Him to heal your broken heart. It is my prayer that you will choose to move forward with God because He promises “A crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
From my heart to yours,