The Gift of Grief

The Gift of Grief
Stormy seas
GRIEF – I compare it to a tsunami hitting the shoreline and destroying everything around it that once was there. When I heard of my son’s death I was hit by that tsunami and pulled under the churning water. Total destruction in my heart and mind. Day by day the waves would pummel me and then soften. This is not a shoreline I can leave. The waves come in gently on some days and then on other days may knock me off my feet. Grief never leaves. But it becomes a part of my life now that I can count on reminding me of the loss of my son and the wonderful memories I have of him.
No one wants to be in the position of needing to grieve, yet we all do, and will continue to do so. Whether it is the loss of a dream, a friendship, a marriage, a financial loss, or … the death of a loved one – grief is a part of life.
At this stage of the game – two years after the death of my youngest son, Chris, I have found grief to be a constant companion who will nudge me with memories of the times we shared.
In the beginning, I was flooded with questions and wondering if I could have somehow prevented his death. All the what ifs and the imaginings of his pain both inside and out tormented me and left me in a constant state of hopeless helplessness and despair.
I knew that I was spiralling down because doing simple things, like eating, or even breathing, was something I had to consciously tell myself to do. In fact, it was the voice of my son echoing in my ears to remind me to BREATHE. BREATHE Mom … as he had told me several times (because he noticed I had a tendency to breathe from a shallow place) that began to help me heal from the loss of him on this Earth.
The nights were the worse because I wasn’t able to have taken away his pain. I tried, but he refused. He didn’t think he was that sick. I didn’t force it or “take charge”. Never mind that he was a 33 year old man. “I’ll be fine Mom. I just need to sleep.”  … And sleep he did. Chris died of sepsis from pneumonia. He had a high pain tolerance and didn’t want to bother anyone. 
Those tormenting memories were blurring out the memory of my son. All the talks we shared, the laughs, the times we spent at lunch together. Everything was fading into oblivion along with his presence of love and kindness.  I had to make it stop!
Like the waves of the Tsunami eventually fading and the massive waters moving out to sea, I began to see how much damage was done, and what I needed to do to pick up the pieces of my soul and heart that lay shattered in every direction.
The painful memories did not go away all at once. It’s been a continual work to challenge them. I challenge them with gratitude. I give thanks to God for giving me Chris as a son, and for all the times we shared. I thank God for the hilarious conversations and marvelous insights Chris shared with me.
Slowly, I have become aware that the waves that use to knock me down with each hit, have become less and less forceful. Instead, as I walk along this beach of life, with its ebbs and flows, I’m reminded with each rolling wave, to give thanks for each memory that surfaces. It’s as though the waves of grief now say, “Remember this? Chris would laugh at that … I can hear him now … I can see him now … I can feel him now …” And I do feel him. I feel him walking beside me, telling me that he is surrounded by love, joy and peace. That all his questions have been answered and he is in a wonderful place …. and that he will share this with me someday. But for now … BREATHE Mom … Just breathe.
My family

This is my Family …

Chris is the one standing to the far left and behind us. This photo was actually taken shortly after his death. He was not there in person for this family shot. My daughter gave me this photo, which had been edited by a talented artist, as a gift for my birthday as I had wanted an updated photo of my children for some time. At this point, I was still underwater with grief because the photo came too late … or so I thought.


4 thoughts on “The Gift of Grief

  1. Sheila Perea says:

    Thank you for sharing so intimately with your reader, me. I’m so sorry that the loss of Chris is part of your journey.
    I love you.

    • Shannon Parish says:

      We never know what is going to transpire on our journeys, do we? Learning from each experience redeems the pain and hardships, and gives an extra dollop of thanksgiving for the good times. Thank you for commenting Sheila. It’s better walking together as much as possible, isn’t it?

  2. Sheila Perea says:

    Isn’t it funny-I don’t even remember reading this before and yet there is my comment. So much has transpired even since I wrote that. I knew Paul was going to die but I didn’t think it was as soon as 7 months later. You describe grief in an accurate and visual way. I don’t ever talk to Paul or think he is near because I want to be SO Biblically accurate about it and not get woo woo. But you mention that you do talk to Chris and feel his presence. I’m always wanting to do it the right way-even if I could be comforted by thoughts that Paul can be here or talk to me. I just don’t know. Maybe you can give me some insight. Thank you, again. I love you.

    • Shannon Parish says:

      I too, am struck by what we understand before something like this happens, and what we understand after. There were more than a few opinions of how I perceived how various people grieved. It just didn’t make sense, some of the things they’d do. But after Chris died, I understood completely.

      Being “Biblically accurate” has been an interesting journey as well. After a lifetime spent in ministry, I’ve discovered that many of the religious beliefs I had were taught – or caught, out of a denominational mindset. What I do know, is that it makes me feel better to talk to my son, and anyone else who has passed, that I need to. it makes me feel so much better, because to talk to him (or anyone else) I must remember their face, their laughter, their eyes, their presence. I remind myself of where he is too, in the loving arms of my Savior. Safe, free of pain and torment, and a part of the great cloud of witnesses. It is an awareness that there is something much greater than this Earth on the other side of all we know.

      Any beliefs that rip hope from my heart, or lay condemnation and fear on me, MUST be questioned. That’s not something that my Eternal God would do to me. Men do that out of a desire to control and manipulate the responses of others. God is about life … here, and there. I look forward to seeing my loved ones again.

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