Apparently today is "National Widows Day." ...and last week was National Infertility Awareness week. ...and last week was the last week of class. ...and April 29 was the day Dan and I met. ...and May 29 is our wedding anniversary.
Every day is a day.
But with grief...every day is effort.
And I don't think people outside of grief get that. I know I didn't. I didn't realize how much work it takes to just get through things. It's not something you think about it. I don't think about how much work each day is...or how empty I am ... until something brings my attention to it.
Two weeks ago, I realized that I have been "filling the void" rather than feeling it. Last week, that became very clear to me. The person who will be filling the position that was Dan's visited last week. I was really surprised at how hard the first day was for me. [point of clarification: I think the person hired is going to do a great job and I look forward to working with him, which makes it harder to explain...that's the sword of grief, I guess]
The people I work with are very quick to say that Dan isn't being replaced. It's very nice. But... it's not really accurate. I get it that Dan isn't being replaced...but, his place is. Very soon I will no longer say, when people ask about the livestock judging program, "Well, that person was my husband; he passed away in July." The place will be filled by someone else.
The last year for me has been a slow awareness to the reality that most of you grasped at the funeral. Dan died.
For me, the last year, has felt like I'm Katniss Everdeen from Mockingjay (the third book in the Hunger Games series):
"I am Katniss Everdeen.
I am 17 years old.
I am from District 12.
District 12 doesn't exist anymore...."
"I am Jessica Kiesling.
38(no!); I am 37 years old. [for some reason remembering that I am my age has been very hard]
I am married to Dan Kiesling.
Your husband, Dan Kiesling, died.
On July 11, 2016.
It was real."
Every day, I have to remind myself the facts of my life because they didn't feel real. They just can't be real!
Everyday, you feel a responsibility to be "okay" enough so that others can go on with their lives and not worry about you. It's a very hard burden to carry and seems impossible to let go. You MUST have someone outside the point of impact who can carry that with you. You MUST have someone outside the story who will let you grieve.
It has to be someone outside of your story. Why? Because those people must grieve also - and you cannot deal with your own grief and someone else's. They are too big of burdens to carry. The person who helps you shoulder that burden must be willing and able to enter into your grief without adding to it.
My biggest challenge, and greatest gift has been finding those people and then allowing myself to grieve openly. I feel a need to understand my own feeling about them - because most people are NOT good listeners. Most people want to "figure out" your feelings instead of just letting you feel them.
This week (upon returning from Ireland), I am finally realizing what CS Lewis meant when he said, "I did not realize that grief felt so much like fear." Grief can paralyze you. Overwhelm you. Throw you into a full-on panic attack. It feels exactly like fear. And when those feelings come, you need someone to jump right into that pit with you, so that you realize that you're not drowning. There is a bottom, and you can stand up. Someone to look into your eyes, and say, "You. are. okay. because I have you."
|Bear Ye One Another's Burdens - St. Patrick Cathedral in Dublin|
When you know someone who is grieving, I ask you to challenge yourself to be a listener. Don't try to solve. Don't ask questions. Don't advise. Just jump into the pit, and hold them. Look into their eyes, and just let them be.
If you are grieving, find someone outside that immediate circle of loss who can be your person. It's like when you're flying, "First secure the mask to your own face, and then you can help your loved ones." It's very natural for us to want to delay helping ourselves, to think we are doing something better by avoiding our grief to help another - but you aren't. Only by embracing yourself where you are and finding the HOPE Jesus has for you in the moment can you begin to offer anything to those also grieving in your circle.
Allow yourself to feel the void - that is the only route through which healing can come.
FEEL don't fill.