“And after he dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray”.
Matthew 14:23 NIV
It has been a little over a year since my dad passed away and I still don’t want to write about it. I’m still wrestling with conflicting emotions of sadness, anger, and frustration.
For so long, I romanticized my dad as my hero and felt that he was the best dad in the world. I never doubted that he loved me and defended him endlessly to anyone who challenged it. He always listened, provided what I needed and always brought me fun little gifts.
Of course, as I’ve become an adult, I’ve also seen that he didn’t communicate well, was terrible with money and disappeared for hours at a time. I didn’t blame him, I didn’t want to be at home with my mom either. She was angry all the time. Now, I can admit that she might have been angry at my dad all the time. Their marriage wasn’t one I wanted to emulate but it was clear they loved each other. They were married for almost 50 years. I know my dad loved my mom. He stuck by her through thick and thin, indulged her love for horses and the country no matter how impractical it was and gave her sentimental gifts and cards for every holiday. I know my mom loved my dad because she stuck with it through the ups and downs, the mistakes and noncommunication and loved him with a passion that wouldn’t let go even up to the last second.
One of the most practical bits of advice I’ve heard this year about walking through grief is to write a letter to the one you have lost with these three statements leading the way:
I forgive you for…
I am sorry for…
I am grateful for…
As I work on this, one of the things I realize is how much I loved my dad’s smile. This last year, I have collected pictures of my dad smiling but in my heart couldn’t remember it. I couldn’t seem to bring it to my mind’s eye. I can vividly remember how he smiled at my mom but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t remember how he smiled at me.
A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting outside on my back porch and spending time in prayer. It was the kind of prayer that is quiet and more about spending time with my Heavenly Father than saying words to Him. It was a listening prayer. I was just being there in His presence.
As I did, I suddenly remembered my dad’s smile.
I could see it in my heart and remembered how it felt. It was a smile that warmed me and why I always felt his love for me. It was a special gift that morning and it was a smile for me wrapped in heaven’s light and filled with my Heavenly Father’s love. I felt them both with me right then, my dad’s smile and my Father’s smile over me.
Grief is an important part of life. It means mourning a loss and processing the emotions left in the wake of it. Feeling these emotions isn’t easy. They are complicated and are tied to layers of memories. It’s much easier to ignore, skip over if or stuff uncomfortable emotions. Don’t. Give yourself permission to process them, Jesus did.
My friend, make room in your life to spend time with the One who can heal you simply by being in His presence. He doesn’t rush the process, in fact, He gives you as much time and room as you need.
Whether you have lost a loved one, a friend or had a significant life change in a job, marriage or even the death of a dream – it is important to feel it, process it and give yourself permission to process it all the way through.
Give yourself permission to take your own unique journey with Jesus through it.
Grief is as individual as you are.
You are not alone to process it. Jesus died and rose again so that you can walk with Him through all seasons of life and when your time comes, to walk with Him right into eternity.
His work on the cross means that you have full access to your Heavenly Father who is waiting with open arms to hold you. Go to Him. Spend some time in His presence as you mourn what you have lost. He knows best how to help you deal with this very important part of your faith journey.