Grief Uncovered

We have begun the process of written interviews with some individuals in our life. We are asking a number of people the same three questions in order to showcase the broad spectrum of grief- what we learn from it, how our perceptions of it have changed, etc. We are excited to post the third in the series.

The three questions posed to each participant are:

  1. What is your experience with grief?
  2. What were your perceptions of grief before?
  3. How have they changed or been proven true?

Thanks to Heidi Osterwalder for being real with us and sharing her thoughts as she pondered each question.

  1. What is your experience with grief? 

I stood at the door receiving her flowers and her words. “Just remember, you still have three beautiful kids”. The icy air flooded my entry and my heart. Can I be thankful for my children and grieve for the one I have never met, the one I am missing, the one I lost? I didn’t know grief could feel so cold.

The spring blizzard raged. Somehow the weather fit my grief. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t natural. This felt like a trick. After two miscarriages, certainly this child would live.  What was the sense in another loss? Hadn’t I learned whatever grief wanted to teach me? The winter had been long, and I thought spring was arriving. But there was no denying it. The ultrasound showed silence where there should have been a heartbeat. Trees just beginning to trust the warmth were being frozen and blown by the icy wind. My heart that had been budding with hope was now closed. I didn’t know grief could feel like betrayal.

The music unraveled me. I was angry and weeping, completely undone. How could I believe God’s goodness when I am sitting in this pain? But how could I not believe it? If He wasn’t good, then everything I believed was going to wash away like sand in the tide. Would I soon be adrift too? I didn’t know grief could tear at my foundations, leaving me at risk of collapse.

2. What were your perceptions of grief before? 

As I walked along the river path, the heaviness in my body overwhelmed me. Putting one foot in front of the other took so much effort. My chest and throat felt constricted. The weight of grief pressed down and in on me. I didn’t know grief could feel so physically heavy.

The heaviness and the raging storms of grief had surprised me. Somehow I had imagined grief being cleaner, just tears flowing. I hadn’t anticipated the twisting pain of the beauty of flowers and comfort of a friend being delivered with sharp slicing words. I had never guessed my strongly held beliefs would be questioned and that I would feel unanchored. Like C. S. Lewis, who said “No one ever told me grief felt so much like fear” (A Grief Observed), there were many things about grief that surprised me, too.

3. How have they changed or been proven true? 

But God knew all of this. He knew that I would experience each loss. He knew exactly how my grief would hit me. He was with me. I know this now. In the middle of it, I didn’t know He was there, because I expected that His presence would somehow make all the pain disappear. When the pain was sharp and acute, and even when it was a dull constant ache, I felt swallowed by the unexpected heaviness, messiness, confusion, and feelings of betrayal. But I lived through it. I wasn’t actually swallowed or consumed. I am here, and I am more aware than ever that my experiences, while true and important, are not the complete picture of reality. There is a bigger Reality of goodness always present and carrying me. Those snapshots of grief missed the bigger frame that included God. He was there, but I didn’t know it.

I know that I will be surprised by grief again. I know the crushing weight, the anger, and the tide of confusion will overtake me in the future. But I also know that God will be there, even if in the snapshots He is just outside of the frame.

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