Dealing with Grief and Tragedy - Part 2
Life continued for me as usual in the sense that I had to continue mothering my children and being a wife to my husband and a spiritual leader to those in our church. If I felt like I had been hit by a ton of bricks I had to get over it as I had responsibilities. I kept getting angry with myself for showing weakness - I would remind myself that my brother was the one who needed support and was the one who had it tough - not me.
Then all hell literally broke loose around us.
Within one month of losing some of my family, we had a number of people in our church go through the same experience. One of our leaders received a call to say that his sister had been hijacked in her car and shot in the head. She was in a coma in the hospital. As a result his dad had a heart attack and was also hospitalized. They were in turmoil. I can't remember the details as I think my memory has blocked some of them out, but I know that either his sister or his dad died. Not a few days later we got news that a member of our congregation lost his mother. She was shot by a family member in a township in South Africa over a dispute. This man was bereft. A couple of weeks later a pastor in our church was notified that his brother had been shot and killed by his wife in a domestic argument. This sounds totally exaggerated but this is exactly how it went. The result of all this happening had a profound effect on me and I will explain why. I had no time to think about my own grief as our community we cared for was in chaos. People were grieving and confused and we had to lay aside our own pain and help them through theirs. So we rallied around everyone we could and prayed and helped them through. I buried every feeling and hurt I had about my own family tragedy to help others.
Not long after all this my grandfather died - he was old but healthy - a freak accident where he missed a step which caused a blow to his head that killed him. We all loved Gramps dearly - he was an awesome man and this was another shock to the system.
The year continued and I thought I was okay and managing. I kept busy and things seemed good. My nephew was getting help with his leg and my brother had decided not to sell the dream home but to wait and see which was wise. He was struggling without his wife and he was emotionally in pain but God did an amazing thing. He linked him with a mutual gym friend who encouraged him to go to church with her. She had been through a hurtful divorce and had found restoration and healing through a relationship with God. He was desperate to try anything so he went along with her. God used a miserable situation to turn it to good. He discovered how much Jesus loved him and what he had been missing and looking for all his life - a meaningful relationship with God, but that is his story! The good news is that after a couple of years he and his friend got married and moved into the dream home that he built. He will admit that you never get over losing someone you love, but that it does become a little more bearable with each passing day.
I on the other hand hadn't dealt with a number of things. The end of the year came and we were off to minister at a youth camp, followed by three weeks of leave. It was almost a year since the accident and I wasn't particularly thinking about it. We had a fantastic camp and the ministry was amazing. I had no reason to feel down and I felt quite buoyant actually. As we drove out of the camp to leave for our holiday, something physiological and emotional happened to me. I just broke - and I cried. For the next three weeks I had the most awful depression that I could not understand. I had never really experienced this before and never since but I cried uncontrollably for three weeks. My poor husband and family did not know what to do with me. I couldn't talk because I didn't understand why I felt the way I did.
I now realize that it was simply a culmination of all my grief and heartache that had been suppressed and hidden bursting out of the bottle that I had been shaking and shaking through the year. You can't bury grief and heartache and expect it to stay hidden - it has to come out somewhere and mine was a delayed reaction or expression of my grief coming out. I fortunately didn't need counselling,anti-depressants or pity - I just needed to cry and let it all out. I have to admit it was a horrible holiday for us, but the good thing was that we were away from our church community and I had space to grieve with no-one demanding anything from me. It was good.
When we got back home, I felt like I had energy and emotional strength to start the new year. God had seen me through.