I see that I last posted on December 19th. About the difficult painful dark season I had been in, and about how I was beginning to see the light again.
But since then.
I’ve landed on Planet Grief. Since the first of the year there have been losses upon losses, grief upon grief. A cousin, a friend of my daughter’s, a best friend of my husband’s. All lives lived short.
But this. This wrecked me.
My dear friend Elaine lost her beautiful daughter Emilie on January 6th. To suicide. 22 years old.
I didn’t know Emilie well, but I know my friend well, and I know enough about Emilie and her brave fight. Enough to be wrecked.
It’s not right. It’s not fair.
The week before Emilie died, Elaine and I had breakfast together. We talked about being “broken open” – being willing to be authentic and vulnerable with our pain and brokenness. About how we think grief and pain paralyzes other people, so that we’ve been taught to hide it. Behind “oh I’m fine” and “God is good.” We say that when we are asked “How are you?” because mostly they don’t really want to hear the truth – that I’m wrecked. They mean something more like “Hey good to see you!” so we don’t tell the truth.
We’ve been conditioned, taught even, to hide our pain.
And we, Elaine and I, think this: That we need to be reconditioned, to be retaught, so that we are real with our hurt places.
It’s dangerous, that. Because some won’t understand it, some will be uncomfortable with it, and some will be paralyzed by our pain to the point that they walk away from us.
But those of us that remain can help each other through the hurt the grief the pain the healing the inevitable changing.
That’s what we talked about.
And five days later, Emilie died.
And this happened to Elaine:
“A catastrophic loss is like undergoing an amputation of our identity. It is not like the literal amputation of a limb; rather, it is more like the amputation of the self from the self.”
(“A Grace Disguised” – Jerry L. Sittser)
A part of her self has been amputated. Not a reversible loss like a broken arm, from which she would heal. Amputation cannot be healed – it is permanent.
“The results are permanent, the impact incalculable, the consequences cumulative. Each new day forces one to face some new and devastating dimension of the loss.” (“A Grace Disguised”)
She is living on Planet My Baby Died.
And I’m living on Planet My Friend’s Baby Died.
Is it the same planet? No. Her grief is unique – like her thumbprint. But so is mine, and somewhere we must be related because parts of our thumbprint look a little bit alike. Our planets are in close proximity, and we can visit each other.
But both are far away from Planet Earth.
On Planet Earth, other people’s grief can be detached from, or talked at, or a fix can be attempted from afar.
Grief is diluted and sterilized on Planet Earth.
When we are suffering, grieving the impossible, our vision is narrowed to a painfully bright slice of reality. We are ragged, not detached. We cry and yell and our noses run and there are probably lots of germs around us because of it.
And we are exquisitely, painfully aware of the Human Condition. The reality slice we live in makes it clear that this world is truly not our home, that it is dirty and wrecked and WE WERE NEVER MEANT FOR THIS. God never meant for this.
And look at the mess.
I have a choice, you know. I can detach and return to Planet Earth and push it all away and pretend like I’m fine and deny and just keep moving, keep moving, don’t think or feel or go to any of those messy ragged places. Because, frankly, it’s costly to live on a planet that’s in rotation with Planet My Baby Died.
But I choose to enter in. And stay.
Because she needs me and I need her. Because we’re being real and vulnerable and authentic and ragged. We’re crying and cussing and laughing and shaking our heads. Together.
And we remember Jesus. That He was a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief. There was so much MORE to Him than just sorrow and grief, but it IS part of Him. Elaine is a woman of sorrows, and right now the sorrow is all she can see, but I can see the “more” of her. The beautiful parts of her that remain, despite the amputation. And I will remind her that they are there until she can see them again.
She is hanging on a cross, next to Jesus. He sees her. He loves her. He grieves for her and with her. And I will keep reminding her of that as well, when she can’t see.
Incredibly, in the midst of the unimaginable, she is teaching me. And others. Ministering to me from her pain, showing me what it looks like to live broken open.
Ashes are being exchanged for beauty.
Emilie was brave, and broken.
Elaine is broken, and brave.
Where are you living? Are you on Planet Alone in My Pain? Be brave and find someone who will hold your brokenness gently in her hands. Be broken open.
Are you on Planet Earth? Consider attaching, rather than detaching, to a sufferer you love. Consider inviting them to be broken open with you.
I leave you with this, from Emilie’s funeral:
Until next time,