moving forward

navigating through the life that was and moving into the life that is

The Graceful Griever

on June 10, 2015



  1. characterized by elegance or beauty of form, manner, movement, or speech; elegant:

Griever – noun form of grieve

Synonyms of grieve

  1. lament, weep, bewail, bemoan; suffer. Grieve, mourn imply showing suffering caused by sorrow. Grieve is the stronger word, implying deep mental suffering often endured alone and in silence but revealed by one’s aspect: to grieve over the loss(or death) of a friend.

Grieve. It’s a word you think you know, even understand. 

Until it’s yours. 

You have seen it displayed in the movies. It may even bring you to tears. The person’s pain becomes palpable. In the early days, I remember going into Glen and my closet, surrounding myself with Glen’s things and weeping with large gulps of air and no sound, making sure that no one could hear their echoes ricocheting off the walls of my hallowed out heart. One particular time, Christmas day of 2011, in the midst of weeping, I remember suddenly smiling to myself thinking, “this would make a great, powerful, moving scene in the movies.” That was all I had known of grief at this level. Suddenly it was mine. And I didn’t really know what to do with it.

And I didn’t want it.

You quickly learn that there are all of these ways that people think you’re “supposed” to grieve, most of which are so impossible. You want to be all of those things. You want to grieve quietly, peacefully, with grace and beauty, with a sound mind and rationale but three years and eight months out, I’m still finding that grief is messy. Grief truly has no rules until you set them. We have all been in situations where we just wished we could set or change the rules.(I know I’m not the only one.) 🙂 In grief, the last thing you want to do is make the rules and then subsequently follow them. Let me tell you, that no one wants to write the “How to Grieve” manual.

For two reasons.

One, it means they have known grief. Intimately.

Two, It means they have grieved long enough and hard enough to feel like they are starting to understand grief.

There are many things I have learned about grief. I will share the the one thing that I have found to be the most important: it’s good, even necessary to set some rules for yourself.

No rules, means so boundaries.  No boundaries is a very dangerous place to live. It allows us to make our grief way more powerful than it should ever b allowed. You can only justify the bad choices and behaviors resulting from grief for a short time. Then you have to own it. It’s good to say that I know that grief makes me do this thing that is not good for me. (That “thing” may be one certain thing or many things and it is different for all people.) I know that thing is not good for me so how can I not do that thing? What can I do to prepare myself when I feel that coming, when I know that is what’s going to happen? Once you’ve done that one thing, whatever it may be, enough times, at what point can you really say that you’re not responsible for that behavior.

My “thing”? Pushing people away. Saying things I regret. Not allowing people to help me. And trust me when I tell you that this “thing” has happened more than I’d like to admit. I suddenly feel embittered, perhaps cynical is a better word. Don’t try to touch me. Don’t try to comfort me. You don’t know how this feels. You don’t know the depths of the pain I am feeling. Just leave me alone and return to your “perfect life”.

Ha. My grief is not graceful. It is not beautiful or elegant. And yet, I have to grieve. It looks ugly sometimes and from the outside in, I am sure it looks confusing. I want to be in charge when it comes. I want to follow my own rules. Then grief hits and it is so raw when it comes. It’s so raw and much of the time it feels like warfare. That is the part of grief that is so difficult; you never see it coming and all the sudden you feel a way that you haven’t felt for months or maybe years. It is overwhelming. Alienating. Combative. Despite those feelings, I don’t want my grief to hurt other people. My grief cannot become a weapon. My grief is not a tool to use, I have come to understand that. However, it is a process which I must go through.

This past week the grief monster reared its ugly head. And for one of the few times ever, it started in my son. We got ready for bed. We read our book. He sang along as I sang the same two songs I have been singing to him for years. We prayed. And then he looked at me with such hurt in his eyes and said for the second time in his life, “it’s not fair. Alana has two dads. And one of them is still living.” And he began crying. Tears that I could tell hurt. The kind of tears that had been welling in his eyes for a long time.

“Yes, Uncle Mark is still alive. And we keep daddy in heaven alive in our hearts as much as we can. We talk about him, tell stories and look at pictures and videos of him.”

Silence. Silence that I let sit and didn’t fill.  And through tears, he said, “but, mom, I don’t remember. I don’t remember him. I want to remember.”

In that moment, my chest imploded. I mean, seriously?!? I didn’t want to be the strong one who had to help him grieve. I didn’t want to keep the smile or cheeriness in my heart. I certainly wanted nothing to do with being graceful. I wanted to get angry. Angry at God for making my son have so much hurt in his 6 year old heart. Angry at God that he had to take Glen before Cameron could remember his touch, his smell, his laugh. At this moment, in the midst of my deep sorrow, I realized that graceful and griever can in fact exist together. This moment is when graceful grieving has to appear. For my children, I can, in fact, be a graceful griever. I can let them grieve wildly and as needed, while I can keep it together with a grace I never knew I had.

I said to him, “do you want to look at the Disney book?” About 5 months before the accident, the kids and I surprised Glen with a trip to Disneyworld for his birthday. After he passed, I made the kids a book of our Disney trip. Cameron and I have “read” this book a countless number of times. There are very few words in this book, but he has the stories I tell memorized. IMG_7784“Mom, that’s where you lost your glasses… Aww look at me and sister… daddy had me on his shoulders…look at me jump to daddy.” Every time we go through this book, it’s almost more than I can take. However, the joy in his face, makes it all worthwhile. When we were done, he wanted to see more pictures. I grabbed the ones from his dresser and we talked about them. Then all of the sudden, I had an idea. Cameron has slept in his daddy’s t-shirts for the last 3 ½ years. They are all University of Georgia ones that I had pulled out right away for him. When I eventually went through Glen’s clothes, I saved a bunch of shirts to maybe make a quilt one day. I don’t know why this idea occurred to me at the time, but by the grace of God, I specifically saved all of the shirts that he was wearing in the pictures I had of him with the kids. Those tubs are one of the things I have always carefully moved so I would always know where they were. I told Cameron I wanted to go get him something very special, hoping that I would find it. I went in the basement, opened the first tub and was shocked, once again, by how his smell could still be that strong after all this time. I dug a little, and there they were, the shirts that he and Cameron were wearing when we visited Disney. I cried a little. I knew I couldn’t let myself feel all that was happening yet. I had to grieve gracefully for my son, for his mind, for his heart.

I walked in his room and pulled his shirt out from behind my back. A tiny little tie dyed shirt and told him that it was his. “It’s so small,” he said. “I know, love, you were two,” I said with a smile. “Do you think daddy’s was bigger?” He shakes his head yes. “A little or a lot bigger?” He smiles and does his arms far apart. Then I pull out his daddy’s shirt from behind my back and say, “who do you think wore this one?” A smile spreads across his face. “My daddy”. IMG_7775There is no amount of money that could buy that smile, that moment, that peace. I will remember that moment for as long as I live. There was the book that we had looked at so many times with daddy wearing the red and black tie-dyed shirt and now that same shirt was in his hands. Daddy became real in a way that I can’t explain. I know he will never remember, but there is a fine line between remembering the trip and remembering him through all of the stories. He put his own shirt on one of his stuffed animals and put Glen’s shirt on. I sang to him for a little while longer and he was out.

It was a wonderful moment, but it would be dishonest of me to say that night ended there and we all woke up happy and shiny the next morning. That night didn’t end for me in a “unicorns and rainbows” kind of way. Hence, MY first rule of grieving was defined: process the wave of grief alone. Do not just shove it down. Express that sorrow by yourself. Cry until you just can’t anymore. Then allow other people back in. Here is why I have defined this rule for myself.

I walked out of his room, sat down on the stairs and let out everything that had been building in my chest. You don’t even know you can weep that violently or loudly until it is happening. I kept it together for almost an hour and I had to let it out. My mom and best friend were sitting on my couch and I know that it is not easy to watch. My mom was completely right in loving me and telling me to come there and not wake Cameron. And I didn’t want my son to hear, so I took a deep breath and pushed it all down. I shut down really. Which is NOT what my mom was saying. She was saying to come sit with her and instead of realizing I should just go spend a few minutes alone, grieve on my own, I pushed it all down.  And as I have said before, anything kept under pressure, is bound to explode.

And explode I did. Verbally. To my boyfriend. At my boyfriend. He tried to give me a hug. “I’m fine.” “Everyone’s life is better if I just don’t grieve.” “Everyone’s life is better if they think I’m fine.” “I shouldn’t hurt this much anymore.” “I’m fine.” “You don’t need this.” “You don’t deserve this.” Combative. Cynical. Embittered. There is total loss of control in that feeling and you want to know why you can’t do better and why you still feel that way, and why you don’t feel better.

My rule: Your own grief is not felt gracefully. It’s okay. Your grief is okay. Feel it on your own. Experience it on your own. Don’t take it out on others. Process it and don’t wallow in it. When you are ready, receive the love that so many are wanting and willing to give to you.

I am not a graceful griever.  But for moments of time, for my children, I will always be a graceful griever.

4 responses to “The Graceful Griever

  1. Angela says:

    I promise all I can do after I read your post is pray and send hugs bro you for how strong you are even if you don’t see it. You are an encouragement to us whether you know it or not and truly a blessing to your beautiful joys (children) continue to pray, keep your head up, and most of take your time.

  2. Cindy Meeker says:

    I love you honey! You are a graceful griever! Your children are so blessed to have you! Me too!

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