My father died on October 30, 2013 around 12:30am. He had been diagnosed with gall bladder cancer on October 8, 2013, went through major surgery, spent less than a week on a respirator, and less than a month after entering the hospital, smiling and laughing, he was gone. Getting through this part was not as difficult as some may imagine (maybe because it happened so fast), but having to get up every day and him not be there seemed unbearable at times.
I miss my father intensely; so much so, I believe I missed out on a lot of life. I was so busy thinking about what could have been and spending countless moments calling myself back to the reality of my father being gone, that I was not paying attention to my life. I would wake up, get through the day, go to bed, and then do it all over again. There were good days, but most days were really bad or I was really absent, trying to keep it from being so bad. Have you ever been driving and realize you have no idea where you’re going, but you’re in no rush to get there, so you just take your time finding your way? That was me, except I was not interested in finding my way. I did not want directions. I did not want help. I did not want to be made to feel better. I just wanted to exist. I am grateful I had friends and family who let me do that, even though it was painful for them to watch me go through it. They did not try to make me smile or make me talk, they were themselves and that is the kind of stability I needed.
As people we are often times in a rush to run away from pain. We don’t like the aching feeling in our chest and the emptiness in our stomachs and the warmth of tears on our face. We would much rather push through to the happy feelings, but sometimes we have to sit in those uncomfortable emotions. I am not saying you should go around crying ‘woe is me’ forever, but give yourself time to be there. Give yourself time to be lost and trust that you will find your way. There will be days you have to fight to be present. These days may be difficult but it is a good sign. It means you’ve managed to gather the energy to start finding your way. If your friends invite you to go out, do it, even if you don’t really want to. You may not feel any better, but it’s putting one foot in front of the other. Get out of bed at noon instead of 3pm, even if it means you’re moving from your bed to the couch. Go back to the place you call home even if you can only bear to stay a minute or the tears won’t stop falling. All of these things are steps in the right direction.
If I were to describe my relationship with God through the year after my father died, I would say we were cordial. I prayed, I read my bible, I attended service, I worked in the church, but I felt distant from God. I remember feeling betrayed by God (me the sinner feeling betrayed, go figure). I felt as though I was doing my part as a follower for Christ, so how could something like this happen and God not warn me about it. I’m honestly not sure what kind of warning would have made me feel better about this situation (none which involved my father still dying), but my feelings seemed logical in the moment. I never felt like a bad Christian, but I felt like a broken, suffering, lost Christian who only God could repair but I was not interested in talking to Him about feeling better, so I kept right on being lost.
While I was lost, I reminded myself that God will not leave me nor will He forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:8). I would say it in my head over and over again. At night when I would pray, even if I cried all day and my grief was overwhelming, I repeated to myself that God was still God and He was great and He was faithful. It’s so easy for your heart to turn cold while your lost and not trying to be found, but even if you have to be numb for a moment, keep reminding yourself that God is still good. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). It was my faith that allowed me to feel every emotion and still know God was God. It was my faith that told me weeping may endure for a night but joy will come in the morning (Psalms 30:5). It is my faith that allows me to have lost moments and be able to find my way back. Loss may lead to being lost but know that you have a Creator who specializes in making sure you’re found.