Grief is a strange bed-fellow. It can keep you up all night or cause you to never want to leave the bed. In the same way grief has the power to make us laugh and make us cry and nobody can explain why. Many people of color refer the funeral process as a “Homecoming.” Therefore, when a loved one dies the event is viewed as the transition from earthly life to eternal life. However, there is more to grief than you might think, so, in a minute I’ll share my story about how I endured and overcame complicated grief. But first, let’s take a look at how Pastor Billy Graham viewed death.
I like how Billy Graham put it, he wrote, “My home is in heaven. I’m just passing through this world.” (Billy Graham) Accepting that people come into your life for a reason, a season, or sometimes a lifetime helped me deal with personal grief in a healthier way. Graham’s perception of grief in his quote is simple and beautiful but there’s another side to experiencing grief for some.
The Mayo Clinic describes complicate grief as “feelings of loss that are debilitating and don’t improve even after time passes. Further, the Mayo adds that complicated grief is sometimes called persistent complex bereavement disorder.”
The thing that sets complicated grief apart from standard grief is the degree of painful emotions, it’s longevity and severity. Collectively the combination is so powerful that the grieved one experiences extended struggles as they attempt to put their lives back together. Hence, some never do.
Today in 2022, I still vividly remember the day that I lost my son. It was in August of 1994. He had moved to Atlanta, GA to live with me, his younger sister and step-father. He was 18 years old. Prior to that, I had been asking him repeatedly to leave Chicago where he lived with his dad to come live with me. We were in the process of buying a new house, and scheduled to close within 2.5 weeks of that phone call. I described the house to my son in detail and let him know that he would have his own bedroom. Still that wasn’t enough to sway him. I was sad.
Every time I asked, he said no! He said he would come to visit any time but didn’t want to live in Georgia. Like most mothers I didn’t let his decision discourage me from asking him to come live with me. I kept asking! Every time that we talked, I asked. Consequently, one day I called him just to chit-chat and of course ask him again about coming to Georgia to live with me. To my shock, when I asked this time he replied “okay mom I’ll come!”
I was so surprised that I almost did not know how to respond. He started asking about the new house and if we were still getting it. I said yes, in about 2.5 weeks. But, I knew I had to act fast. So, I replied! I said “when do you want to come? He said now, this week, I want to see the new house. Well, his sense of urgency raised a red flag, but I chose not to address the concern then. Him getting to Georgia was my number one goal.
Next up, I had to discuss the matter with his dad. Thankfully that went smooth. In fact it went so smooth my son’s dad said he would buy his plane ticket asap. I was so excited I couldn’t contain my joy. Finally I thought to myself, my firstborn would be with us once again. I was making all kinds of plans in my head. He arrived less than a week later. We were scheduled to close on the house 2 weeks later. Several times a week we drove by the house so he could see it, envision living in it and feel confident that he made a good choice. He was short 3 credits needed to graduate from high school.
I know, crazy right? But, I did not make an issue of it. My plan was to just do whatever needed to be done to keep him on the right track.
All that mattered was that he got to Georgia safe and sound. The house was not only happy it was home. Likewise, the new house would be even happier. We only had to wait two more weeks to close and walk through together as a family. The day after my son arrived, we talked, had a sit-down. We talked about rules and curfew. I didn’t want him to think that because he was 18 years-old he could come and go as he pleased. Curfew was 11:00 PM. He agreed, but I don’t think he thought it was late enough, him being eighteen and all. That said, we had no argument or issues until one night he had not come home by 11:00 PM.
My spirit was restless and I didn’t know why. About 25 minutes after his curfew I was pacing the floor. I kept looking out the window hoping to see him walking toward the front door. But. that did not happen. Instead a neighbor knocked on the door. I answered, she said “I think your son was hit by a car?” I screamed, what! She said, somebody hit him in the street outside of the subdivision.
Tune in tomorrow for Part 2:
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18