Grief Lessons on a Birthday:
It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to grieve years after the loss. It’s okay.
I wanted to tell you that because I needed to be reminded of that fact, and thought maybe you did too.
Over the weekend I turned thirty-nine. Thirty-nine. Young, right? I have never been a person who has been concerned with getting older – in fact, quite the opposite. I am excited to get to greater levels of learning as wisdom that comes with age. I anticipate the learning and wisdom that come from walking out this life.
Along with age and the “walking out of life’ comes pain, suffering, and storms. But each suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope as we read in Romans 5:3-5.
Hope. Hope in the middle of the grieving tears. In the middle of the painful heart aches – hope springs up like a well of new life. Hope comes after the suffering, the perseverance and then character development.
So why was I grieving over turning 39? Well, I grieved because my brother, Zach, was thirty-nine when he left this earth and entered his eternal home with Jesus.
I know that He is in a better place. I know that he no longer suffers that pain that wore on his body or the bondage of addiction that taunted him.
Yet, I grieved. I grieved because of the reality that hit me in the face that he didn’t get to experience another birthday past this one. The reality of how I feel that life for me has only just begun.
I didn’t get to throw him a 40th birthday party. I didn’t get to razz him about being over the hill or being an old geezer. I didn’t get a snarky card from him about turning 39.
These obvious yet painful truths are the reality of grieving. It’s recognizing the “didn’t get to’s” of life. Recognizing them and then allowing the emotion to come. Not to be overtaken by it – to allow it instead of stuffing it.
I could have chosen to ignore these thoughts and feelings that welled up within me. To be quite honest the timing was not great as I was working that day on the set of Bloom Today.
I could have pushed through or numbed out. I could have pushed the thoughts or shut the feelings down, not cried, not spoken of it and pretended it was the best birthday ever.
Instead, the first person that said happy birthday to me that morning caused my eyes to well up. I couldn’t hold it in. I couldn’t stop them, even if I wanted to.
Can I tell you the beauty of a community of people who aren’t afraid of the messes of life?
For this part of my life God has placed me smack dab in the middle of a community of people who walk out their grieving, who walk out their hurts and hang ups, who walk out their storms of life.
My Bloom Today family, hugged on me. They walked with me, prayed with me. Celebrated me and celebrated Zach. And then they took me to dinner to celebrate my birthday with my favorite meal – sushi.
Of course, they asked for the birthday dessert. But what we didn’t know was that the birthday dessert came with a birthday helmet. I suppose no helmet….no dessert! Ha!
Two waitresses came out, one in front of the other. The one in front was smiling from ear to ear as she held the glowing birthday candle stuck in a bowl of pistachio ice cream. Then…as she passed by I saw the second waitress, holding a huge hollowed out porcelain doll looking helmet.
My eyes widened as I began processing, what on earth was going to happen with this head. As the waitress approached me at the table she reached over and placed the helmet on top of my head.
And I LOST IT, for the second time that day. This time with tears of laughter!
I immediately stepped into the character of the porcelain doll and as we laughed and my friends sang “Happy Birthday” I danced in my seat with poise and grace!
I laughed and laughed. I hadn’t laughed or been that humiliated in a long time! BUT…it was so good for my soul. God knew just what I needed.
God knew that I needed to be with people who would hold me up, support me and love on me and who understood. He knew I needed to laugh myself sore. He knew how to “turn my mourning to dancing” Psalm 30:11-12
God gives us just what we need as we are coming of age in this life. The coming of age is not just about turning another year older. It is about coming another year wiser through the teaching, learning and experiences of life with Christ. The coming of age is recognizing and celebrating the “wins” that have happened over the last year that have shaped the person we have become.
If we look back over the year and think, “I’m the same as I was this time last year,” I believe we should be concerned. In a given year we are presented with many opportunities to grow in grace, wisdom, knowledge, compassion and empathy. We are given the opportunity to stretch beyond what we thought we could handle because of Jesus working through us.
The catch is, we have to be willing to walk right through the middle of the learning opportunity and to come of age being transformed for the better by the struggle. We have the choice to walk right through it or avoid it completely, leaving us stuck…right where we are…unable to proceed forward.
God is with us through the grieving. He uses it to shape us into the coming of age that we need to be for the next year of our lives. Grieving strengthens us, teaches us to lean on God, to ask for help and prayer, to lean into community and to surrender the hurt to accept the healing.
My birthday this year was hard. But it was an opportunity to come of a new age of healing, growth and comfort in the loving arms of Jesus!
I want you to know, it’s okay to grieve. As said at the beginning, even years later. God will use your grieving to stretch you to new levels of love, healing, learning and vulnerability, if you allow him.
You are not alone in your grieving. You are not alone in your heart ache. Reach out and reach up to your community and to God to help you walk right through the middle of it. And I can’t wait to hear of the growth, healing and learning you will reach on the other side.