Tuesday, October 1, 2019

A Journey of Grief

When I was debating to pick a devotional last December I was considering two different one - the Book of Hope by Nancy Guthrie and Portraits of Devotion from Beth Moore.  The first one was written for anyone who has been hurt in life while the second one would make you go through the life of Jesus, David, John, and Paul.

But I sensed that God wanted me to pick the Book of Hope for some reasons.  I had been struggling for some years now with the relationship I had with my mom.  2019 was also the year where I would turn half a century and somehow I wanted - hoping - that our relationship would be changed somehow. 

So I embarked on a journey of reading daily the book of Hope, journaling the highlights I encountered in it, writing down scriptures in the journal and so on.   Faithfully I read, wrote and pondered. 

I speak to my mom regularly by phone.  But it has been years since we have seen each other.  It is complicated and I was trying to respect her wishes you see.   Anyhow I won't vent here because venting is not a solution to any problem.  So we spoke.  I knew she had a lingering cough and that she had been to the hospital once.  But she never mentioned anything urgent.

March arrived and with it my birthday.   I was struggling that week and decided to start seeing a Christian counselor.   I tried to call my mom as I usually do but there was no answer.  I left a message.  She never answered back... no by phone (which she usually do) or email. I was crushed.  Then on March 25th I got a phone call informing me that my mother had been in the hospital, that she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, than she refused any treatment and hoped for euthanasia and that she had died that day at 2pm.   I was submerged with emotions and it felt like like I was drowning in grief.  Grief that I was not able to say goodbye, grief that our relationship had not had the chance to be repaired, grief beyond my own imagination...  GRIEF.

The next day I was debating a lot about what to do.   Call family members I had not seen in ages or not?  I decided it was more than time to mend the brokenness and reached out to both side of the family.   Again the walls that had been put up while I was growing up needed to be put down in my own perspective.   I was embraced open arm by my aunt (sister of my dad) and learned that my own cousin was living in the same city as me.  Unbelievable.  We have since met a few times and each time I come out of it encouraged and refreshed.  On the other side of the family, we messaged each other for some time but then as the months passed the messaged were sporadic to say the least.  As I am writing this today, I have not heard from my cousins on my mom's side for quite some time.   I usually always am the one who reach out...  I have decided to wait and see for now.

So my grief journey, my mourning started in March...  At the same time my dear father-in-love, the one who welcome me into his family was struggling with some health issues.  At some point he was tested intensively in order to determine what was going on.   On May 4th, we learned the official
diagnostic and it was a fatal sickness which meant that there was no possible treatment for him.  We were crushed once again.   He spent some time at his home but as the sickness progressed we knew that he would be move in palliative care.  One of my boys went to help on weekend to be there for both his grand-parents.  He knew he would leave to work at a Christian camp during the summer and at that time he was more available than his older brother who were studying hard to complete his grade 12 in order to get good grades. 

My oldest son wrote his last exam on June 24th.  That precious weekend it became evident that my father-in-love could not stay in his house anymore.   On June 25th, we brought him to the palliative care unit of an hospital in town.  It was also the day when my oldest son turned 18.   It was difficult but we had to do it.

Throughout the summer everyone in the family pitched in as we wanted him to be with someone as much as possible.  Everyone had what we called "shifts" through the weeks.   My oldest son decided to spend as much time as possible with him and learned quite a bit in the medical field during that time.  He had been accepted in BioMedical Sciences and was looking forward to start university.   We visited often...

Through it all I continued to go through this devotional and marveled at how much God new I would need it for the year of 2019.   Not only did I was going through grief in many ways with my mom but I was going through grief also with my father-in-love.  I did not know when would be his last day but I tried the best I can to show him that I loved him. 

July went by.  We entered the month of August.  He was still with us...  We continued to visit, take care of him and serve him in many ways.  He slowly lost the ability of walking.  He was a strong man and the sickness was not progressing as fast as the doctors expected. 

On August 30th, he passed away early in the morning.  We had had the opportunity to go say goodbye the previous evening  and spend time individually with him.   He is dearly missed by everyone.

Last night - on the first month "anniversary" of his departure - my whole family started a journey of healing called GriefShare.  Our church is holding this 10 weeks course for people who have lost a loved one whether recently or a while back.  As I was sitting listening to the introduction where you learn the names of the hosts of the video lessons, I had the feeling that I knew the names - David and Nancy Guthrie.  When they mentioned they lost two of their kids at age two months and that their kids were Hope and Gabriel, I reacted.   This was the same woman who wrote the devotional book that I had been using since the beginning of the year.

My journey through grief started with the book of Hope which God guided me to take in my hands back in December 2018.  He knew what was in store for me this year - 2019 would be a difficult year when it comes to grief.  He knew I needed all the support and encouragement He could provide - via the devotional book, the counseling, the bible reading and art journaling I have done since and finally through this 10 weeks course called GriefShare.   I am speechless as I sit back and look at how He guided me even before I knew that death would be part of my journey this year.  This course is for 10 weeks as I mentioned before and will finish sometime in December wrapping up the year in an amazing way.  This year I suspect that Christmas will be even more difficult because 1) I won't be able to call my mom as I usually do and 2) my father-in-love will be absent physically in our family celebration. But at the same time, I suspect that Christmas will be joyful because I have reconnect with long lost family members.

I have reunited with my aunt, uncle and cousin.  I have family living in my city and we visited a few times already.  Even met a long lost cousin from BC who came in town with her family.  I think the last time I saw her she was 5 years old and I was a teenager.  Later this year, there is a plan for my aunt in BC to visit so chances are I will meet her again as well. 

Grief.  Joy.  Reconnecting with lost family member.  Mending the walls.  Journaling through the whole process using art.  These are all part of my journey for 2019.   God has been amazing since the beginning of the year and I know He is walking with me today and forever for years to come.   Yes 2019 has been difficult in many ways - things I had not expected that crushed me.  But it also brought joy in my life in ways I had not expected either. 

GriefShare is held in churches everywhere - please visit https://www.griefshare.org/ for more details and discover where it is held in your area.

Song for Grandpapa - Original Acoustic Guitar Fingerstyle Song

My oldest son has written an original song in the memory of his grand-father who passed away on August 30th, 2019.   Enjoy.