Orange-Fringed Bikinis: How to Survive a Deep Loss

I got this email in my inbox today, telling me about the "8 summer obsessions" from  Number four: orange-fringed bikini.  Technically the color is paprika, but whatever.  For some unknown reason, this struck me as completely ridiculous and hilarious at the same time, and so you get the gift of bikinis in the title of this post.

I get really stuck when I'm beginning a post sometimes because, though it's much easier to title your work post-composition, Blogger wants you to choose a title first.  If you do leave the title bar blank, your post url will be part of the first line of your post, which I suppose is fine, but it seems untidy to me.  That sounds like rambling, but actually brings me nicely to my point.

My dear friend Stacey passed on into heaven just after noon yesterday.  What does one do the day after something like this happens?

Apparently if you're me, you clean your laundry room and randomly sing lines from "My Redeemer Lives."  I remembered this morning that the first thing I did after I found out about Stacey's cancer was also related to organization.  I bought her a big, colorful binder and filled it with tab dividers for research notes and info on her medicines; with a calendar for doctor's appointments; with a pouch for pens, highlighters, and sharpies (because sharpies make everything better); with pockets for important papers and contact info; other sections things I've forgotten.  This makes me laugh a little now, but I suppose it's very typical.  We look for control wherever we can find it, and I feel more in control when I'm organized. . .although you'd never know it by looking at my desk.  (I blame that on the kids.)

We did not take the traditional Spring Break from school in March, so we're doing that this week.  It makes more sense since we just finished up Classical Conversations last week, and was part of my year plan all along.  It seems like perfect timing now.  I can send the kids out to play and organize my laundry room without worrying about missed lessons.  After I finished sweeping and labeling and relocating, I was so exhausted.  I remembered that's what grief does to you: even when you're not really aware of it, sorrow drains every ounce of energy you have.

This past year has been all about me learning how to live with my heart wide open, but still be some use to those around me, and so I wanted to write to share how I'm doing, but I really don't know yet.  Maybe I'm still in floating in that space of disbelief.  I am so relieved for Stacey that her suffering is over, that she is in the arms of Jesus, and getting to meet her two precious babies who went to heaven before her.  I am so terribly sad for her husband and for her babies still on earth.  I'm sad for myself, for the long history of our friendship that will be on hold until I join her.  And I've ridden the grief train just enough times in my life to know that this period of weird numbness won't last, that the hard work is still to come.

Yesterday I realized that Stacey died one week (and 16 years) after my high school best friend committed suicide.  I don't want to cheapen Stacey's passing by comparing it to that of anyone else (or vice versa), but the two experiences are sort of co-existing in my mind right now.  Suicide is such a different thing, with the inevitable guilt a survivor has to wrestle with piled up on top of sudden loss, but I do think that experience is helping me some right now.  The month of April used to be such a landmine for me, but I clearly remember the first year when April 7th came and went and I didn't even realize it until the month was almost past.  It was six years later.

The thing I know so deeply is that God does heal even the most unbelievable wounds. . .if you let Him.  The saying that time heals. . . that's crap.  Time will wander all over you if you put on your game face and keep your heart sealed up.  It will cover your hurt with vines and weeds so that it looks like new life is growing, but underneath?  Underneath the pain won't diminish, it will only change how it sneaks out in your life.  The sole way to wholeness and healing is actually to let yourself break into as many pieces as it takes to let the pain out. . .and trust a perfect, loving God to put you back the way you are supposed to be.  If this sounds like religious nonsense to you, I assure you it isn't.  I've lived it and I am living it.  There is a sacredness in sorrow that you cannot even imagine until you throw up your hands in surrender.

via tschorda on flickr

Thank you to those of you who are letting me fall apart; who are (and have been) supporting me through phone calls, Facebook and text messages, and practical, everyday help . . . and for those who helped with details so we could spend this last weekend with Jacob and Stacey.   I feel somewhat undeserving since this loss is not completely my own, but I am so very grateful.  So grateful I might send you an orange bikini as a thank you present. Yes, you're welcome.


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