An Ocean of Grief
“As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” (Proverbs 27:19)
We, my husband and I, have said farewell to the beach. To the ocean. To pretending that life “looks differently” right now. To taking the focus off our grief and putting the focus on US. And we are heading home. Heading home to a dirty house, to chaos, to discontentment, to the sadness of life, to the holidays, and to the six month mark. We are also heading home to four children instead of five. But, boy, do we miss our children...ALL OF THEM.
My grief snuck up on me yesterday morning. It was heavy on me like the blankets pressing my tired and weary body down into the bed. Do I have to get up? If I don’t get up, the sadness will linger. I HAVE to get up. Not this. Not today. (We slept SO MUCH over the weekend. That is a truth about grief...it is EXHAUSTING.)
The heaviness took me by surprise. I went into the weekend with joy and excitement, and I allowed myself to take a break from my grief on Saturday. I gave myself permission to do “normal things” like enjoying nature, exercising, relaxing, reading, writing, dinner out, and watching a movie. Then I woke up Sunday, on our thirteenth anniversary, and I couldn’t run from it. There was no putting my grief on the shelf. No acting like it didn’t exist. My longing was deep, and it wanted to be acknowledged. And once again, like the constant ache of those early days, my arms physically begged to hold her once again. Holding her within my heart was simply not enough for me. There was no escaping it. This was going to be part of the day.
We had brunch, then headed to the beach. We were both so quiet. Not pensive. Just quiet. The water was so calm. A heavy rain had come in the night before, chilling the air, and a strong wind was pushing against the current. We both remarked how we had never seen the water so flat and so still. After walking a while, we stopped to rest in the sand, to just “BE,” and the pent up sorrow relinquished into tears that dripped down my cheeks. “Take these ocean tears.” Was it the triggers? The little baby girl’s everywhere? The toddler in a tutu, which reminded me that I will never watch her grow up? The families who seemed unmarked by suffering? The realization that a year ago, we thought we would be going on a weekend get a way with our baby in tow? Waking up knowing six months is only a few days away, and I don’t want it to be here? The anger at the disbelief that when we said yes to one another thirteen years prior, that we didn’t know we would be saying yes to THIS? I sat. And I thought. And I felt.
Over the summer, we took the kids for a last minute beach trip that wouldn’t have happened if we were keeping up with the demands of a newborn. Being away, gave her siblings the opportunity to process. They talked about her so much. It was good for all of us. As we sat near the shore on those warm days of my postpartum period, I felt a stirring within me of the representation of the water and it’s healing properties, as well as the symbolism of grief and the ocean. Being six months into this process, I think I am able to better articulate now what was brewing in July. It was fitting that we went back to the beach for our anniversary, considering all that has happened in thirteen years of marriage, especially recently.
Sitting before the water on this trip, I was reminded of different lyrics from songs. Specifically, “Oceans” by Hillsong. I thought of how my tears have felt as numerous as the drops in the ocean, but how they have always cleansed me in my sorrow. I thought about my fears of experiencing the unknown, but the call to enter into it. I thought of how grief truly is like the ocean...deep, dark, vast, uncharted, endless, all consuming...of the waves, which come unexpectedly. I thought about a comment a wise mentor once shared with me. She said, “Grief is like the waves of the ocean. It comes out of nowhere. Swallows you whole. Thrashes you around helplessly, then spits you out onto the shore. And when you come out of it, you have no idea where you have ended up.” Grief, like the currents, is unexpected. At one moment, all is calm and peaceful. Then without any warning, it becomes heavy, damaging, dangerous, uncontrollable, and life threatening. But no matter it’s state of motion, the ocean is ALWAYS beautiful. Even when it’s terrifying, and you are too timid to enter in... Not sure of what’s lurking under. Not sure of what’s coming next. Not sure if you will be able to keep your head above the water. Not sure if it might take you under and cause you to drown. Not sure if you will end up ALONE. But if the ocean, in all its unexpectedness and natural state, is BEAUTY, then is grief able to be beautiful, too? Because it shows your truest self? Your battle scars? Your wounds in all their glory? Your unguarded self, raw and untamed?
“Grief like an ocean” also poses a question...do you sink or swim? Do you give up or do you fight it? Do you submit to its power, or do you go against it, even though you have to endure it? After all, once you are in it, you can’t escape its vastness. It’s waters surround you. Drenching you. Making you heavy. Making you miserable. Making you tread. Making you beg for the healing warmth of the sun. The only way is “through.” Not “out.”
And as I sat in the sand, marveling at the ocean’s beauty, I also thought about what its like to be “on the other side of it.” Watching it from a distance. This brings to mind those who can’t get it, because they aren’t experiencing it. But also, what it will be like for me once I have survived this. There will be peace. And contentment. And appreciation. And beauty from the surrender.
But for now, as I live, I soak in these words:
“I’m standing knee deep, but I’m out where I’ve never been. I feel you coming, and I hear your voice in the wind...
Further and further my heart moves away from the shore. Whatever it looks like, whatever may come I am yours.
Then you crash, over me, and I’ve lost control, but I’m free. I’m going under, I’m in over my head.
And you crash over me. I’m right where you want me to be. I’m going under. I’m in over my head.
Whether I sink. Whether I swim. It makes no difference when, I am beautifully in over my head.”
(“Crash Over Me” by Bethel)