As long as I kept moving, my grief streamed out behind me like a swimmer’s long hair in water. I knew the weight was there but it didn’t touch me. Only when I stopped did the slick, dark stuff of it come float in around my face, catching my arms and throat till I began to drown. So I just didn’t stop.”

This is from The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and is spoken by Orleanna, the mother, after the death of her youngest, Ruth May.

grief

Can’t you picture her grief?

Only when I stopped.

That right there is worth pausing over. Only when I stopped did it catch up with me. So I just didn’t stop.

We are a culture of non-stoppers. Just keep moving, no matter what.

All of us (individuals, marriages, families, organizations) need to start a mini revolution of creating space to slow down so that the grief and can catch up to us. Grief over changes in our families, end of summer programs, influence in the workplace, preparing a child to go off to college, grief over the thousands of small deaths woven into normal life. Our lives demand so much motion. But our souls demand stillness. And how scary stillness can be because then grief can catch us.

Recently I went rafting with friends and was excited to be on the water. I grew up rafting with my family and my dad loved to raft. Standing in line for the bathroom I just started to tear up. As long as I was moving, filling out forms and getting the gear ready, I wasn’t even thinking (or aware) of Dad. But darn a full bladder … and just standing there with nothing to do in the immediate. And the grief caught up with me.

Motion isn’t the problem. Movement is good. The problem is when we self-medicate by filling our lives to the brim and don’t allow grief to catch up with us.

I asked a friend to list all of her losses and nearly 40 filled the page front and back; she could have gone on, there was no paper left. She said it was depressing at first, but by the end she felt validated in her sadness and a bit lighter.

I’ll admit, part of me hasn’t decided whether to hit publish or not on this post. It’s more fun to talk about books, Zumba, or (and this shocks me that I mean it) women’s soccer. If I talk about grief will I become know as “the grief girl?” I do not want to be her. But I also know that Brene Brown is right when she says we can’t numb the hard emotions without numbing the good ones.

Niece #1 found out a dear friend is transferring schools. The summer interns I work with have only one week left in the program. A project comes to an end. A child will leave for college. Another mother prepares to go back to work after maternity leave. The better we grieve, the better we live.

So I slow down and let grief (not just of my dad, the last five years have been a season of loss after loss) catch me. Some days nothing sticks, some days I’m surprised what’s there.

Grief is messy, isn’t it? But the truth is so is joy and patience and goodness, I just prefer their mess.

As you’ve read there, feeling any nudge to slow down and let grief catch you? Where have you slowed down this week? What happened when you did? It’s not only grief that catches us :)!

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  1. Tanya Marlow July 24, 2015 at 6:29 am - Reply

    Thank you for validating my experience, friend. This was timely.

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      Amy July 24, 2015 at 11:35 am - Reply

      Tanya, I am more and more convinced that we, those who call ourselves “the people of God”, have got to do a better job of living integrated lives. To lean into the hard parts of our stories. I still feel like “if I keep speaking this way, will it turn people off.” But the truth is, I can’t not talk about what God is stirring in me :). Too much prophet not enough poet, I guess! Ha. But I’m thankful it validated your experience, as your experience is valid and speaks to me more often than you know. xoxo

  2. mary beth j July 24, 2015 at 11:48 am - Reply

    Amy, thanks for pushing “publish” because this really encouraged me today! Particularly in regards to re-entry… not letting another transition go by without reflecting, and realizing that i am still grieving parts of my life. Still transitioning. That i need to give myself time and space for that, even if my life is full of good things. It’s okay, and GOOD, to stop. To cry. To respect the process.

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      Amy July 24, 2015 at 11:53 am - Reply

      Oh MB, I get this. It’s been two years since I’ve “been back” — WHAT?! I know. When I read Kimberly Todd say it could take up to three years to really be settled, that calmed me and gave me space. I’ve still got a year :)! And then I might read something that says, it takes four years. Ha :). But you’re right, we can feel so many different emotions at once. Our lives can be full and good, and we can grieve. They don’t negate each other and aren’t a contest. So, cry away. And then when you start laughing, enjoy that side of the emotions too! xoxox to you today.

      • Nancy Ruegg October 27, 2015 at 2:36 pm - Reply

        So appreciate your honesty, Amy. I’m commenting here, instead of at the end, because what you’ve said to Mary Beth also resonates with me: “It could take up to three years to really be settled” — maybe even four. When deep down hurt was inflicted upon me a number of years ago, I expected to be able to forgive, let it go, and move on quickly. That didn’t happen, try as I might. I wish I’d known to give myself up to three years (with no false guilt). I also appreciate your insight that “our lives can be full and good” even as we grieve. So true! You are not only on the right track with your grief-management advice, you are on a needful track. (Just look at all these comments; there’s your proof.) God bless you, friend, as you teach us how to let grief catch us and what to do when it does.

  3. Michelle Haseltine July 24, 2015 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    I love this post! This is the first week (I am a teacher) of my summer where I had nothing planned. I slowed down…and the grief caught me. Grief for many things, but it’s hard and the temptation is to run away. Feeling it does help. I LOVE this line, “The better we grieve, the better we live.” I believe it with all of my heart and soul. Thank you for taking the risk and posting this!!! I’m grateful you did. It helped me a lot today!

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      Amy July 24, 2015 at 4:10 pm - Reply

      First of all, welcome to a week of nothing planned! I love those weeks … but as you said, grief can catch up with us and I’m growing in my convictions that this is good. Growing :). And comments like your help feed my bravery muscles. Thanks Michelle :)

  4. Kristi July 24, 2015 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Amy, for being real with us. You are so good at writing/talking about the hard stuff. It is so needful and healing. It makes the good stuff oh so m sweeter.

  5. Danielle Wheeler July 24, 2015 at 8:12 pm - Reply

    THIS: “The better we grieve, the better we live.” I’m learning so much about grief as I try to guide my children through it. Really trying to embrace the emotion and not numb it, and gosh, yes, it’s so messy.

    You’re not the “grief girl,” but you are a grief guider, a hand to help people know the way of grief, and I love that about you. :) There’s not enough people like that in the world.

    • Amy Young July 25, 2015 at 5:06 pm - Reply

      Danielle, this comment was a blessing spoken over me. What a gift you gave by reframing me to a “grief guide.” You have the gift of seeing beyond … thanks for using it on me :)

  6. Katherine Haire July 25, 2015 at 10:11 am - Reply

    What a raw, authentic, vulnerable post. Thanks for not watering down grief and loss. Thanks for not pretending and posting five easy steps to get to the other side. There is no other side (as you know). You just learn to keep weaving the threads of your life with “this” now a part of the pattern. The Spirit that lives inside us was/is acquainted with grief and let hot tears roll down His cheeks. You are a sweet gift to help us grieve better. Miss you and love you!

    • Amy Young July 25, 2015 at 5:09 pm - Reply

      Katherine, when I saw your name I felt my soul relax a little bit.

      ” You just learn to keep weaving the threads of your life with “this” now a part of the pattern.” To keep weaving … I love this. And I love knowing there are fellow weavers like you. Miss you and love you too!

  7. Alison July 25, 2015 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    Wonderful post, Amy. I recently read that there is no growth without change and no change without loss. Thanks for acknowledging the many kinds of loss that we experience.

    • Amy Young July 25, 2015 at 5:14 pm - Reply

      Alison! I feel like this post has been a glorious reunion :). There is so much truth in what you read. So much. Thanks for sharing. And thanks for linking your blog, I’ve added you to my feedly reader :).

      • Alison July 26, 2015 at 12:36 pm - Reply

        Thanks Amy! I frequently read here but seldom comment. Thanks for all the great content.

  8. Shelly July 27, 2015 at 8:20 pm - Reply

    Timely, Amy, as I prepare to return to Asia, leaving behind people I’d love to take with me. I will make time to be honest about the emotions that need space to breathe in me.

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      Amy July 29, 2015 at 1:16 pm - Reply

      Shelly, oh this torn life :). I think until we get to heaven we’re all going to have grief streaming out behind us :). I don’t quite get the paradoxical ways God works that somehow by letting it catch up to us, it does make grief more bearable. I’m thinking of you these days as you prepare for this transition!

  9. Mandy July 28, 2015 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    Thank you for writing this! This is exactly what I needed. At the end of March I got a text from my mom that my grandpa was in the hospital and could go at any time. The beginning of April he went home to be with the Lord. After crying that day my mom called, I was at peace with his passing. The past year or so of hearing updates from my dad on Granddad’s health I knew it was coming and am glad that he is no longer suffering. Since April, my business has suffered because I slowed down. The thing that hit me the most is that life is a vapor. Sure I’ve read that in the Bible and have known it, but after this realizing it even more so. What will I face in the next 30 years? Will I be going thru that with my parents or my husband’s parents? 30 years may seem like a long time, but then I think I’m 31 and how quickly the years have gone by. So from April til now even, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting and thinking and feel now I am ready to get back up again. Tho I was fighting it, I know I needed to slow down for a season. Thank you!

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      Amy July 29, 2015 at 1:31 pm - Reply

      Mandy, slowing down is hard, especially when there is a financial cost. I think you are on to something … thank you for helping me verbalize something. Just like life needs to have periods of feasting and famine, so to do be need times of slowing down and speeding up. Need to articulate this better :). Thank you!

  10. Diane July 29, 2015 at 10:21 am - Reply

    I’m just going to repeat so much of what’s been in the past comments and say “thank you for posting” but also think you were listening in on the conversation between me and a friend I was staying with this weekend. We have both been through too much untimely death and, I especially, have tried to just keep going to keep the grief “flowing behind” me. But God got me to stop big time and it has all caught up with me and tangled around me feet but, you know what? I’m starting to feel more human, more able to face the world, more rounded as a person, and able to really grieve for those who’ve gone. And some of the grieving is for deaths over 20 years ago that I kept going and going and didn’t acknowledge that I was so hurt.

    So thank you. Also I think God is up to something because I am coming across so so so many posts about slowing down and letting be. Interesting
    XX

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      Amy July 30, 2015 at 6:31 am - Reply

      It seems so backwards, doesn’t it Diane? That somehow letting grief catch us makes us more human, more ourselves, more sane. But in those moments that it does catch us, it’s scary, isn’t it :)! I love hearing from you!

      • Diane July 31, 2015 at 4:23 am - Reply

        You know I think its because unless we truly feel what we are feeling then we are not whole people. Grief was one of those things people use to accept but, I think, now, esp as Christians, we can try to hard to think the world&God should all be amazingly positive, but life isn’t like that. Life is full of bad things. Even Jesus had to die the most horrendous death, but we try to forget it.
        I do wonder if this is the reason for so much mental health – that we don’t slow down enough to really feel what we are really feeling.

        And it is mutual – I love hearing from you too. Love your blog post and wish I had time to reply more often X

  11. M'Lynn August 13, 2015 at 12:25 am - Reply

    There’s been a lot of grief as I returned to China this past week and a half, and my gut reaction has actually been to sit still and refuse to start the rat race again. Thanks for this post that somehow validates my feelings. I’m realizing I have some post grieving to do (lots of things changed here over the summer including friends leaving and harsh changes to the neighborhood landscape) and need space to do that so I can get on with THIS school year.

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