Kuyper Coffee Dates- Friday (Grief Edition)

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Another day, another coffee date.   I don’t know about you but I’m feeling pretty blessed on this end.

Today I want to cluster some of the grief-specific student questions and put them into one post so that those who need them can access them easily.  I know that this topic was peppered throughout the other questions, but I want to dig into this specifically.  

“I would ask her what the hardest thing for her was through the accident of her sister and the loss of her parents, and how did she make it through?  I know the answer is ultimately God, but there are everyday moments in which the strength seems to deplete … and that is where I want to hear what she has to say”

The hardest thing for me about death is the unwavering permanence of it. There is no bargaining that will change it, no medical staff that can un-do it.  We cannot go back in time and save those we have lost, they we are left with a brand new life, with a huge gaping hole.

I can tell you some of the little things that I did to make it through: I was worried about forgetting things, so I wrote down memories and collected pictures and items that were very important to me in my relationship with my parents. 

I took a lot of baths because the tub was the only place where I was still and alone with my deep and painful thoughts, naked before God in every way.  

After about a week I went back to a modified version of my usual routine whether it was work, school or my family schedule.  I found that it wasn’t helpful to sit and dwell on things, that the processing and healing would come in the midst of daily living.  When it did I stopped and gave it priority and I was blessed by others who gave me space for this.

I went to counseling, every time, because I wanted to be sure that I was moving through each season with as much mental health as I could muster.

I can sum it up by imploring you to be intentional about grieving.  Telling your story in trusted settings be open about your aching.  There is no quick fix, there will always be an empty chair, but there is a better place ahead, when the wound becomes a scar and the breathing comes easier.  Continue reading

Letters to my Mother {Day 5} Life in the Losing

 Dear Mom,

You haunt me in the fall, you know.  When I encounter the trees on the verge of explosive color, I feel you there.

You’re with me when I crave apple crisp, and when I break down and make it.

I caught you in the curve of Caedmon’s nose a few days back as the kids crunched leaves underfoot and threatened to tumble into the creek that runs through the park.

I feel you so often on the corners of my minds eye, your spirit calling me to remember and reevaluate.

You’re gregarious now, joyous, often laughing and calling my attention to the fullness of life, rarely the darkness of death.

I ache for you, this free woman I rarely saw on earth.

Mom, can we make a dream date, somewhere on a grassy hill surrounded in fall vividness?  Could you scoop me up like you used to do and rub my hair?

Just another chance to be someone’s baby, your baby.

I want to hear you gasp, almost orgasmically over the color of the oak trees along Baldwin street.  Something about fall spoke to you and struck a spirit chord.

It rubbed off because my soul comes alive in this season, one of apples and golden hues and death.

So much life in death, so much beauty to behold in the loosing, the falling, the closing up shop as we mark another year in the books.

I love you, I miss you.

LeaRae

31 letters to my Mother

A while ago I heard about a challenge that a blogger known as The Nester is doing for the month of October: Write 31 posts in 31 days on the same topic.

And tonight I sighed as I realized that tomorrow the calendar will change over to October and I have no idea how I am going to deal with the 2 year anniversary of my Mom’s death, which falls smack dab in the middle of the month on October 13.

Then it clicked and these two things connected.  I can write about her every day for the entire month.  In fact, I can write her a letter every day.

This is what I will do about my grief, this is how I will remember her this year.

This will take the form of hard questions, unearthed memories and whatever else I uncover while spending 31 days of digging into all the baggage I have surrounding her death.

Sometimes the best things go from inspiration to execution in a matter of minutes.

I am praying that this is one of them.

If you’d like a little backstory on my mom’s death, click here

Pain Credentials- There is no passport needed to love well

 It was eight years ago but I can still easily go back to that room in my mind, all of us crammed on the couches, chairs and floors.  The air heavier than any I had every experienced in my life.  My Father had recently been taken out of the basement where he had died the night before and we all sat together in shock and love.

Family, friend, neighbors, all of us breathless, speechless.

I could write a thousand words about the people beside me that day and how their face to face love changed my life.  Yet the one person that will always come into focus for me is my sweet friend and college roommate Becky.

We had met at a pizza place and our lives were totally the same and completely different.  I was casual and went to class in hoodies and funky hair.  Becky was (and still is) the modern day Audrey Hepburn and always dressed in flawless jeans and heels with carefully coiffed hair and makeup.

So it said something when she skipped her makeup and shower to rush over to my parents house when she heard the news.  Neither of us had ever lost a parent, so I know that she was completely unsure of what to do, or say.  Yet I remember with tender thankfulness how firmly she stayed by my side, offering even to come with me when I went to the bathroom, in case I was reluctant to be alone.

She was my maid of honor and threw a thoughtful shower and bachelorette party.

She bought a last minute plane ticket when our firstborn Noelle arrived, because she couldn’t bear to miss out on those first days of excitement.

At my Mother’s funeral she and her husband Adam, stayed with Kel and I for much of the visitation and she was by my side through all the confused and dark details.

She never flinched, never waivered, never let things get awkward.  She had no credentials that gave her permission to speak into my life other than the simple fact that she was my best friend, and belonged there.

So often when we don’t know what to say we make one of two mistakes:

  1. We say something trite that makes us sound like we know more than we do and we inflict pain.
  1. Or we say nothing and keep our distance because we feel ill equipped to speak to something we don’t understand.

Surprisingly #2 is far worse than #1.  The last thing a wounded friend needs is to wonder if their pain is too awkward for you.  To question if you were only there for the good times.

Don’t buy into the lie that you need credentials to enter into the world of the broken.

I have loved people through loss and pain that I have no understanding of: miscarriage, chronic pain, divorce, abuse.

A Friend loves at ALL TIMES isn’t a phrase that should only be sweetly needlepointed on a pillow, but actively lived out with late night phone calls, tears over coffee, surprise meals, flowers, books, pop-in visits and oceans of love.

Real hands and feet love will speak louder than your nervousness, every time.

Go there, love them.  Say something like: “I have no idea what this is like, but I am so sorry, and I’m all in, what can I do?

You aren’t going to understand everything, yet you are called to love your people well and doing so will and should make you uncomfortable at times.  This is how we grow stronger and closer and more beautiful to Our Father.