“Would you like to borrow this?” My daughter’s preschool teacher Sue held out a book to me. It was small, about the size of the SA constitution (in the early democracy days when you could pick up a copy for free from the Post Office).
I glanced at the cover. Grief and Grace, read the title. There was a picture of a Knysna Loerie. I saw the author’s name, Tim Tucker. Sue explained that Tim, of the Message Trust SA, lost his wife unexpectedly in 2016, leaving him alone with three children.
“Sure,” I said. The circumstances of Tim’s loss and mine were different (see my previous blog post), but I thought it couldn’t hurt to read someone else’s experience of grief. And the subtitle appealed to me, too: “Facing the future I didn’t choose.” That spoke to my situation as well.
There were so many things that I could relate to. Tim wrote about how time slowed down in the aftermath of his wife Laura’s death. I could relate. I felt weighed down. Even simple things like taking a shower or getting dressed were so hard for me in the early days after losing my younger sister.
Tim also wrote about a “sixth sense” that he felt. This was the grief that he carried, which could turn a pleasant trip to the beach into a nightmare because it would remind him of Laura. For me, it’s like a ghost that follows me around. Sometimes it’s barely noticeable and at other times it overwhelms you, flooding you with memories, pain and regrets.
But what I liked most about Tim’s book is that he keeps pointing to grace. While the journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death is real, I don’t want to miss whatever flashes of joy, hope or grace there are along the way. Tim writes about the many agents that God used in his life to remind him of his love – family, friends, books, songs, hugs. I cried frequently when I saw a look of compassion on someone’s face when I told them what I was going through. That feeling of empathy was so deeply felt and appreciated, especially when words fail.
What I’m learning, and what Tim’s book has reminded me, is that grief is a journey and it can’t be rushed. Some tell you it will take a year to get over someone’s loss. They say birthdays, Christmas and family celebrations are the hardest things to cope with. That is when your “sixth sense” or the ghost of past memories will be strongest.
I’m not sure how or when this journey will end. My friend Linda told me recently, “You’ll get through this, but you won’t get over this.” And I think that’s true. Until then, I’ll keep reminding myself to be kind and gentle to myself – and accept grace in whatever form it may come.