Grief is like a stone. As you’re walking along the journey of life, you inevitably stumble upon it. It comes face to face with you, and as you pick it up, you can feel its crushing weight, and sharp edges.
You carry this stone in your hand for a while. You clutch it so tightly, your hands start to bruise and bleed. You feel all of the sorrow it brings. You want to drop it, forget about it, and move on, but you can’t. It just doesn’t seem possible.
The stone becomes a part of you. In fact, it starts to harden your heart and tries to persuade you to never get close to anyone again. You start to feel disconnected from others, you start to feel as lonely as that single stone. You stare at the ground, stare at the stone, and try to figure out the answer to life’s greatest mystery.
You think about that fact for a while. You begin to realize that you’re not going to get the answers you seek. You look at the stone in your hand again. This time, noticing what it has done to you. You don’t want to hold onto it any longer. Logically, you know it’s never going to fully be smooth, but, maybe it will become softer around the edges with time.
So, you feel the stone one last time, and then, you put it away, in your pocket. Out of sight. Once in a while, you still feel it brush up against your leg. It pokes you, it’s still sharp, but somehow, it feels lighter. Every now and then, you’re tempted to bring it back out, but you don’t. Instead, you power through the pain.
Then, one day, you wake up and everything feels different. You realize now, that you don’t have room to hold sorrow in your heart. You walk a little lighter, you reach in your pocket to grab the stone, but it feels smaller. It doesn’t feel as rough. You’re able to take it out, and instead of tears streaming down your face, you smile. Because for the first time, in a long time, you can laugh, you feel peaceful. You feel gratitude.
Sweet, beautiful gratitude. Gratitude that the stone is uniquely yours. Gratitude because that grief stone awakened so many emotions in you, and taught you unforgettable lessons. Gratitude because you understand the strength of your love.
Sure, you know that there will always be a scar. The pain of the grief stone will always be yours, but so is the love, the joy, the irreplaceable memories. You now know that no one can take the pain away, but no one can take the love away from you either. So, the grief becomes bearable.
And then….well, then, you look up at the sky, feel the warmth of sunshine, the breeze, and you thank God for the time He gave you with that person. You praise Him for putting that person in your life. You feel honored that God chose them to be a part of your life.
Ultimately, grief is the price you pay for loving someone so much.
Grief came knocking at my door in May 2013, and August 2014 when I lost two of the most important men in my life: my grandfathers. They flew from this world unexpectedly, and, way too soon.
For a while, I couldn’t think about them without shedding tears of sadness. I couldn’t look at pictures of them without feeling the immense loss that had stricken my family. I finally understood the power of grief at 20 years old.
What I didn’t understand at the time, was that there is beauty in grief. As hard as that is to believe. I looked at grief as a dark, bleak, and jagged stone that ruined things like normalcy, and happiness. A stone that mocked everything good, and caused an enormous amount of devastation. A stone that caused me to lose my faith and disconnect myself from the One who had saved my grandfathers from suffering: God.
It took me a little bit to come back to my faith, but once I did, it was like a crimson stain that was washed white as snow. I felt renewed, with a new perspective on life, death, and the whole grief process.
I was (and still am) able to have a huge grin on my face when I talk about my grandfathers. Especially when I hear Polish music that my grandpa Gene adored, or when I look at my grandpa Frank’s Marine Corps hat, which he was always so proud to wear.
Thinking about it: why shouldn’t I smile? They were two remarkable, honorable human beings that loved life, their families, and God. They were, still are, and will always be my family. I’m so proud to say that.
My faith helped me cope through the losses. Now, on May 26, and August 12, I raise a glass and celebrate their Heavenly birthdays. The moment when they took their first breaths into Eternal life. Praising God for placing them into my life. Peacefully knowing that my grandfathers are in the arms of the angels, one, dancing the polka, and the other, talking politics.
Whether you’re a Christian or not, remember that you can always find beauty in grief. You can always be thankful, be filled with love, and keep your loved ones alive in your heart. Feel the stone, but don’t cling to it. Be thankful for the stone of grief, and chalk it all up to love.