Grief is sneaky. As time creates distance from the loss, life returns to normal. Days dawn bright and clear and normal things like chores and watching movies make a Sunday seem blissfully uneventful. And then grief sneaks up in the most unexpected of ways, raw and emotional and cruel.
Today the catalyst was my daughter playing with a friend named Rachel. I was feeling thankful because Rachel’s father was installing a new exhaust fan in the basement bathroom. It was a project Kraig hadn’t finished before he died. Jeremy was giving up a Sunday afternoon to take care of this for me at no charge.
I heard the girls outside arguing so I opened the screen door to ask what was going on. That’s when Lucy explained the problem. They were playing Little Mermaid and Rachel was mad because Lucy wanted to change things. Lucy matter-of-factly explained she wanted to pretend that Ariel’s father had died instead of her mother.
It took my breath away.
I know that children play as therapy. Whether it is dealing with trauma or dealing with stress, play is how they cope. My youngest daughter seemed to have moved past most of her grieving. I think that’s why this hit me so unexpectedly.
I walked away fighting tears, trying to figure out if I should stop her, and trying to catch my breath. I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. Before I could form a plan of action, the girls had worked it out and moved on. Children are so resilient.
My day suddenly seemed to be quieter, more contemplative. I texted some of my support circle and Rachel’s mom, in case it came up at home later. That helped. I fought the tears off and continued to prep dinner, but a knot settled in my chest, tight and heavy.
As I sat down to write this out and process (which is how I cope), I heard the most wonderful sound. It was the laughter of Jarod and Kati. They were having ridiculous fun playing Minecraft together on our iPads. I heard the laughter and them shouting out randomness like:
“The lifeboat sprung a leak! Oh the humanity!”
“Rose, I’ll sacrifice myself for you!”
Ryan walked in and asked Jarod what they were doing. The answer: recreating Titanic with the animals in the Minecraft world. Ridiculous. A tad disturbing. But oh so wonderful to hear.
Grief sucker punched me today but not them. Their dad would have found this Sunday afternoon computer play creative and hilarious. He would have laughed so I smiled. Outside I could hear Lucy playing and singing with Barbies. Ryan sat at the table building a rocket.
I’d love to say that grief and sorrow vanished in an instant at the sound of children happily enjoying a spring afternoon. It didn’t. The knot in my chest remained but it did loosen. And as dinner finished in the oven, a scripture was whispered into my knotted heart. It was from 1 Corinthians 4:7-8: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair….” (emphasis mine)
I don’t despair because of the all-surpassing power of God that is sustaining me. I have been hard pressed but not crushed, perplexed but I do not despair. I serve a God who is trustworthy. When grief sucker punches me I can return to the trust that He knows what He’s doing. He will help me continue to put one step in front of the other. Grief is sneaky, but God is good.