Do you remember being at the ocean as a child?
Remember what if felt like to bravely go deeper and deeper, to jump the waves, to play in them, to feel them tug at your legs, push you off balance, to fall under the weight of a wave, and to bounce up spitting salt water out of your mouth? Remember looking out in wonder across the horizon, water as far as you could see, your young, innocent spirit alive, feeling invincible?
You may have even heard a parent shout out over the waves, warning you to be careful, not to go too far. But you felt so strong. So brave.
Until that one moment when everything changed, when you drifted a little too far, and the wave now coming at you was bigger than the others had been.
It knocked you down, pulled you under, pressed against you, and tossed you around in its fury. For a moment you thought you might drown. You bounced above and caught a gasp of salty air, then slipped under again. Moments seemed like ages, but eventually you found your footing and stood again.
But for that moment, it seemed impossible to survive, and you were terrified that no one was watching. That no one would see you drown.
You see grief sneaks up unsuspecting, like that wave that caught you off guard just when you thought you had mastered the art of wave jumping.
I jumped alot of waves with Mattie. But then the unexpected wave took me out, and pulled me under. This wave called grief is a fierce one, and at first its powerful force is unrelenting.
For many months, wave after wave crashed and pulled me under, so often it felt that there was no way to survive, no possibility of ever rising above. Any parent who has lost a child faces this one fear- the terror of not surviving. The possibility that you might surely drown.
But the ocean is ever changing. In its infinity space and powerful energy, there is also a place of peace and rest. The waves settled, and I learned to float. I even learned to anticipate the next wave, prepare for it. I learned how to sink into it and feel it without letting it take full control.
Strength after strength. Each time a wave would hit, I would rise stronger because I chose to pay attention to my heart. I am learning to walk through the waves and own them now.
Grief doesn’t end, any more than love could ever end. It simply changes.
Just like the ocean’s tides, the tides of grief change. They change in part because of the deep need within the human spirit to live and breathe. There is a cry within a grieving soul, that whispers, “Please, please don’t let me drown.”
There was a moment, one very sure moment, when I realized, “I cannot possible be this sad the rest of my life. I must choose to live. I must choose to breathe.”
And when I made that choice, the deep work of finding happiness began. My eyes began to look above the waves to the deep blue of the sky, gazing far out to the horizon’s steady line. My face gently raised, aware now of the ocean breeze. My legs were suddenly stronger because they had walked through wave after wave and had held fast against the current.
I’ve learned how to ride the big waves and not let the crush me. Oh I feel their power. I can’t run away, but I’ve learned to ride them and even if I’m swept under for a moment, I’m wise enough to hold my breath, knowing it won’t be forever. I rise up out of the deep, and inhale again. I find my balance and I stand.