Four years of grief….

McClelland005Weeks ago, I noticed that I was emotionally and mentally “slumping”. I was feeling very sad and anxious and I could not seem to figure out why. There was not anything currently in my life that have been the source of that. I thought that I was tired or maybe it was hormones. I tried to just pull myself out and be happy but it was not one of those things where you needed to not be upset and just be happy. It was deeper and more internal then that and there was no pulling myself out of it. Once I realized that, it dawned on me that the anniversary of Travis’ death was approaching. Even though it had not been in the forefront of my mind, the heart knows as does my body and my mind. Grief wanted to speak, wanted to have a voice and wanted me to listen.

I have learned enough on this journey to know that you have to give grief time and space to speak and you have to be willing to listen. Grief demands to be heard. If you do not, then the grief swells to unmanageable proportions in order to be heard. Your emotions will be out of control, your body will shut down and your brain will be on overload. It is not a pretty picture. I have experienced that many times. I do not like giving grief time and space because it is painful. But I have discovered that a majority of the pain is associated with my resistance to the grief, not the actual grief itself. When I stop resisting and allow grief to speak, is it painful but not as much as if I keep resisting.

Today, marks four years since Travis died. There are many moments in my life that I will never forget. The day I got my first bike. My high school graduation. The day I got my first job and started college. The day I got engaged and the day I got married, the days that each of my children were born. The days that marked milestones in my marriage and in the lives of my children. Some moments are happy and some moments are not. I will never forget the night that Travis died. It was the most painful experience that I have ever been through. You hear people talk about how peaceful dying is and how much peace accompanied watching their loved one die. That was not my experience. It felt like someone was cutting my chest open with a knife and removing my heart, all while I was awake. There are not many areas in my life that I will not talk about (those of you who know me well, can attest to that) but the night Travis died is one of them. I have talked about that night with one other person since it happened and only once. I cannot talk about it. I relieve it quite a bit especially when the date of his death draws near. It is in my dreams, my thoughts, my heart.

McClelland043This weekend, we were all together. We have realized that during times like this we have to be all together and out of town, away from the house where Travis died. The Inn, where Wyatt is interning, lovingly and graciously allowed Wyatt time away, even though they are at the end of a program, to allow our family to be together. I can never thank them enough for the gift that they have given us to allow that. Our family has always been close. We are always there for each other, cheer each other on, help each other up, celebrate each other’s triumphs and cry over each other’s sorrows and disappointments. With Travis’ death, that closeness has deepened. There is no one else, really, who gets the depths of loss and grief like we do. So in each other, we have someone who gets it, who you do not have to try to get to understand or explain it to. When times like the anniversary of Travis’ death (his birthday, his diagnosis date, etc) come, we tend to get together, hunker down and ride out the storm. Together.

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Grief is a complicated thing. In some ways, I hate grief. I hate what it represents, the loss, the hole, the vacuum. In other ways, I value what grief has taught me. What it has taught our children. We did not choose it but we have learned from it when we had no other choice. Grief makes you empathetic to death, to loss for everyone else around you. When I hear of someone who has died or suffered painful loss, even if I do not know them, I find myself weeping. Not just an emotional tear or two but deep, painful tears are shed because I know the pain that they are traversing and I grieve for them.

The saying that you will “get over grief” is not true at least in my experience. Grief is a constant part of me now. It is interwoven into the fiber of my being. The grief is still intense and still painful and always present. What has changed is the time span between the overwhelming intenseness of grief. It used to be daily, then a few days would pass before the intensity swelled, then weeks, and now months sometimes. Sometimes it goes back to weeks and days. I have learned (I think) to ride the ebb and flow better than I did in year 1 and 2, but it will always ebb and flow. There will always be loss. There will always be a hole in our hearts and family. There will always be a missing person at significant events and moments and even in daily life.

Travis, I love you more today than I did when I said, “until death do us part.” I miss you so much. I would give anything to just feel your arms around me one more time, to be able to kiss you and to hear your voice, especially you telling me “I love you, Tammy.”McClelland016My love

God formed….

Did you ever catch this in the creation story?  All of creation is formed by the spoken word, until God creates the ones that will bear His image.  With that, He uses a whole different approach.  He “forms” us.  When it comes to creating the creation that will bear His image, speaking doesn’t suffice.  He wanted to be intimate, “hands on”, close.  Wow!  He wanted to know every intimate detail of us, nothing was left to chance.

This is still what He wants today.  He wants intimacy, “hands on” and a closeness with us still.  He wants to be involved with every detail of our lives.  Yet how many times do I hold Him at arms’ length?  Or tell Him, “It’s okay.  I got this.”  Many times I only want Him to be “hands on” when I am over my head. Why do I do this?

He longs to be intimately associated in every way with me and my life. God, being ever the gentleman, does not push, barge in, or lecture me.  He just backs off and let’s me have my way. What choices can I make today that allow God to be more “hands on” with me?  What about you?

Your heart is welcome here

I have never liked the word “accountability”, especially as in a group.  It seems that with a group like that, there is an underlying assumption that you are going to screw up, or the possibility is very high that you will screw up.  We all know that we will screw up.  It’s one of those “duh” things.  Reality is that while most of us do need people in our lives that speak wisdom to us, it seems that in these groups they are speaking wisdom to the “wrong” subject matter.

Rarely is any sin or addiction ever the problem.  It is only a symptom of a heart condition.  It is never about drinking more than you should, eating a whole chocolate cake, spending money you do not have or playing Farmville for 2 solid hours.  It is about something more.  There is an underlying issue that propels and drives us to do these things.  As Brent Curtis in the book, “Desire” calls it, these are our “less wild  lovers”.  Things that we chose to escape to, run to, and use as coping mechanisms instead of God.  We can try to “manage” those things but the root will still be there.  Reality is the root will just manifest itself in some other addiction that we need to be “accountable” for.

I hear enough from the world, and well meaning-people in my life, of where I fall short.  Even my own self recrimination of my heart can be pretty brutal.  Things like, “You should be further along than this by now.”  or “You are never going to get this, are you?”  I do not need to hear it from one more group of people.  It is obvious that all of that has not helped me.  I need (we all need) a group of people who can speak to our heart.  Someone who can look at us and say, “That is not the truest thing about you.  Here is what I see in your heart….  Hear is what God is doing in you…”  This requires the people in the group to be led by the Spirit in our interactions (novel idea).  Sometimes the group may not even know what to say, and instead, agree to pray and seek God for that person.

Jesus was never involved in an accountability group.  Nowhere in Scripture can I find, where after He set someone free or forgave them of their sins, did he inform them that they needed to find a group of people to hold them accountable.  Even when dealing with people, he never addressed the symptom, always the root (ex:  the woman at the well).  How is it that we have been deceived into thinking that we have come up with a “better” system.  Accountability takes you back to the “law” and skips the “heart”.

I have the extreme honor and privilege to be involved in such a group.  I have not always had this type of group in my life but I have sought it with my heart for a great number of years.  Our weekly conversations center around, “What is going on in your heart?”, “What did that do for your heart?”  and “What do you think God is saying to your heart?”  It has helped all of us immensely, to have our hearts heard and fought for by each other.

How do you find or form a group like this?  You pray.  You may be able to change gears in a group that already exists. Then again, you may not.  Not many people are open to this idea.  Ask God to bring people into your life that could be part of this.  But you need to be willing to wait for this.  It takes time and the right people to speak into your heart.  You need to be wise.

Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

I do not belong to an “accountability” group, I belong to a “Your heart is welcome here” group!  It will change your life and your walk with God.  Just do it!