Grief Is Like A Box Of Chocolates

Forrest Gump’s mother  was certainly wise with her iconic life lesson

“Life is like a box of chocolates you never know what you are going to get”  

I have found that the grief process has been exactly like a box of chocolates. Contrary to everything I’ve been told and read (about grief and its many stages) mine is so uncategorized and random.  I never know what attribute of grief is going to pop up  or when.

My 52 year old wiser widow self knows better than to expect grief to fall into a box of categories landing on specific goal months. However I do find it ironic that I am almost 15 months into this gig and I can’t make neither head nor tails of where the emotions are supposed to land. I guess, like  many things in life,  you have no idea what to expect when you aren’t expectant.

For those of you who have children do you remember the books ‘What To Expect When You’re Expecting’ and ‘What To Expect The First Year’? In 1991 my husband and I  read every single page. We anticipated each change my body would make. If a symptom did not coincide on the month the book said it was to occur?  We became worried and secretly frantic. Our 24 year old minds were captivated with the mind blowing prospect that this little person was going to be growing and as if on command “performing” milestones in utero. The reality was each pregnancy is different and some things occurred on said months and some didn’t.

Likewise when our oldest daughter was born we devoured the pages of  


‘What To Expect The First Year’   
because,  well, we had no idea what to expect!  If our daughter didn’t achieve the milestones the book said she should on the exact  time, day and month? We were full of worry and angst.  Our 25 year old young first time parental selves thought every single thing must occur according to schedule.

I have never gone through ”Grief In A Box’ per se or grief  in the appropriate order that Elisabeth Kubler Ross & David Kessler write about in ‘Five Stages of Grief’.  This is the gold standard of grief for our country. But it doesn’t fit my grief. And that is okay.

I’ve never felt anger. And that might be because my husband had a terminal illness.  ALS afforded  us time to fulfill bucket lists, cross t’s, dot i’s, throw parties, say ‘i love you’s’. I’ve felt betrayal and anger at my circumstance surrounding my family but never angry at my husband or God.  I have felt anguishing deep pain, heartbroken, empty, lonely, unmotivated, hazed, distracted and unfulfilled but never angry. And all of these feelings do not come at once. They come at random times. They may hang on for months or be fleeting after several hours. And it is not depression. Undoubtedly depression is a very real component to grief. These feelings are grief.

The hardest part of grief for me are the ever changing emotions. After 15 months the daily non stop crying has ceased but new feelings are now at the forefront. Things I haven’t felt before or dealt with before. I have a new found sense of independence. Yet the awareness that I am now absolutely unequivocally alone is luminous in every aspect of my life. I often feel a  sense of disbelief. It is as if a light has just been turned on and illuminated the fact that Robin is truly gone. I found great comfort, just as recently as six months ago,  being surrounded by couple friends and their families. I now find it an agonizing reminder of what is no longer.

And through it all I know that it will eventually all be well. But it is not well with me  yet. It is hard. I often think how much easier it would be  if grief came in absolute stages and steps. Then we would all be able to check off each emotion:  “done”…next.  Until then? All we can do is trudge forward. Know that we will never  know from one hour to the next what we are going to get in this journey called grief. And that is okay for today.

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Blown Fuse

It was a warm sunny spring afternoon in our little married student housing cinderblock apartment. You had just come in from class. I was hand drying dishes when the phone rang. I cradled the phone on my shoulder next to my ear while holding a glass still damp with dishwater in my free hand. The voice on the other end of the line said three words that were so terrifying I dropped the glass. It shattered everywhere. You came running into the kitchen. “What’s wrong? What is it?!” I hung up the phone in disbelief. No, actually, shock. “I’m pregnant”.

We were told we could never have children. In fact, just 9 weeks earlier I had a DNC at Duke. Unbeknownst to us I was evidently pregnant during the procedure. The fetus should have been aborted.  We stood in the kitchen looking at each other. I started to cry and you grinned from ear to ear.  “What are we going to do, RW?”  “Have a baby, Mama, have a baby .”  We were 24 years old.

You’ve been gone 7 1/2  months and my sensory receptors feel exactly like they did 20 some years ago when we found out I was pregnant with our oldest daughter. It can’t be real. But it is. It’s shocking to the system. Paralyzing.  “What do I do now?” “How do I do this?” All ridiculous reactions because I have been doing life without you for months now. Days are filled with activity and purpose. It’s the daily routines of our marriage that stop me cold in my tracks. Driving to supper club by myself I glance over to your empty seat and it takes my breath away.  It’s as if my mind and my heart have blown a fuse. I know you are not coming back. I know you aren’t going to be sitting at the dinner table or in the church pew.  I know this. But for whatever reason your absence is surreal in these moments.

Naomi, Job, Hannah, David, Mary, Martha & Jesus all experienced deep grief. I find comfort knowing Jesus wept over his friend. He loved Lazarus. He knew he was going to die.  Jesus knew he was going to resurrect Lazarus. Guess what? Jesus still grieved!

This reminds me that where there is deep love there is deep grief.  It doesn’t mean your faith is any less or that the testimony isn’t as valid. It doesn’t mean you are stuck and not moving forward. It simply means you loved deeply and now you are deeply grieved. And for today? That is okay.

“For your love & kindness are better to me than life itself!”-Psalm 63:3

Who Are You?

Two years ago I was a wife. Two years ago I was a mother of two college students. Two years ago I was a homemaker. Two years ago I snapped this photo of Robin and our daughters while vacationing in Charleston. Two years later? Robin is in heaven and I am a widow.

When asked today who you are how do you respond? Are you a wife? Mother? Teacher? Doctor? Realtor? Business woman? Who do you say you are? Who do you identify as or with? Think about that.  “I went to Saint Mary’s too!” “My husband was on the board with your sister!”  “I, too, was a Chi O!” “Our family had a beach place there for years also!” When the layers of identity  labels  are pulled off who exactly are you?

When I stripped away the title of Robin’s wife, Olivia Whitford’s mother, Carrington’s mother, Marc’s sister, Dawn’s sister in law, Sam’s aunt, George and Jane’s daughter, a girls school alumnae and a particular college university graduate? Who exactly was I?

When your kids are grown, the beach house is empty or sold, your spouse is gone, the job is over, your role has played out who are you? When you simply are just you with no titles or attachments who are you?

Last week I was captivated with the  celebrations of Billy Graham’s home going services. It is estimated that he reached more people with the gospel than any other human being in history. His message was so simple. There were no titles, no tag lines, no pretense.  Billy Graham knew exactly who he was in Christ. The world was captivated by the Holy Spirit living inside of him.

My life has changed ten fold in these past 7 months. I’ve  been trying to figure out who I am without titles. The reality is we all have a Royal Title and Royal Lineage if we have accepted Jesus as our Savior:  Child of the Most High. I do love some good jewelry 🙂 and look forward to crowns in heaven! This title is THE most important one of all. We put all of these layers and titles on to cover up the One title that the whole world needs to see and hear the most:  Child of God.

“Until I come, devote yourself to public reading of scripture, to preaching and to teaching Gods word”~1 Timothy 4:13