Grief is something we will all encounter. As inevitable as, well, death. At some point in our lives all of us will lose someone close to us. A parent. A beloved friend. A partner. Usually it happens a bit later in life – in our 40s or 50s. By then we’ve built a life of our own and know ourselves pretty well. Much of our life has been defined.
But if it happens before we’re 30, it’s a whole different ball game.
Before 30, we’re still discovering who we are. Our character is still being shaped. We are much more dependent on our parents than we will be in later life. Most of life’s big decisions, experiences and commitments are still ahead of us.
On 29 April 2000 I was only 23. I got a phone call from my Dad early in the morning:
“Your mother’s passed away.”
I didn’t know what to do. What to say. How to behave. There was suddenly this big gaping hole in my life which nothing would ever be able to fill. There were questions I still wanted to ask. Questions only she could answer. Advice only my Mum could give me.
And suddenly it was gone.
She would never see me get married. Never see any future grandchildren. She’d never get to see me become the man she knew I would become.
Then there were the other little things. The special mother-son relationship we had. She’d never give me a hug and a smile ever again. We’d never sit and watch TV together and laugh in the same places again. My soul knew this without me thinking. And I felt empty.
Nothing can prepare you for grief. No words can describe the mixture of emptiness, emotion and numbness which comes over you. From experience, I can however say this. Grief is not the end. There is an exit door. A sun rising over the brow of the hill.
But, ironically, it only comes if we let go of grief.
For years, I let the loss of my Mum define my entire identity. My life revolved around it. I was afraid to move on, grow up, become a different person. I didn’t want to stop being the person I was when she died. In case I forgot her. Or did something which upset her.
Now of course, it is right to grieve. And in many ways, it does define us for a season. But it must only be a season. There comes a time to move on.
To open the door to a new tomorrow. Allow ourselves to imagine a different story for our lives. Not to forget our loved ones. But to say goodbye.
I did this by writing a goodbye letter to my Mum. In it, I told her how my life was, what I was doing. I told her I loved her, I always would and would never forget her. I told her she was an important part of my life and always would be, and I would always remember her and our times together with joy.
But toward the end, I said I needed to move on. To get on with my life. To have the courage to move forward. To become the man she always knew I would be, but which I never even knew existed. And as I said goodbye and surrendered the past, I found a new beginning.
I discovered hope. Free from the shackles of grief, the scales fell from my eyes. I saw God begin to use my suffering for good. Losing my Mum has, in many ways, been the catalyst for transformation.
Becoming more independent.
Discovering my true identity.
Going deeper with the divine.
Telling a better story with my life.
God used grief to transform me. But only when I gave my grief to him. When I said goodbye.
So whenever you experience grief, take time to grieve properly.
There is a time to grieve, a time to mourn. But, when the time is right, there is also a time to say goodbye.
Image by Christopher Bruno via stock.xchng.