Thursday, March 25, 2010

Grieving is an Odd Thing...

I'm a little weird in a lot of ways. There's no denying it.

I'm especially strange when it comes to death and grieving. Funerals seem weird to me. Visitations/viewings even weirder. The luncheons afterwards make no sense to me at all.

I never know what to say...or where to stand. I never get in line to view the body in the casket, because for those funerals that I have actually gotten in line, that's the first vision that pops into my head whenever the persons name is mentioned.

I've heard people say, how "good" the person looks, as in kudos to the funeral home. I always think to myself, really?!? We make dead people try to look "good" so that we can view them and say goodbye? I don't get it. Needless to say, there will not be an open viewing at my funeral someday...I've put it in legal writing ;) Although, I told my mom she could peek, because she's on the side that finds comfort in the funeral process.

And, as you can see from the above statement, I don't find it hard to think about my own death, or to even joke about it. Several years ago when we sat down with our lawyer to make out a will, I remember him saying how he knew it was uncomfortable to think about such things...and I thought to myself how I didn't find it uncomfortable at all. Weird-o.

I know, to the vast majority of people, all the things I find strange...they in fact, find very, very comforting. I'm not trying to dismiss the importance, or be insensitive...I'm just sharing my weirdness.

Up until yesterday, I'd really never experienced any close family members dying. I've watched people I love, lose loved ones...but never anyone in close relation to me. I've reasoned over the years that maybe that was why I didn't get it. That maybe someday, when I was on the other side, I would understand the process better.

I received a call from my dad yesterday afternoon letting me know that my grandma had passed away. I had no emotional reaction. No visible one anyway. Her death hit my dad and other normal people as unexpected. Yet, in my head, death is always expected for older people. There was no shock, just logic.

Ben called later on to see how I was doing. I said fine, and then asked him how his day was going, just like I do every time I talk to him. Afterwards, I said to him, "I'm weird, aren't I." And he lovingly said, "Yes, yes you are..."

I spent the rest of the evening pondering my lack of reaction, and I learned something about myself. Four years ago, my grandma suffered a major stroke. When my dad called with that phone call, I think it sent me to my knees. That I found unexpected. There were times during that hospital stay, that I was certain she would not survive. It was gut wrenching. I prepared myself to let go.

My grandma and I had always had a good relationship. She was smart and witty, and I always enjoyed chatting with her about current events and politics. I knew she was proud of who I was. She miraculously survived that massive stroke, physically. I remember everyone being so thankful that she had survived. And I was too...yet the woman that remained was now different. Stuck in a body that would not cooperate with speech. And I grieved because I missed who she was.
I grieved more then, than I do today. I guess in a way, I'd already let go. And really, isn't that what grief really is, the process of dealing with letting go. I know everyone grieves differently...yet I see flaws in the way I dealt with my grief since the stroke...I let go too soon...because it hurt less that way.

I'm a work in progress...until the day God has destined for me to meet Him, I just have to continue seeking after Him. And today, my grieving takes the form of a smile, as I think of my grandma in Heaven, with a perfect body and more frustrations, no more pain...and most certainly drinking a warm Coke (which I always pretended to like, for her sake, but in Coke is gonna be ice cold ;)


  1. This post made me think of my great grandfather who could barely walk and had trouble speaking after his stroke. He was also legally blind for a few years before he died; body was slowly giving up on him. After he passed away it was nice to know he no longr had those physical frustrations. I like to think of him with my great grandmother the way they looked when they were first married. I'm sorry for your loss!

  2. If you are weird, so am I! I feel the same way as you and have had the same thoughts as you about funerals. No open casket for me either! Sorry for your loss but how great you can be happy for her and you have the assurance she is in heaven and is completely perfect!

  3. I totally identified with you when you said that you prepared yourself four years ago when your grandma had a stroke. My grandma had alzheimer's and I grieved for the person she was long before she died. It was almost as if the person who died wasn't really my grandmother, because she passed away a long time ago.

    I am sorry your grandma's gone, but happy that she's in heaven saving you a warm coke. ;-)

    You and your family will be in my prayers.

  4. Many times I think we prepare ourselves ahead of time . . . for survival. My Granmda passed 15 years ago this coming August. We were very close and I knew that she was getting on in years. She was having gallbladder problems and had to have surgery . . . she lived a few days after the surgery. I was with her when she passed . . . it was beautiful with her eyes gazing toward Heaven and complete peace on her face.

    Seeing Grandma in the casket was bizarre . . . I knew Grandma wasn't in there, but in Heaven. I took great comfort in knowing she wasn't in pain any longer.

    The crazy thing about it all . . . Grandma knew she wouldn't be released from the hospital, but would die. That too gave me comfort . . .

  5. Beautifully written Sarah. You may think you are weird, but I think just as many people grieve the way you do as those that find comfort in the funeral. We each have our own way to grieve and process death. The important thing IS to grieve and process it.
    Lots of love to you and your family.

  6. Very well put. I'm sorry to hear about your Grandma, but I understand your weirdness, that I thought was normal??

  7. A few of our MOPS women are going through Beth Moore's Esther study together, and just this morning, we discussed the differences between cultures when it comes to grieving. (Triggered by Mordecai's sackcloth, ashes and wailing when notified of the coming massacre.)

    I don't really understand modern day funerals either. But then again, everyone grieves in their own way. If I've learned anything, it's that it's VERY personal, and it's best for me not to question another person's process or compare it with my own.

  8. Good thoughts. When some one older dies I have always wondered why everyone was so surprised & upset. Now I am over 50 & getting closer to the "normal" ages of "going", 60-80 and it feels different a bit. I look forward to another 20 years or so & still can imagine doing much more with my life in those years.

    But the main thought when imagining my death & wonderful completion!

  9. I thought this was beautifully written, Sarah, and not one single bit weird. Absent from the body means present with the Lord. <3

    I'm praying for you all and hope your time together with all the family is full of happy memories.

  10. I understand. I am always uncomfortable at the whole funeral home thing. I just try to put on a smile and say how sorry I am. I have a horrible visual of myself wailing loudly and screaming at people to get out if I ever lose someone from my immediate family. Because grieving for me involves wrestling with God until there is peace. I don't want to ever go through this process. Lord Jesus, come quickly.

  11. It is weird.. the whole prcess..
    Praying for you family during ths week..

  12. I'm right with you, I'm weird too. When Mark (my first husband) died I was standing in the family line and smiling. For a while I was holding my friends baby (she was so sweet) and laughing. I was just so happy he was healed! I guess its different when they are sick or hurting.

    I still have my bad days, mostly fears of losing Mac or one of us getting sick. But I never once have wanted Mark back, not how he was. In heaven he is healed!

  13. Beautiful post! So sorry your grandma is gone.

    I am weird right along with you. When you wrote about the will that sounded exactly like me. I've even heard people say the won't do it because they might jinx themselves and die.

    It doesn't bother me to talk about when I die or when other people die. So, I'm weird too!:)

  14. I had the same lack of reaction to my grandfather's death a number of years ago. My family called me cold. I chalked it up to being a pastor's wife and dealing with death so much... but five years later, standing in Sam's Club, I picked up a big thing of ice cream. I held it up to my husband and said "Napoleon Ice cream, Baby!" just like my grandfather used to call it (Yes, I know it's neopolitan). I burst into tears right there in the middle of Sam's Club. Felt like an idiot. My point is that it may catch up to you eventually. People do all grieve differently. Let's just hope that if you burst into tears in the middle of the grocery store like I did, that someone who knows you well and doesn't think you're completely insane is right there with you.

    Sorry to hear about your grandmother. I'm sure she was such a blessing to you and your family. May you all heal well and rest in God's love.

  15. Hey, just wanted to stop by and thank you for your comment on my post the other day - I commented there but I'm copying it here in case you don't see it. 'Thank you - your sweet compliment puts some smiles on my heart. '

    Also, I don't actually have a comment about grieving, but I do have a friend whose family takes pictures next to the open casket. Now THAT is weird. Also, my dad is in the funeral business... he's an undertaker... like Vada Sultenfuss on My Girl... except the funeral home wasn't in our house. :) Lots of people consider that to be pretty weird, but somebody's gotta do it, right? ;) My dad, he's so crass... he says he has job security b/c people are dying to see him. Sicko.

  16. Hello. I'm a friend of Carol E's and I spotted your post on her sidebar. I wondered what you would say about grief. I'm sorry about you're grandmother's death.

    If you're wierd, then I am probably just plain mean . . .

    Twice last week I ran into people I haven't seen in decades. They aske me how my daughter was. "Dead" was my one word reply and I turned and walked away.

    If they hadn't seen me in decades, they weren't close enough friends to provide the longer explaination.

    I think I developed that style of response after someone told me, "I know just how you feel . . . I had to put my cat down over the weekend."

    My condolences anyway and thanks for the post. I loved reading the comments, too.

  17. Sarah, Sorry to hear, I know you were close but also understand your feelings. You are weird, but not about this! : ) Love ya friend.

  18. Sorry about your loss. A grandma is a hard to . So good you have great memories!!

  19. From one weirdo to another... I soooo understand! Really though, why do we get together and eat afterwards??

    I am lead to believe having worked in a nursing home for 15 years, I am calloused and numb to death. It's very much a part of life- an equal opportunity employer.

    Hope you are doing well! I'm sure you are counting down the days until that babe is in your hands and sleeping on your chest! :o)

  20. I have really enjoyed exploring your blog. It's great to be able to identify with a fellow preacher's wife! I have given you a couple of blog awards. You can check them out at Hope you have a great day!! =)

  21. Gosh is been a long time since I commented.

    I agree with you on almost every point you made in this post AND I make my living working as a Funeral Director. Funerals are for the living, plain and simple. We feel honored to make someone's loved one "look good" one last time. Think about it this long have they watched their loved one suffer and how it takes a toll on the body, if we can fix that just once, and we've given someone a little peace, then we've done our job. Not braggin or anything...we do a darn good job, everyone looks "natural" we DO NOT do the over the top makeup, blah blah blah...

    The visitation, the funeral, even the huge amounts of food, to me do not seem weird, as a Baptist and a life long resident of the great state of Arkansas...its how we roll. The Methodist do not even come close to feeding people like we Baptist! (LOLOLOL)

    I understand completely your grieving process. I took care of my grandfather who had dementia. I grieved for a long time the man he used to be, and loved the man he became, but, I also watched him struggle with his memories and be so frustrated. When he did pass away, my mother (who had nothing to do with him) thought that it was just astounding that me, my girls and my husband were "visiting" and having a good time at his funeral. We had our time to grieve. He was, without a doubt, in a much better place, having a old time gospel hoe down with his Savior!


    P.S. I pretended to like McDonald's Big Macs...its all he ate!


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