While I can’t speak for everyone, in my life I have found that one of the most isolating experiences that a person can have is loss. Any feelings other than isolation are essentially an illusion to the outsiders looking in so that they believe that the grieving individuals in their lives are fine.
Now that I am on the other side of a season of loss that spanned two years and one month, it is startling to me how drastically different the world looks when you make it out. And you do make it out, my friends, let me be clear on that. Our Heavenly Father always sees you through to the other side. For me, my entire world changed when I said goodbye to six family members in that short time. I was lucky, though. God, in his infinite wisdom and love, strategically planned my life and my journey of faith so that I was in a place that I could rely on Him solely for comfort and refuge when I needed it like the air I breathe.
There’s something about experiencing something so tragic and life-altering that can leave you feeling as though you’re carrying this invisible mark or sign. You’re haunted by the things you have seen, the things you have experienced and yet the world continues moving. It almost seems impossible. Life goes on, whether we want it to or not. I can remember vividly, even through the myriad of emotions that I felt on September 19, 2015, how badly I wished I could scream out to everyone I passed.
Look at me! Can’t you see that I have just experienced something tragic? I just watched my grandmother die two days ago and my aunt died this morning as I was outside. She died this morning and we still had my grandmother’s funeral, hours later. How can you just go through your day??
But they just keep on going. Kind words like thank you, have a nice day can feel like a slap in the face. I couldn’t help but think back to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry’s encounter with the thestrals. A grim creature that one can only see if they have seen death. As the days moves forward, it gets easier to accept the passage of time. You become better at smiling genuinely and not feeling as though you’re breaking some sort of “grieving person” code. But as I began to put one foot back in front of the other and get back into a routine, I realized that I was never going to survive this season without opening my heart to the idea of joy and gratitude, as foreign as they seemed in the state I was in. True joy and true gratitude can only come when your heart has been healed and your soul has been comforted by our Lord.
“Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy” // Psalm 126:5 (NIV)
The world looks different to those of us who have experienced death and understand what tragedy looks like and feels like. September is never going to be just another Fall month for me just as my drive through Burlington on the way to Raleigh is never going to not bring back the memories of the week that was spent there. I have been shaped and molded by what has happened to my family and I have experienced the peace that could only come from our Savior to my very core.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” // 1 Peter 1:8-9 (NIV)