Everyone grieves differently. If I had a penny for every time I have heard that in the past four years, I would, well…I’d have a whole lot of pennies.
Yes, I get it. I won’t process things the same way as my husband, my mother, my sister and my brothers.
And I think I have nailed down how I have chosen to deal with losing a brother, a baby, a sister and my father in less than four years. My grief has manifested itself as irrational anxiety regarding my health and the health of my loved ones.
In other words, this is a conversation I have with myself often:
“Ouch! My arm aches!”
“Oh no…is that a sign of something bigger?”
“Osteosarcoma. Myocardial infarction. Arthritis. Osteomyelitis. A million things!!”
“Are you sure it is not from the three hours I spent pulling weeds in the yard yesterday? Or the baby I carry around 24 hours a day?!”
“Psh. No way. Oh! Is that chest pressure? I am leaning toward a heart attack.”
And on and on and on it goes. I begin to convince myself that my body is trying to tell me something and I become hyperattentive to all the little aches, pains, twangs and twinges I feel. I convince myself I have chest pains or that those twinges and cramps are signs of cancer.
I start to outline all my imaginary symptoms to Patrick so that he can report them accurately to the ER doctors when I fall over unconscious.
So I spend my life in constant fear of dying. I know what it feels like lose a parent and I see what it has done to my nephews to lose their mother. I don’t want my children to feel that. To know that hurt.
I feel like there is a tiny beast curled up in the space where my heart used to be and it bites me now and then to remind me to be afraid. At least once a day.
Part of me wants to ignore it. This anxiety is a result of my grief. I need to breathe deeply, relax and everything will be fine. You are imagining it, Katie.
Then I think that I am ignoring my body. My dad spent the whole day before his heart attack feeling sick and promising that he’d see the doctor if he still felt bad in the morning. Would he still be here if he had listened to what his body was telling him?
My grief is no longer predictable or reasonable. I feel like I have slipped in something sticky and the more I struggle, the more of this junk I get on me. And it’s keeping me down on the floor because it’s too sticky to pull myself up.
The accumulation of my losses has really started to chip away at my sensibilities.
Then this morning, at 5 o’clock after I put my sweet baby Joe back to bed, I decided I was going to ignore my sleepy eyes and study my Bible. According to my notebook, the last time I had a good and thorough exegetical study was the day that Joe was born. Maybe here is part of the problem? And I clearly didn’t finish it as I stopped in the middle of a paragraph. Galatians 2 and I stopped in the middle of verse 17.
So I picked up where I left off.
Business as usual until I got to verse 20. “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.”
Forgive me for taking this verse out of the context of the passage which is talking about being justified by faith and not by the Law. My husband would (rightly) hang me by my toes. But I read that and thought about my current stage of anxiety…
This life is not my own. I was so willing to admit that when I was trying to mourn the loss of my daughter Luna – that I didn’t own her and that God had every right to take her from me. I even remember praying daily when I got pregnant for the first time that I would accept whatever happened to him because he was a gift from God and not something I was owed. So why
did do I feel so differently about my own life?
When I chose to live my life for Christ, I died. I already died. The person writing this right now is a work that God will continue to improve on my whole life. In fact, in verse 19 it says “for through the law, I have died to the law so that I might live to God.” All the church and ministry and prayers and studying that I do, that is an expression of love to a God who made it so that I don’t have to do all those things to get to heaven. And if God wants me to die, it should be my joy to do so.
I have lost sight of that love. I resented the loss of my father especially. I was angry. I was so angry that I couldn’t pray as much as I used to because my favorite way to start a prayer was “Father in heaven” and now my father is in heaven…so it hurt to say that. It was like I was giving God the silent treatment. And if I am being fully transparent, I am still reluctant to fall into his arms the way I need to. It’s like I am talking to him, but I won’t hold his hand. Instead of the warm and affectionate “Father in heaven” I use a more distant “sovereign Lord.”
Then I thought of my love for my husband and children – the love that makes me afraid to die because I don’t want to leave them behind. The love that makes me anxious that I will discover some sort of mysterious terminal illness. And verse 20 tells me what kind of love Christ has for me – “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.” Would I give up my life for my children? Absolutely. Would I sacrifice myself for my husband? In a heartbeat. But why am I afraid to let God choose that for me?
You know, Christ also was anxious about his death on the cross. He prayed fervently that God would choose a different way, knowing all the time that He wouldn’t. My husband mentioned something to me the other day about how God knowingly designed the human wrist, full of sensitive nerves and ligaments. He designed the wrist knowing that Christ would one day feel a nail driven straight through those intricate and painful nerves. Christ knew exactly the nature of his death and he still accepted it.
And so it is with a more human hesitance that I try to accept that God’s will for me
may WILL include death.
I am not saying that I am magically no longer anxious. Because I still am. But I am working on focusing on the ultimate goal here which is not me. It is not even my husband or children. My ultimate goal is to live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself up for me.
Pray for me to be able to remember that when my anxieties creep up on me and that beast in my chest where my heart used to be bites me.