A Visit from Grief
A Visit from Grief
Mourning the Loss of Parents
By Crystal Thomas
We were standing in the Christmas aisle at Walmart, and I was crying. Really, it was more like having a breakdown. I couldn’t hold back the tears, or quiet the sobs. I’m not a weepy female, so this burst of emotion took me by surprise. The floodgates just opened, and there we were my husband and I all by ourselves on Aisle #10 not knowing what to do with ourselves. His voice was soft and eager to soothe. The thing was I had no idea what he could do. What could he possibly do? What can any of us do? When Grief comes for a visit she is an unwanted guest that is in town for an extended stay. And there she was in all her glory, Grief.
For weeks we were lost in sadness together, but also all alone. Grieving is the lonely work of finding your way back to comfort. Figuring out how to release it all back to God. It was never yours to bare anyway; it just feels like it. It’s allowing yourself to be sad, mad, empty, shocked, broken, and relieved. Sometimes all at the same time.
Here is the story that brought me to tears in Walmart. My Dad died on Nov 16, 2011. My Mom died on Oct 22, 2013.
I had been grieving for a while. My father died from complications of Parkinson’s Disease in November of 2011. I was there. I kissed his forehead the moment he took his last breath. I stood near his hospital bed for a week while he struggled to take each of those awful breaths. His suffering was mine. I plugged my ears and tried not to hear the man I adored drowning in his own fluids, but I needed to be there. I needed to bear witness, to not abandon him, to see him off at the gate as we said our goodbyes.
Fathers die. But this death felt so unjust. He was only 65. He was in so much pain that week. Where was the mercy? How is this fair? It’s not fair. He was a good man. Why did he die like that? In truth, he had been gone for a long time. He lived with Parkinson’s for fifteen years and my Mom was his faithful caregiver. Even after he couldn’t live at home; she spent four or more hours a day at the nursing home with him.
One month later, after Dad died, I got the call that my Mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 Uterine Cancer. That’s not the true scientific name for what she had, but I can’t spell or pronounce the real name. But let me tell you, it sounds mean when you hear it, and you immediately know it’s scary. You know it’s lethal even as you gear up to take it on.
She did the treatments ... all the awful treatments. She lost her hair; for a while, she lost her dignity. She also lost the battle. I was there. I held her hand and wept as she slipped off to heaven. We were in the living room.
Mothers die. But this death felt even more unjust. She was only 66. She had cared faithfully for a sick husband for fifteen years only to get a diagnosed one month after he died? Where is the mercy? How is this fair? It’s not fair.
She loved Christmas, and she was about to miss her first Christmas. So, I cried in Walmart while I shopped for the so-called joyful season. The Christmas lights brought all the unfairness to light. I wept without shame. I walked down those aisles looking at it all without joy. When my husband said, “What can I do?”
I replied, “Decorate.”
He hugged me then loaded the cart with Christmas lights.
My advice for my grieving friends is to develop the habit of praising God with each memory that brings you to tears. Whenever I am overcome with grief I offer up a prayer of Thanksgiving. Something like, "Lord thank you for giving me such a strong bond with my parents, that I miss them this badly. You give good gifts. Thank you for the time you gave me with them." Also, I find great comfort in the lyrics from "Praise You in Storm" by Casting Crowns