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If you build it, they will come. 

~Field of Dreams

There is No Control in Grief

On Christmas Eve morning last week Pastor Jeff at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Okawville, Illinois, preached a sermon on “The Right Time”. The gist of this timely sermon was that everything that happens, (both those wonderful things and those things we dread), happens at just the time it is destined to.  At just the time it is supposed to. At just the right time. And God asks us to be thankful and rejoice for all things, both those we think are good and those we think are bad.

It’s easy for me to be thankful for and understand why good things happen.  God loves us. We lead good lives, do kind things and God blesses us.

But when that horrible thing happens to us, it’s so hard to understand.

My 37-year-old nephew, Luke, died suddenly from natural causes on December 4th.  Just unthinkable that it was the right time for us to lose him. To never hear his laugh or feel his embrace. Unthinkable he would not be with us at Christmas. He was so full of life and enjoyed his blessings of many friends and family. He was truly happy. Here he is with his identical twin brother, Matt, behind him.

Losing Luke reinforces one of the five Learnings about grief in We Lost Her, my first book published just a few short months ago. The book is a tribute to my mother, who died in 1970 and describes the grief journey of her seven children, aged 7 to 17 at the time. How we coped and how her death impacted our lives.  The Learnings are conclusions the seven of us have on living with grief.

Learning Three is about how we do not have control in this life. We describe as follows from Chapter 17 in We Lost Her:

“The third learning is about control, or really the lack thereof.  After many years of contemplation on why we lost Mom, we each came to the realization that no one has control over life.  We only control how we feel and act and react to what happens.  We control whether to be happy or not. Whether to hate or not.  Whether to work hard, with persistence and determination, or not.  We can’t control what happens, but we can control how we respond to what happens.   Each of us learned this in different ways, through different struggles along our grief journey, but all felt it to be true.”

So, dear reader, after this recent loss, I understand more fully that it’s easy to give this “advice” about grief when the loss is 48 years ago.  It’s much harder with a loss that is in the present.  Losing Luke feels like a test of the thoughts and concepts on grief we shared in We Lost Her.  I surely failed the test.  Where I thought I could be so strong and help my sister, Betty, in her grief, I was instead a puddle of tears and she was consoling me at times.

A new learning for me is that grief is so unpredictable.  We don’t know the journey we will travel each time we grieve.  We only have to trust we can make it through with those that love us, and His help, and accept help from others.

Heartlinks Grief Center helps those grieving in our communities in Southwestern Illinois on their grief journey to learn to trust again.  To trust they can control how they react and act.  To learn that they can make it through the toughest time, with help through counseling, group activities, and the staff’s genuine care.

Betty asked me to do Luke’s eulogy. I was not sure I could, given the crying mess I was those early days after he died.  But, I knew Luke deserved a strong testament for who he was in life as a final gift to him and our family, and I did my best. I didn’t break down until after the eulogy. Then, my hands shook for 3 days.  Now, I am working on getting my “happy” back.

That’s the journey of grief.  Never in our control.  Never a Right Time, but a time that is right for all things. I rejoice for the time we had with Luke and am thankful to have had him in my life – rest in peace, dear Luke.

I hope as you enter the new year of 2018 that you will find the right time to rejoice with those you love and help those that are grieving on their journey.

Be Blessed,

Ellen

“We Grow Stronger Together”