A Time to Grieve
Ooooh, my Gawd, Solomon! Oh. My. God! (throws hands in the air and walks out) Sirrrr, didn't we just finish weeping? Now we gatta grieve too!!?? #seriously
Listen, this wasn't sitting well with me, either. My spirit was quite perturbed. Spoiler alert: it's plenty more list to go—so hang tight! Anyway, for the record, grief is slightly different from weeping (not everyone who grieves cries)—though they often team up.
Remember last week I had said weeping, among other things, is associated with grief, and when a person weeps, either they are experiencing great anguish or extraordinary loss. Well, grief or mourning is dealing with the loss part. Let's be clear, though, that 'loss' does not only apply to death. You can grieve something or someone who is very much alive.
It would be super easy for me to sit here and tell you about the casualties of what I deemed my great loves. Or I can agonize over the one I felt got away. I could avidly relive every gory detail and paint a graphic picture of my 'woe is me, I'm undone' pity party. But as a matter of clarity rather than transparency, I would like to talk about the loss of my mothers. Yes, plural. #boafem
If you're new here, my biological mother died when I was 2-years-old, and my adopted mother at 8. Actually, I may have been more like seven. While most of the details of my early days are sketchy, I didn't even realize that many of my responses to life’s inconveniences were my grief screaming to be addressed.
You'd think that due to these losses, I struggled when they happened. I mean, sure, for a bit. At least to the capacity that my adolescent mind could comprehend. But the real fight came about 13 years later, in my 20's. Who knew grief could lie dormant?
So there is no confusion, I will limit this story to mom number two, as she's the one I have the most memories of.
I remember thinking, in my over-exaggerated mind, that I was the 'kid' or the place rather, where mothers went to die. For a long time, whenever I thought about it or wanted to try and understand it, my jump-off point was always, "What kind of God lets a kid lose her mother, not once but twice?"
Something about that thought posture never sat right with me. So like many folks, I neatly tucked those feelings back in a trunk, stuffed it at the back of a closet and softly closed the door. 'Cause hey, (insert my black mama voice) me and God ain't no company!
Unlike my siblings, I have no exciting 'mom' stories. Yes, I recall things she said here and there, but even those, I'm sure, are more me repeating what I heard my sisters say.
Whenever something went wrong in my life, my default position was, "This would NEVER have happened if mommy was alive!" In my soul, I believed the trajectory of my life would have been so different. And I don't know whether to be happy or sad about that.
Then one day, it hit me, is my aversion to having children out of fear that I could leave them motherless? Or do I dread not knowing what would happen to them should something happen to me? Perhaps I felt my mental capacity to be all in would be limited. Every mother I know would take the breath from their own nostrils to save their child—but do I possess that innate gene? I wasn't at all confident I did.
To further salt my already irritated wound, my mommy-dearest funeral was held on Mother's Day Sunday of '88. Coupled with my own 'almost a mother' tragedy (though I never said this out loud), it was official; I can't stand Mother's Day. So, if you're my friend and you're listening, please don't be offended if I don't call pretending to wish you a Happy Day! For years, it was like I'd been stockpiling grief as if saving for a rainy day.
When we want a biblical reference to pacify our grief, it's easy to pick Job out of a line-up. Or even Jeremiah, whose despair was so deep that he wrote the book of Lamentations (an expression of sorrow and mourning) and thus is called the weeping Prophet. For good measure, when life is whipping us like runaway slaves, we run to stories of David, who is undoubtedly the G.O.A.T of articulating anguish and suffering.
But for a more related reference, let's talk about Joseph. We hardly ever mention that his mother had died. If you're unfamiliar, do you remember Jacob, who got 'swung' (got tricked) into working double time to marry his beloved Rachel? Yeah, that's Joesph's mama. She died while giving birth to Benjamin, Joesph's younger brother.
If my math is mathing, Jacob went to work for Rachel's father, Laban, at age 77, where he laboured for 14 years to marry her. Bible commentary notes that he was 100 when Ben was born, and Rachel was barren for 14 years before she had Joseph. So, if I'm calculating correctly, that puts Joseph at about 9-ish when Rachel died.
I think it's safe to say; that Joseph didn't know his mama. Sad to say, none of that stopped his brothers from hating the mere thought of him. It didn't even deter them one iota from selling him and telling his father he was dead. #savageryon1000
By golly, there was enough heartbreak in this family to last two lifetimes. Jacob was so heartbroken he said, "I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave." (Genesis 37:35 NIV)
Please know the Bible never says this, but I'm sure Joseph was rethinking his whole life somewhere in Potiphar's dungeon. First, his mama died, then his brothers mocked him and then had the nerve to sell him. Thereafter he was enslaved and thrown into prison. When he finally got a little leeway, some dude's wife lied on him, and just like that, he was back to doing the jailhouse rock. It's not farfetched to believe he may have entertained the thought, "If my mama were here, this would have never happened to me."
At this point, Joseph's life was like a well-layered lasagne of misery. Unlike him, I didn't always believe God had my back! Unlike him, I wasn't sure anything would work in my favour. I had my reservations that these incidents could work together for my good. I wasn't sure if I had angered the Heavens, but whatever I did, “Lord, I'm sorry!” #SOS
How was I supposed to grieve someone I hardly knew? Why was I mourning a life I never lived? Some may argue that you can't miss what you didn't have. Yea, but that didn't stop me from conjuring in my mind what I felt I was entitled to. Kinda like how we fall in love with a man we imagine and not the man that he is! But that's another story for another day.
While all the stages of grief are necessary (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance), my struggle was the acceptance part. Why me? Why couldn't this devastation happen when I was older? I mean, sheesh, couldn't God at least wait until my prefrontal cortex (part of the brain responsible for our decision-making) was fully developed?
At the very least, I felt like my losses at a young age should have earned me a better hand as an adult. Why was I sick? How could a WHOLE package deal like me keep on this ‘almost’ a wife merry-go-round! Being sharp as a whip, why wasn't I jet-setting the globe as a world-renowned journalist along some highfalutin movers and shakers? Pray tell, exactly who is in charge of dealing the cards of life up there? I was peeved, you'll. I mean pissed!
Then it hit me, and that was the problem: Me, me, me, me, me! And it wasn't the 'me' that made the best of bad situations. It was the 'me' that was often looking for my pity party card to be validated. It was ‘me’ holding on to the holy trinity of regret: shoulda, coulda, woulda!
Once I accepted that all those things I deemed my valley experience were actually a necessary evil, I began to see things differently. #renewyamindaye But be careful, because while climbing from one ditch, I almost fell into another. Be warned that pits are no guarantee to palaces. #rudeawakening
While Joseph's end is encouraging, his heart’s posture probably looked very different from many of us. I wanted to hold on to the sob story and be victorious! #itnahgoso I fed off the empathy when folks said, "Wow, girl, you strong!" Wearing it as a badge of honour, yet it had me shackled. I relished in people's cookie-cutter phrases, like, "Girl; God will never put more on you than you can bear!" (insert gagging emoji)
But if I'm honest, unlike Joseph, who was locked up, he used what he had to improve where he was; while I spent much of my pit time complaining. I mean, the five W's and how up to wazoo. Meanwhile, the Josephs of the world became advisors to prison guards; the 'me's' of the world were vexed, and we weren't imprisoned at all. Sis, snap out of it; the only thing worst than a physical prison is to be bound in your mind. #besetfree
Hear me; I don't care how deeply seated your grief is; you can't want a palace dwelling with a prisoner mentality. And if by chance you skirt through, you won't be able to maintain it. Palace living will expose your inefficiencies. #meganmarklemuch In prison, Joseph was tried and proved he could be trusted as the H.N.I.C. Can you be satisfied with a promotion but in obscurity?
It was as if every year, I re-mourned things that kept me distracted from the bigger picture. Nothing changed until I stopped resenting the hand life had dealt me. I was the same until I took a ridiculous, borderline stupid leap of faith. I remained stuck until I began using the tools I had at my disposal. Freedom will come sooner when you understand your prison is sometimes your podium and not always your punishment. Acceptance was the key that unlocked my matrix.
God asked Samuel, "How long do you plan to be here crying over Saul? 'Cause in case you didn't notice, dat one name over!" (see 1 Samuel 16) So I ask you, "How long will you let grief keep you stagnant?" #unstuckyasefaye
While Joseph's dream was a forecast of what was to come, the journey from point A to point B was no easy fete. I don't know about anyone else, but I didn't, and sometimes I still don't wanna go through anything. But the reality is the only way out, for so many of us, is to go through!
Although Solomon cautions us that grief will at some point make an appearance, the 'why' is aptly explained by his father, David, who said: "Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am. Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth, and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. (Psalm 39:4-5 KJV)
Look, I'm not telling you not to cry over your life's misfortunes. Yes, it hurt. Yes, it was sad. Yes, I'm sorry it happened to you. But ask yourself, "Now what?" Much like in the Bible, I don't see anyone of great repute void of a run-in with grief. While it looks different for all of us, you can't let it cement you in the place you were only meant to pass through.
Do you know what would be the real tragedy? For you to lose your life (die) alongside the thing you are crying over? Most times, it never feels like it, but you always have a choice. Moses wrote:
"Today, I have given you a choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life so that you and your descendants might live!" (Deuteronomy 30:19 NLT) #youholdingupproduction #maketherightchoice
Imagine if Joseph had a prisoner mentality; what would be the fate of his family and their descendants? You can't afford to grieve forever; hence Solomon notes it's only for a season. All I'm saying is, "Don't make your seasonal situation your permanent residence."