Three months ago, my wife Maddie and I experienced the heartbreaking death of her little sister, Jayme. Maddie and Jayme were very close. In fact, from the time that Jayme was born, Maddie knew that she would one day be Jayme’s caretaker. She had Dandy-Walker syndrome and hydrocephalus, two conditions that would require lifelong care, and Maddie was ready-made to be her caretaker for the rest of their lives. To say that losing Jayme was the most painful experience of Maddie’s life is probably an understatement, and I have no idea how to love her through this grief.
I like to know the answers to things, even to small trivial questions. Not knowing how to be there for Maddie, not knowing what was next, or how to “fix” this, or what to do, not knowing any of that caused me to get pretty bad anxiety. I started to get intrusive thoughts, visions and images in my mind of things that I fear happening and I was afraid that something was wrong with me. After a conversation with someone in my life who is far wiser than me, I learned that the cause of this anxiety was the desire to control everything in my life when I truly have so little control over anything. This is not a healthy thing for me, or really for anyone, but control is an easily justified and excused sin, so I never questioned it. I just tried over and over to figure out how to seize control over every facet of my life. There was no way to succeed.
While it is hard for me to see it in the middle of my grief, fear, and anxiety, I know God is working through this. I have learned a lot about myself and about God in this time. God did not design us to be in control of everything. We can’t handle that and have no power over life or death. That’s his domain, and that is ok. We do, however, get to decide what to do with the time and gifts we are given by God. I choose to appreciate them and see them as beautiful, though the things of this world are temporary.
I have also been learning is that it is ok to not be ok. I so often feel like I need to present myself as having my life completely together even though it’s not. Grief sucks. It is so difficult to process and live through. I don’t know how to love my wife while she is mourning and I’m going to make a million mistakes trying to figure that out. Work is still happening and hardly slows down even though I feel like I’m moving at a snail’s pace. Meals still have to be cooked. Errands still have to be run. Life goes on and that’s ok. I know it’s not much – me just saying, “it’s ok” – but that is truly where I am at right now. To say that I found some miracle cure to grief would be dishonest and completely unhelpful. No, instead I just want to be real. I hope that if you are reading this and going through death and grief and mourning, you can be encouraged knowing that you’re not alone. It’s ok to not be ok. Seek community. Seek help. Find counseling. Lean into Christ, even when it feels like you’re alone. You’re going to be ok. I’m going to be ok.