4-part series on grieving Grieving Inspiration When life is tough

The 4 stages of grief

Saying goodbye to a loved one takes a while. It happens in stages. I’ve been saying goodbye to my Mom and Dad for many weeks. I imagine I will be for a lifetime. But I’ve learned, for me at least, there have been four stages of grief:

saying goodbye to loved ones

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This is the first in a four-part series about grieving the loss of a loved one. In the final post, I’ll be sharing very specific ways others helped me throughout these difficult months as I floundered through the heartbreak of loosing both of my parents in such a short time. My hope is to provide a practical list of ways we can help others who are grieving. }

– 1 –  Cherishing Memories

The day after Mom died I filled the hours by unfilling boxes. Sifting through memories. Organizing black and white images and Polaroid moments, hallmark sentiments and handwritten journals. I can’t think of anything at all I would have rather done. It was the only thing I could do to camouflage the gaping distance between mom and I that grew larger with each hour that passed.

One month later, when Dad’s heart couldn’t beat anymore without her to synchronize its rhythm, I had already organized all the still shots of their memories, so I pulled out Mom’s phone book and searched for oral memories. I reached out to Dad’s cousins, friends, and barroom buddies of his wayward youth. Everyone I called shared more beautiful memories that helped me fill in the frames of “Kasey and Irene” between the Brownie Camera images.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

– 2 –  Acknowledging They’re in a Better Place

My sweet daddy, on New Year’s Eve, (exactly one month after Mom passed away) went to meet his Savior of whom he always spoke of highly and frequently. Yes, I imagine he’s been playing electric guitar for a few heavenly square dances; tending prolific, beautiful, weed-free gardens; growing some green beans, tomatoes, and squash the likes of which cannot be fathomed in this limited earthly realm; and perfectly painted some immaculate mansions. (Or maybe not that last one–I can’t imagine him doing that without his painting sidekick of more than a decade, my Uncle Thurman. But don’t worry, T.R., you know Dad’s never in a rush.)

I love the thought of Mom greeting him, in her young, cancer-free, joy-filled body saying, “What took you so long, Jim?” (Jim was my grandfather’s name–the name mom dubbed him whenever she wanted to emphasize his tortoise-like tempermant.) And I like thinking of all the people he has sat with, with his long slender legs crossed, his nodding head tipped down in concentration, and his voice in no rush at all, taking in all of their beautiful stories and sharing his own in slow and steady determination.

But the most beautiful thought is of him hugging his savior, singing praises to Him in his drawn-out, country-cracked-melodious voice, and hearing “well done, my good and faithful servant.”

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26

– 3 –  Completing One Last Special Task

But, oh, I miss my Daddy. And I was very happy to have one last little task I could do for him when I ordered a special bouquet, the one that would grace his casket. 

You see, my Daddy was a homesteader who loved to garden–flower gardening almost as much as vegetable gardening. As long as I can remember he had many lovingly tended flower gardens.

So when the funeral home assistant asked which of the handful of “standard” floral arrangements I would like to choose from for Dad’s service, I explained that my Daddy was no “standard” floral arrangement kinda guy.

I knew that the guests at Dad’s service would be encouraged to pick from that arrangement to adorn the casket at the grave site, as one final little “goodbye” to my Daddy. So I talked with the florist about including some of his favorites. I’d hoped that maybe it would make the goodbye a little easier.

I guess hollyhock and zinnea are hard to come by in florist circles, so they substituted delphinium and gerber daisies. But I was happy to see a generous supply of snapdragons in his arrangement; they’ve always been my favorite flower ever since my Daddy introduced me to the simple charm of a snapdragon a long time ago. They were my favorite part of my wedding bouquet, and now they’re part of my bittersweet memories of my Daddy, memories of one last special task I did for him.

For mom, her happy place was always her well-kept pretty home. Dad called her his Queen; their home was her castle; his manicured Kentucky Blue Grass lawn was their moat (that neither child nor beast could walk across without facing my father’s wrath for not using the sidewalk).

So making her castle regally prepared for sale was a chore I took on with joy. Cleaning her tile floors and pantry proved to be the perfect last task I could do for mom.

So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’ I Corinthians 15:54

saying goodbye to loved ones

saying goodbye to loved ones

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– 4 – Conceding That You’ll Always Miss Them

YESTERDAY, a few days after Dad’s funeral service, our farm was coated in a beautiful but solemn cloak of grays and whites. Inside, I gathered the final few stems of brilliant color that I had brought home from Dad’s funeral. I separated and pressed the petals.

And I cried just a little.

Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4 

Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. I John 5:4

TODAY the gray sky was striped with powder blue azul. And a neighboring couple knocked on our heavy, old red door with a gift: multiple bars of my favorite chocolate, along with a gift of growth and color and the promise of spring. A gift that made me momentarily consider sharing with Dad, knowing he’d love it. A gift that reminded me how much I miss my favorite gardener.

And I cried.

Just a little.

saying goodbye

saying goodbye

saying goodbye

saying goodbye

saying goodbye

saying goodbye

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saying goodbye to a loved one

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