A year ago (plus a few days) I began reading Nancy Guthrie’s book, The One Year Book Of Hope. I started crying before I even got through the introduction, and declared that it was my new lifeline. And it really was. I gleaned so much blessing and encouragement from that book!
I read it off & on, sometimes doing just one page a day, and sometimes cramming five pages (which is considered a week’s worth, in its layout) into just one day.
And then suddenly, I was done with it. Finished.
That was three weeks ago.
I hadn’t realized that it had taken me just about exactly a year (slightly less) to read it. To chew on it. To swallow it. To digest it.
And now it’s done.
But here I am, feeling like I am still standing in the same place I was standing a year ago. I am not done.
I think a large part of it has to do with the fact that many people (I was going to say most, but don’t want to go that far) experience one event of grief, and then get to work on healing and eventually do find hope and even move onward & forward. That just isn’t part of my story. My story isn’t one event of grief. It is recurrent. It keeps coming. It keeps happening. And the next event happens before I have been able to heal and find hope and move onward or forward.
When I began reading the One Year Book Of Hope, I think I assumed that after a year of plowing through these pages, I would be different. That I would find my grief balmed. That my heart would actually be more hopeful.
And while I do feel like some things are different, I have grown and changed and matured some… many things (this is a place where I probably could get away with saying most) are still the same. And some things are worse.
But I still love this book. I still give it away when I can. And I always recommend it.
The last section of the book was the hardest to read. I am still chewing it, unsure how I will swallow it, and wondering if I can ever actually digest it properly. Here are some glimpses from that section:
[Written to her daughter, in heaven] I want to wake up and find you here. But you are so far away and becoming even more distant in my memory, and it is so painful… Forgive me for going on with life without you… It just keeps moving farther and farther away.
Some days I wonder if the letting go will ever stop. After Hope’s death, I had to let go of her physical body, my dreams for her, and so many of her things. I let go of her room and turned it back into a guest room. Then came Gabe, and I had to let go of him along with my hopes for Matt to have a sibling… Every ripping away takes a piece of us with it, leaving us raw and stinging with pain.
They say you find out who your friends are when the chips are down… My expectations of those around us were high, and I was often disappointed… I learned that some people are called by God to minister grace in the hard places. Some people aren’t… But don’t think I’m naive. I know that some people are just too self-centered to share your pain. But I’ve come to realize that so much we label as uncaring is simply an inability to overcome the awkwardness and fear of doing or saying the wrong thing.
Those of us connected to the body of Christ experience the tangible love of Jesus through the care and concern of others. Our needs become their concerns… Don’t be afraid they’ll forget. Don’t be afraid they’ll think you’re fine when you are still hurting deeply.
It takes a conscious choice to turn conversations away from my pain, to stop trying to make sure everyone understands my hurt and has considered my feelings. But it is a step toward normalization, and a step closer to Christ.
There is a tyranny in grief. We realize at some point that we have to figure out how to keep on living, how to incorporate the loss into our lives. We want to feel normal again, to feel joy again. But the energy and emotion of grief keep us feeling close to the one we love or connected to what we’ve lost. Letting go of our grief feels like letting go of the one we love… The very idea of it is unbearable.
As I continue to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and as I mourn the death of my youngest son, I realize that the steps I had taken forward after losing Mercy (I was pregnant with her when I began this book) were lost as I went backwards when I then lost Victory. And while I took some steps forward again after that, I have now again moved backwards in my grieving journey as I grieve my Hosanna-boy.
So while I just finished reading The One Year Book Of Hope, I am kind of thinking it’s time to start all over again. From scratch. Because that’s what my grief has done.
Started all over again.