Some causes are natural; the sun, the rising temperatures, another cold snap and two fresh feet of snow are all that is needed to make a pinnacle so beautiful become precarious for everything below.
Other times the side of the mountain betrays itself because of a human interaction, someone’s selfishness, inattention, or raw ambition shatters the pristine frozen stillness winter creates and the mountainside clamors in its wake.
Grief, years’ old grief, manifests itself as an avalanche.
You’ve taken all the right precautions, worn your protective gear, stayed clear of dangerous pathways, attached a beacon…
You’ve looked for the good, for ways to serve others, prayed for those who cross your path, identified and named your triggers, said your prayers, clung to scripture, poured your hurt out to Abba, God your Father, developed ways to cope, and got up to climb again…
But the sun shone too brightly one day warming the crests before yet another seasonal snowfall. One lone crystal flake landed quietly before sending the whole of the snow drift off its precipice and the mountain you’ve been climbing collapsed around you.
On another day, a wayward human’s actions, knowingly or oblivious to the danger, reverberated across the high slope and the under currents neither you or they could see ripple just enough that the silent, heavy mass of snow begins to slide, and you are buried-
buried by the beautiful –
your love for the one you lost.
Now, buried, it’s cold and dark, and you are terrified, suffocating and alone- even if it’s only a deception.
I was asked to read a book about hope.
I believe in hope.
I carry hopes for my boys and I.
I still have hope.
Still, an avalanche awaited.
The introduction of the book narrates an emergency room experience that includes a restorative ending. As soon as a recognized it, I flipped the pages. I am thankful for the miracles others receive, but still lost by the fact that it isn't our story. The next section of the book contains another tragedy requiring hospital intervention. I again quickly turned the pages, landing in the middle of a chapter. Before my new page ended, I read this sentence- “Hope is believing your future is going to be better than your past.”
I closed the book, and the cold whiteness closed around me.
In those dark places you fear you've become the pariah you never wanted to be:
...the mother of the dead girl no one wants to be around,
...the sad lady, looking for attention, who was never the same,
...the forgotten heart,
....the one consumed for your approval even to the point she’s ashamed of the words she writes to cope.
Without light, you hear pithy platitudes - "Choose joy”, and other well-meaning phrases that only point to your failure and you laugh bitterly -as if I would choose this over joy.
Those that love you, just want you to be better, to be happy with what you have.
No one understands that there’s not going to be another earthly day better than the days before your loved one died. No one can take the pain away. No one can make it better. You’re desperate for them to understand this solid truth while simultaneously knowing no one can fathom your plight unless they too have buried a child. Oh my heavens -how you would save them from this cold hell, from all these frigid, bitter thoughts.
And then the beacon you wear near your chest begins to glow. Your dark snowy tomb surrenders to the light. Your protective gear remains. - Perhaps you dig yourself out with prayers and praise, slowly but surely melting away the cold. Perhaps, God sends a friend who sees the traces of your fall, and she plunges her hand deep within the snow, piercing your loneliness. With one heave, the combination of her love for you and your fierce willingness to connect, extricates you from that white space of grief. Perhaps…
When your lungs fill with air and truth, you reflect on the cause. You identify what is real and what is an apparition in the wake of the avalanche.
If unnatural, if caused by the intentional or oblivious actions of another soul, you are reminded to pray, to pray for two things: that you would never be the cause of that kind of pain in another soul, and that the one who caused the mountain to betray and bury you will never know this kind of pain or danger. You pray simply because if you don’t, it’s your heart in danger of freezing.
If the cause is natural, you realize the benefit of being buried by grief all over again. Your time in the darkness, frightfully alone and separated from the raucous noise of life that can offer false protection from your companion, Grief, reminds your heart that she’s been here before, and she knows that way out- like the verse in the song-“There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know”.
It is grief, a grief that knows no age; the tragedy of child loss takes on a chronological age for all those who did not lose their child, for those who did – the death occurs every day. We miss what was and what should have been and so, the avalanche buries us.
Still, when my fear faces the God I know, I am reminded that I am not alone, that I didn’t travel this far alone, that Loneliness is just the tag-a-long Grief brings. When my fear faces the God I know, I remember that he knows the moment when any sparrow falls, and he numbers my tears just as he knows the stars in the sky.
In the aftermath, I share these thoughts from beneath the snow.
There is truth in hope.
There is much more truth in scripture.
There is goodness in the platitudes of “choose joy” and “we make our own happiness”. However, there is just as much truth in the statement, “It is still going to hurt.” or “These words may not take the hurt away.” The danger in failing to acknowledge the sometimes constant hurt lies in ostracizing the soul carrying the grief, driving him/her further away from truth, imposing another failure. Sometimes comfort only ensues and a gift is given when we acknowledge the pain.
Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” –