Its been a week since the day I had to decide to send my beloved Great Dane, Asher to heaven. I sit here on a rainy day continuing to process my grief. At this moment it isn’t as intense as other moments. Each day I’m able to feel it and travel through it. It all happened within a couple of weeks, a Dane so full of energy and bounding every where suddenly turn and become almost crippled. There wasn’t even enough time to figure out what had gone wrong before I had to let him go. I remember speaking with my mother, the day after we had the vets come to the house to set his soul free. I could barely talk, the grief strangling my throat and my lungs working harder to get air. I confessed to my mother that in some ways I felt I had no right to grieve so deeply the loss of my pet when I know that my own mother had walked through a great grief years ago losing my brother when we were younger. My mother speaking through her tears gently said, “It doesn’t matter. Grief is still the same.” Those words helped me to truly let go, be unashamed of being misunderstood, and give into my grief so I could heal. I realized that different scenarios bring grief about but it all intersects at the same crossroad – the deep pain of loss.
I knew deep down what I needed to do for my beloved Asher when I did it. My head knew it was the right thing but my heart had trouble understanding. All of the stages flooded in and out like ocean waves hitting the shore, some harder than others – shock, anger, denial, regret, fear. Yes, fear. Fear of moving on without him. Fear of walking in the door as life goes on and knowing he wouldn’t be there to greet me. Fear of loneliness as he would sit by my feet when I would read or write or pray. Asher was my shadow. Wherever I went so did he. I couldn’t have asked for a more loving, loyal, protective, four-legged companion than Asher. His name in hebrew means happy and blessed. I certainly felt as if my happiness and my blessing had been taken from me.
While wrestling with my grief, in my shock and anger stage, I asked the Lord, ” How come you feel so far away when I’m hurting so deeply? Why can I not feel you? Aren’t you going to offer me some comfort in all of this? Don’t you see my grief, my pain?” God then showed me a picture on the cross of his dying Son and he was saying the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When I saw the vision in my mind, I immediately understood. The word forsaken means abandoned or deserted. If I’m honest, that is exactly how I felt, abandoned and deserted by my heavenly Father, left to navigate this sudden loss by myself. Yet I knew at the moment of the vision, God understood my pain.
I had never truly connected it before that when Jesus cried out those words that it was specifically because of grief. Pain, I knew. Taking on the burden of the sins of the world, I knew. I’d heard things like how God turned his head and couldn’t look at Jesus because of the sin he bore. I never really believed that one. But when I associated sin with grief, I realized the depth of Christ’s guttural cry on that cross. The grief of injustice, the grief of pain, of loss, of disconnection, of shame, of guilt, of condemnation, of fear, of panic, of abandonment, etc. etc. Jesus took it all on, none of it his, but he took it from us. The grief so deep, he could not hear God speak or even feel his presence. Some refer to it as the dark night of the soul, when it feels as if you are dying or that a part of yourself is being ripped away. God never left Christ alone on the cross, he was with him through it all just as he was with me, waiting by my side for when I asked of him. If you’ve ever tried to console someone grieving, you know there truly are no words that can take their pain away. You often just sit quietly as they weep simply so they know you are there for support when needed. Simply so they know, they are not left alone. They may not even be able to comprehend your presence or they may remove themselves to another room to be alone in their pain. Grief must be journeyed through, felt on every level in order to heal properly. Denying grief only prolongs it. Trying to speed it up creates frustration and anger and more heartache. The truth is, we are not wired to desire to feel loss. We want it whisked away. We beg God to remove suffering. Though I believe it is not something God enjoys watching us go through it, just like our own kids, we know that loss and grief is a part of this earthly life that everyone experiences at least one time in their lives. It is something that changes you. You are never the same person you were after grief’s visit. You cannot help but somehow grow in all of it. How we will grow from it or what it will look like depends on the individual. We each take away different things from our experiences. We each receive a different revelation for ourselves through the process. There is no formula, no agenda or time constraint. There is only choice. The day we choose to allow God to give us grace for the day, and then the next and then the next.
I heard a very successful business woman say once that she began to ask God to give her grace for each day. That’s it, just for the day. She based it on the scripture when Paul asked God to take the thorn from his flesh. Could the thorn have been something that was grieving Paul? The bible doesn’t say specifically. But God responded, “My grace is sufficient. My grace is all you need.” I ponder those words, My grace is ALL you need. Grace has to be pretty powerful if God says it’s ALL that we need. Maybe you need his grace for each hour in your grief right now. It’s okay. As for me, I began asking for God’s grace during my time of grief each morning as I awoke. It doesn’t mean I won’t still have the tears of remembrance come flooding in a few times throughout the day. It doesn’t mean that I might not have a day where I feel as if I cannot seem to rally my heart to get out of bed, missing my beautiful beast. It simply means, I’m relying on God’s strength through his grace, the light footed-ness instead of the heavy hearted-ness (my interpretation) to keep me going. It means God will take care and grant you favor for some things that have gone by the wayside while you transition and transform through your grief. It means there is a supernatural portion available that you may not understand but it will be ALL you need for that day. I have to say, it hasn’t taken the pain of loss away but it has given me hope for each day. I hope in some way, if even just a fragment, that helps you in your journey through grief. I continue to pray God grant me and you his grace for the day.