With the realization that life continues, always forward-moving, comes many complex emotions. It’s not that I’m stuck in my grief, but there is part of me that wants to cling to the past. I cling to it because I don’t want the world to forget my husband. He impacted my life, my children’s lives, the lives of his friends and family and even the lives of strangers in a powerful and beautiful way. Don’t forget how bravely he fought, how deeply he loved, how faithful he was in his belief in God. Do not forget how funny and smart he was, how compassionate and kind his heart was. I want to scream, “DO NOT FORGET HIM!”
I’ve gone back and forth about writing about this because I don’t want you all to think I’m a selfish jerk. But in the spirit of remaining truthful with you, I’m going to share it with you. The good, the bad and the ugly are what I promised you, so here I go.
There have been many tragic and premature deaths since Mark died. They’ve all caused my heart to ache. It doesn’t matter if I know the family or not, I’m familiar with the pain they’re undoubtedly feeling. I know their ache. I feel connected to them through grief. I have felt sympathy, compassion and sadness for them. I have prayed for them. But there’s been a new emotion surfacing as well. At first I thought it was sympathy envy, because I noticed the feeling when the grief spotlight shifted to new grievers; but the more I sort through it, I realize that isn’t it.
It isn’t that I need or even want all the attention on my family. It isn’t that I require constant sympathy. Thank goodness, because sympathy envy seemed too gross. I think I’ve figured out what it is. It isn’t envy, but instead it’s fear of erasure. It’s an overwhelming longing for time to stop moving ahead so quickly. What I think I want is for life to stop advancing the way it inevitably does. As I progress farther out of my grief fog, I realize that more and more people are dying every hour of every day. New families are mourning. Many of their losses seem more notable, more tragic, more devastating than ours. There’s a painful realization that we are not unique. There’s the discovery that our loss isn’t the most painful and remarkable loss in the history of the world. I know, it sounds terrible. I’m not proud of my feelings, but I’m being real with you. There’s part of me that wants the whole wide world to understand how and why we loved Mark so deeply. My self-centeredness thinks they can’t possibly understand the magnitude of his awesomeness if they’ve already moved on to talking about and grieving the next family’s loss. I begin to fear the world has already forgotten him. I panic, wondering if he’s already been erased. I don’t want him to be erased. He was too wonderful to be erased!
I suppose cleaning out the garage the last couple weekends hasn’t helped. My husband never entered a hobby half-heartedly, so there are mountains of “stuff” to sort through. Decisions about what to keep for the kids, what to donate and what to sell are overwhelming. Am I the first person to ever feel emotionally attached to a belt sander? Again, it’s fear of erasure that’s behind it all. If I purge his “stuff” will we all forget these things about him? Will it be like he was never here?
I think this may be part of the reason I developed this website. My main priority was to try to help others by revealing our grief and all the phases, emotions, peaks and valleys of moving forward after loss. I wanted to create community and be an encourager to others trudging on with broken hearts. But if I’m honest, I think subconsciously I may have also wanted to be able to tell you all about Mark. If I write about him, he is not erased.
Has anyone else felt the fear of erasure? Is it just me? If I’m not alone, will you leave a comment telling us something wonderful about the person you’re missing? We may not be able to stop the forward movement of time, but we won’t let them be erased. Although I know this life isn’t where it ends, it can feel like a long wait. God has all of this. Extra grace during the wait, my friends.
John 16:22-23The Message (MSG)
21-23 “When a woman gives birth, she has a hard time, there’s no getting around it. But when the baby is born, there is joy in the birth. This new life in the world wipes out memory of the pain. The sadness you have right now is similar to that pain, but the coming joy is also similar. When I see you again, you’ll be full of joy, and it will be a joy no one can rob from you. You’ll no longer be so full of questions.
Psalm 139:15-16New International Version (NIV)
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.