I was listening to the radio this morning and heard a portion of an interview with a grief psycho-therapist. Two things she said have stuck with me. The first: unresolved grief contributes to 15% of psychiatric referrals, and the second: how our fear of talking about death thwarts our ability to deal with its consequences. This also got me thinking about how grief can meander into our lives for other reasons too. While grief is what we usually associate with the loss brought on by death, the dictionary allows for a broader meaning: “keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.” 

I know something of grief. It has touched my life a lot. I try very hard to allow myself to fully experience what I call the “waves” of grief. They often come at the most unexpected and even inconvenient moments. I once wrote a blog about being hit with such a wave, all related to my dad, while standing in an aisle at Canadian Tire of all places. These days I feel like I have been hit by a tsunami. I’m in the first year of grief over my mom, on March 3rd it became ten years since my dad died, and on January 25th Dion entered the hospital system, where he remains for the immediate future.

Grieving relatively publicly is hard work. I don’t think I need to share everything here (which is why I can be very quiet at times). I desire to be as transparent as possible AND it comes at a cost: I feel exposed and rather raw. In my day-to-day I occasionally want to avoid conversations about how I am because I almost inevitably start crying. I can understand the compulsion to disguise the pain of loss, or sweep it under the carpet (so to speak) because that feels safer, less vulnerable. I sat to write this and worried immediately that all my recent posts are too sad. I don’t want to exhaust everyone with my struggle.

Last week I was walking through the little park beside the Health Centre in Parkdale. Three of my Dale friends were sitting there, so I stopped to say hello. Each earnestly wanted to know if Dion was seeing any improvement, and how I was managing. I shared a bit and then explained that I’m not having an easy time. I keep crying, though I can’t believe there are any tears left. One of them turned to me and said, “there is a fountain inside all of us, making tears always possible. This just means you’re human. You can cry with us any time”. These words, coming from one who knows so much grief, were soothing.

Grief is a journey, one that doesn’t fix everything. It changes along the way, yes, and it never truly goes away.  My hope is to not suppress the effects of grief: I’ve learned over the years that by being present to it, room is made for more than sadness. It’s true that I  spend a lot of time discovering and feeling joy. As hard as this road is, I am glad to be walking it, am aware of God’s presence, and when I can, am willing to share it.

3 thoughts on “Express Instead of Suppress

  1. Something cool about tears is that tears contain cortisol. It is a natural way for our bodies to release the hormone that is made during times of chronic stress. Thus, when we cry, we are clearing away this hormone and diminishing the chance of experiencing illnesses in our bodies. That is a good thing too!

  2. When one looses a loved one, you can identify and know the pain and it does come in waves. Then we hear God say “I am here, never to leave or forsake”
    God is our Comforter and let us comfort others the way He comforts each of us and try to,move on and serve Him in anew way as He leads when we think there is no way.
    Wow!, easier said then done, eh!
    May God continue to strengthen you for each day, you, your sweet daughter and Dion.
    You are loved and we are praying.
    Love you dearly, Grandma Jean Ireland. xo

  3. Oh Erin. Struggles are exhausting. Transparent, authentic Christian living is exhausting. It’s not our competence that gets us through our grief — how well we grieve, how little we suppress — it’s the connections we make as we cry on the shoulder of another; as we admit in the tiniest whisper of a voice, “I just can’t!” and find on the other side that we have shared in the sufferings of Christ.
    How? I barely understand it myself, and I am utterly unqualified to try to communicate it to someone else. But, nevertheless, it is true. As I pick up the remnants of myself and prepare to trudge through another breach, I know that God who holds my hand, empowers me to take just one more step, that leads to another step, that leads to another moment on someone else’s shoulder.
    Our burdens are not ours to share because they are our burdens. They are ours to share because we share in Jesus’ suffering. His punishment brought us peace and his death reconciled us to God, how much more so have we been reconciled to God through Jesus’ resurrected life (my paraphrase of Romans 5:10).
    This is the hope I encourage you to hold on to: fall into the “how much more so” of Jesus’ resurrection. One day, my friend, one day the trumpet will sound with his coming. We will have shed our last tear, and will stand whole in his presence, saying “I simply did, grief and all, what you set before me to do” (my paraphrase of Luke 17:10).

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