The evolution of grief can feel like you are on a spiral staircase. The progression isn’t necessarily forward or backward, but there is movement. You go up and fall down, spin round and round, but rarely do you stop.
I have these moments where I feel confident and driven. I can imagine that the future will be bright and picture myself rising out of the ashes. There is a sense of empowerment and strength and I believe that the worst is behind me. Almost as though I’ve reached the summit and I’m enjoying the view. Looking at what is behind me and seeing the grandness of what is ahead. As though the clouds part just so I can catch a glimpse. And that first peek is promising. My heart can almost remember completeness. I feel in control.
I am strong. I am resilient. I am fierce.
I am tough. I am powerful. I am whole.
But as I am perched precariously on my tippy toes distracted by the break in the fog suddenly I am knocked over. Not by a gentle push to help get my head out of the clouds or a tap on the shoulder to bring me back to earth. But a wallop of epic proportions. A hit so hard that my knees buckle, the room turns dark and my arms flail like untethered straps. I’ve not only lost my breath, I have forgotten how to breathe. The blow so hard I cannot even understand how it is possible that just moments before I felt that the world held promise. That elated feeling and memory wiped from my consciousness.
Yesterday that reality came from a jar. After a long and exhausting day, trying to get supper on the table for my family, I grabbed some pickled beets from the pantry and as I tried to open it my frustration grew. Putting every ounce of strength I could muster into my effort, I could not make that lid budge. If I have the world to conquer, how could I let this jar get in my way? And as it became apparent that I was not going to be able to open the lid, that lid became my undoing. The pendulum swing was overwhelming. The anger, self-loathing, and sadness washed over in a torrent.
I am frail. I am weak. I am undone.
I am broken. I am cold. I am alone.
And as I sat there feeling ashamed for still mourning my losses I was reminded that we were never created to be by ourselves. Even when we are victorious at the top, our personal strength is an illusion. It is He who lives within me, and those who stand beside me who are my strength. I don’t need to fix myself, finish healing, and move on. I need to accept this brokenness and be used in it. Though the pain has grown laborious and I relish occasions where instead joy overwhelms, I find the ache is ultimately what drives me to relationship. And relationship is what propels and gives me purpose. It is what brings humility to each day.
And as much as it pains me to say it; may I always have a jar that I can’t open.