I cried myself to sleep last night.
And then woke up this morning still carrying the crushing weight of grief and worry. It sits in my gut like an anvil. It makes my hands shake when I try to type and my eyes water over at a kind word or gesture.
As I pulled the covers up over my shoulder last night I remembered the last time I had cried myself to sleep: when our son Tony was taken from us. This crushing weight, this mind-numbing worry, this panic for the future, it all feels very familiar.
So what did I do then? How did I get up and go about life? How did I not lock my doors and shut my windows and keep my family safe inside this bubble that I think I control?
Here’s what I did then:
- I was very tender towards myself. I didn’t rush to get dressed or put makeup on or get back to business as usual. I let myself grieve. I sat on the floor and sobbed. I laid on my bed and shouted at God. I let myself feel.
- I dug into Scripture. Into the truths found there. I spoke them aloud even if I didn’t believe them. I let friends speak them to me, even if they made me mad. I knew that ultimately hope and healing would be found within, so I kept going back to those words.
- I prayed. Sometimes with words, most often with tears. I prayed for my son and for the family he left behind–especially the sisters who didn’t understand his abrupt departure. I prayed for the family he joined. I prayed for the social workers and the people who worried for me. And I prayed for my enemies: for the ones who took my son and scrutinized my actions and told me I wasn’t a good mother.
- I nourished my body when I could. I gave it long walks and good cheese and the best chocolate.
- I looked for God’s faithfulness. And when I looked I found it in big and in small ways. I opened my eyes to the wonder that is God’s constant care of me and I was renewed by the gratitude it brought about in me.
- I answered my children’s questions with the best honesty I could. I let them see me sad, grieving what in no way was right or fair. I showed them a mother daily fighting to choose faith over fear, confident that someday I wouldn’t have to fight anymore.
- I scrubbed my kitchen floor on my hands and my knees. I gave myself work to do. I sweat it out. I was proud of my labor.
- I let my people love me. And when I was ready, I got to the work of loving them back.
Here’s what I’m going to do now:
- I’m going to be tender towards myself. I won’t be rushed to get dressed or put on makeup or get back to the business as usual. I will let myself grieve, to cry and wail and sob and feel what I need to feel.
- I’ll return to the Book that gives life and hope and healing. I’ll speak its words aloud, even if I don’t believe them right now, because I know I will again.
- I’ll pray. I’ll pray for my friends and my neighbors. I’ll pray for Holy Spirit power over my fears and panic. I’ll pray for those who lost and those who won. I’ll pray for my enemies, and ask God to grow in me a tender heart where I do not see anyone as such.
- I will nourish my body with movement and with good food. I’ll let myself rest. I’ll drink a Starbucks without regret.
- I will continue to look for God’s faithfulness and proclaim it when I find it. Because I know it is here.
- I’ll sit with my children in their feelings too. I’ll show them a woman grieved and grieving, but a woman who will use this grief to fuel her actions. I will answer their questions and hold them tightly. I will remind them of what I know: they are loved fiercely by the God of the universe and the parents to whom God entrusted their care. We will work together to choose faith over fear.
- I’ll find work to do. Laundry and sweeping. Cooking and crafting. Reading and writing. This is holy and I do it not to distract myself from my pain, but to work my way through it.
- I will look for love. Always. It is there, it is here. It is all around.
When we lost Tony a friend shared these words with me. They comforted me and challenged me in the way Scripture seems to: inspite of everything, keep doing good.
In her gracious and humble speech today, Secretary Clinton invoked these words from Scripture, and in a similar way my friend had, reminded us to keep doing good. “My friends” she said, “let us have faith in each other, let us not grow weary and lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do.”
So dear ones, if you are grieving with me today let us grieve and cry and work through our pain. Wallow. Sit in it. Wail if you need to. You have my permission to feel whatever it is you are feeling. But at the end of it, we must get back up. Let us not give up or run away. Let us continue to do the good work that God has called us to. Let us together promise to choose faith over fear, to love with abandon, and to look for God’s presence and care because I promise if you look you will find it. It may be in unexpected places and unexpected faces, but it is there. And together we will not only find it, we will become it.