Grief is not a “gift” one wants. Grief is forced upon you. It doesn’t give you a choice. It’s presence can be over-powering and suffocating. You move through grief , taking life’s lessons as you go. It’s not pleasant to endure. As I look back, I’m grateful for many of the gifts I received along this journey.
The more you love, the greater the grief. On days when grief seemed impossible to endure, I remembered the great love that I had experienced. And I realized that I wouldn’t have given up a single moment of that love to lessen the grief I was feeling.
Seize the moment. You never know when death will come. We are only promised this moment. Don’t wait to tell someone how much you love them. Never miss a chance to give a hug or smile. You may not get another opportunity.
Show your appreciation. It wasn’t until after my husband died that truly realized how important he was to my life on a daily basis. He prepared paid the bills, shopped for groceries, ran errands, drove me to and from work, held my hand, and listened to me talk. I lost so much the day he died. I wish I had thanked him more.
Recognize the gift you have. I was as guilty as anyone of complaining about my husband’s faults: he snored; he was a dreamer; he procrastinated. After he was gone, I would have done anything to have one more night laying awake listening to his snoring.
Cherish those you love. Stop complaining about things that won’t matter in the long run. Be grateful for the time you have now. It’s not a competition on who does the most around the house. Who took out the trash last won’t matter in the long run. Decide to say only positive things about your spouse or family members to others. It will change the way you think about the ones you love.
Never miss an opportunity to show love. Some might think I say “I love you” too much. But, I promised that I would never miss an opportunity to say those words again.
Relationships that withstand grief will be unbreakable. My children and I had to learn to be a family of three. We are probably closer than we would have been had their father lived. We spent lots of time together just trying to survive. Many people don’t understand the bond that we have. They don’t understand the reaction my kids have when they hear friends criticizing their own parents. Others are not prepared for the defenses that come into play when any one of our family is “attacked” verbally or otherwise. Our interdependence was formed through our grief. As our family has grown, the defenses have spread out to in-laws and step-family.
When it comes to loving my family and friends, treating every moment as if it may be our last is the greatest gift I received from Grief. I never miss a chance to let my husband know how much I love and appreciate him. I want all of my kids to know they are precious and loved. I hold more tightly to those that I love because I’ve learned the value of that love.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 NIV
I have two younger siblings, a brother and a sister. As we were growing up, there were many times that I was irritated by one of them. I would complain about my brother being the favorite or about my sister wearing her knees socks OVER her knees. It was perfectly acceptable for me to pick on either of them. But, it was NOT okay for anyone else to do the same. We were family and I would protect them both. As adults, it angered me when an in-law would criticize a sibling. We were Browns by birth. Anyone else was an outsider, even if they just happened to be married to a Brown.
Through the years, I’ve watched newly formed family relationships damaged by inappropriate conversations that are critical of another family member. It’s easy to get on the band wagon and bash whoever is under fire. But be warned: anything you say, can and will be repeated and YOU will be the bad guy in the situation. You may think you are safe talking about sister-in-law A to sister-in-law B. You are wrong. Whatever you say about A will be repeated by B at some point in the future. When I was a newly wed 20-something, it was common to hear criticism of the other daughter-in-laws at family gatherings. As a result, I was very aware of every word I said. I was never completely at ease. I always wondered what was being said about me when I wasn’t around. On a few occasions, I did know what was said because it was repeated to me by an in-law.
I am constantly amazed to meet people who appear to thrive on conflict. I’m never sure if that’s the only attention they feel they deserve or if it’s the only way they know to control a situation. I was taught that being truthful made life easier. It eliminated the need to keep up with multiple story lines. I guess we all say what we believe the listener wants to hear to some degree. But, I don’t understand people that tear down a person in one discussion and then get on social media and sing their praises as soon as they leave the room. It’s not a way to build trust. It’s not a way to build good family relationships.
A good rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t say something directly to someone, don’t say it about them to someone else. I’m aware there are times that we have to discuss intervention in situations, I get that. But, the daily conversations that tend to move to gossip can be stopped. It’s not easy. I find it extremely difficult when I’m irritated or feeling used. But, I know that I should at least attempt to control my conversations.
“Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.” Romans 14:13-14 The Message
My fence marks the boundaries. It keeps my dogs in and their dogs out. It protects me from prying eyes. It’s hides imperfections. It keeps me safe from intruders.
My fence takes lots of work. Boards get knocked out or break. The main posts rot and fall. The cross boards sag and fail. Trees grow and push it out of alignment. High winds knock down entire sections, exposing my secrets to the world.
Others peer thru the cracks and gaps to see what is behind my fence. It’s both frightening and exhilarating. Is it safe to let others behind my fence? Will they understand what they see? Will they accept the imperfect life that lives behind the 6′ wall? Or will they walk away and leave it lonelier than before?
My fence is vulnerable. My fence can be isolating. My fence ensnares me and keeps me prisoner. And yet, I fear losing that very fence. It is my security, my captor, my guard.