I meant to write this post before the COVID-19 crisis, but it now seems it was fated to come out around the same time. Grief is on my mind, as my mother recently went to be with the Lord. There is perhaps no relationship more charged, more emotional than the one you have with your mother. And yet, if you understand how to grieve, I truly believe you can find peace. Below are the steps of my own journey, share yours below.
1. Allow Your Foundation to be Shaken
My mother was my spiritual mentor. Her faith was strong. It weathered her through storms before her own illness, tragedies and maladies and all that life throws at us. But when she got sick, that faith hit a roadblock. The woman I looked to for my own spiritual guidance became stuck. It frightened me deeply. But looking back, I realize now what she was going through. She was slowly accepting what was happening, allowing the foundation of her faith to be broken down, and then slowly rebuilt.
Was this process visible to me? No, and frustrating, because I would have loved to know what her journey was like. To hear what the impact of her terminal diagnosis was, and how it crushed her, and then how she slowly came up from the darkness. Or didn’t, I have no idea. All I know is I loved her dearly and she loved me and loved God. The rest is frankly none of my business. I can only witness and reflect. But I also must follow my own guide.
Frankly, my mother being with the Lord changed how I viewed some of the assumptions I held about the afterlife. It led to a period of questioning, it shook the foundations of my faith. Before you think I’ve given up, let me assure you, my faith has never been stronger. It HAS been strengthened by this phase of wondering, of questioning, of rethinking the concept of heaven I’d been taught in Sunday school for years and years. Don’t run from the questions, go towards them. Embrace periods of doubt, of feeling your mindset shift. God is greater than anything you are going through, he will meet you at the other end.
2. Relinquish Control
Allowing yourself to stay in an “everything’s fine, I’m in control” state, does not acknowledge or allow for how great God is.
Let me explain. So often we feel like we have to “get to good” or be on some grand quest for improvement. But when it comes to loss, when it comes to tragedies, it is best to throw that whole concept out of the window. Because only God knows what’s good, and he likewise will order your steps in such a way that the twists and turns are unbeknownst to you. You may be striving for an endpoint that has nothing to do with our journey.
Why does that matter? You could MISS OUT on what God has in store, by insisting you know what’s best for you. In the same way, by controlling your grief, you make the assumption that you know better. Walk back, take a breath and let it be. As long as you are following the spirit within you, you cannot go wrong.
Be careful of advice here, both that comes from you and around you. The truth is, you can be easily led astray by what other people consider to be the “right” way to grieve. While well-meaning, also let these expectations slide off your back. The wisdom of the world is folly with God, embrace the wisdom that comes from an enlightened place.
3. Double Down on the Spirit
The only way out is through. You can’t go on your journey without a compass, and the Holy Spirit is your guide. If you think about it, we grieve things all the time. Jobs ending, careers, friendships. Death is the ultimate culmination of all these things—the ultimate release of all that is worldly. It represents all that holds us here on the material plane. Unless you learn to treat each of these moments with an ear to the ground, using the spirit be your guide, you’ll remain in grief. The truth of the matter is, grief lasts as long as you want it to. There is agency in choosing what to focus on. Deciding what love means to you, and acting that out in your daily life.
Does that mean you aren’t sad? No. Does that mean that “everything happens for a reason?” not really. All it means is that you let the spirit guide your heart in mind. That you do not let your emotions rule you. That you realize you were built for something greater than to wallow in the valley. You aren’t made for the valley. Though you may find yourself there, you aren’t meant to stay there.
In my grief, I felt compelled to open up. I told neighbors I barely knew, friends I’d known for a while, friends I hadn’t spoken to in years. I told them everything I love about my mother. It felt more than right, it felt necessary, it was a tickle from the spirit I had to scratch. What happened next? An outpouring of love, texts, emails, flowers, letters. L.O.V.E. Conversations with friends I’d not talked to in some time. It was like I opened something precious, shared it with everyone, and we lived better because of it.
My mother’s legacy certainly has to do with that. This woman had more friends than anyone I’ve ever met. In sharing her passing, I was continuing her good work. The world would be my friend. In my grief, it would sustain me.
There may be a wrong way to grieve, it’s a way that neglects the power of the universe that brings air into your lungs and raises yourself out of bed every day. Don’t deny that spirit within you—because that’s why you are here and not in the great beyond. Stay present, feel what you need to feel, but don’t deny the part of you that shows you what’s next. Because your best days are ahead of you. Walk away from that old way of being, be part of the light.