(content note for mention of suicide and sexual abuse)
“Make my messes matter. Make this chaos count. Let every little fracture in me shatter out loud.” ~ Jupiter, Sleeping at Last
“Things we say now…” ~ from Wine Country
“It’s ok to want things. To give myself that permission…” ~ a thing I said in therapy this week
Grief is a weird thing. Especially when grieving multiple deaths. What brings me here today is the death of Rachel Held Evans less than two weeks ago. That feels surreal. She helped shape who I am now and so many others who have left toxic churches.
Grief is a weird thing. Sometimes you catch yourself crying in the middle of Target because not only did one of your favorite authors die, she was someone with whom you had hoped to become friends with, event hough you only met her that one time.
Grief is a weird thing. It is non-linear. You can be experiencing the stage of grief called denial after you’ve already accepted this is real. And none of us knows what to do with that.
Grief is a weird thing. When you’re accepting the death of what once was–your faith, your family, your life that you had to walk away from because it was not life-giving.
I sat with Mary Magdalene for a bit. She’s sitting outside the tomb of all she knew for three years, following a guy named Jesus who performed miracles and loved those on the margins.
And then I realized I wasn’t just grieving Rachel’s death. But a death of things I once knew. I never sat with that. Growing up realizing you are captive to others’ beliefs and actions and cannot choose things for yourself. Growing up with abuse and realizing…now you can choose.
You can choose to see an empty tomb and new life. But not before you grieve, because something is lost. Something is lost that never was. But now something can be gained.
You see, an abusive father and an emotionally manipulative mother do not have to be the end of the story. Homophobia that separates families doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Systemic oppression and taking away reproductive rights doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Because maybe there’s some fight left in us still.
This doesn’t have to end at a grave. It didn’t have to end when I tried to drown myself in the bathtub at age 12 after being shamed for talking about a girl in my youth group too much. Or all the other times after that when I remembered sexual abuse from my father and neighbor.
Maybe this doesn’t have to end in death. Maybe there can be new life.
How does a house become a home?
I wish these were things my mother taught me. She did teach me how to grow a garden.
How does a garden grow? It needs to survive but not just live. It needs to thrive, it needs attention, kindness, care, love. And maybe that’s close enough and good enough for now. I am grateful for the life she gave me. I wouldn’t be here without her obviously but I didn’t have a choice in the matter.
Grief is a weird thing. Sometimes what you are grieving is not over someone who died but over death to who you used to be. I keep thinking about how grief is a non-linear process. Like, you can be in denial and anger. And move past that and then come back to the denial stage. I don’t know how to reconcile that. I don’t think we’re supposed to.
So I made a friend. Her name is grief and she’s been waiting for me to sit with her for a little while and just be.
I would rather avoid her. But she calls me like an old friend who’s been waiting for me all my life. She whispers to me now that I’m ready to hear it: “You’re going to be ok.”
And I think that’s what Rachel would have told all of us too. “You’re going to be ok.” Because she just knew something we all didn’t know maybe.
Maybe I can’t walk around wearing black–observing a period of mourning for what was and what could have been. But I can sit with grief a little while longer. She has something to teach me still. Perhaps she has something to teach all of us.
That’s all I have for now. I know I’m rambling. But in closing, I just love this song.