I was in the car on Friday and I told the kids we would give “grandma and grandad” a call when we got home. The words came out so quickly and easily. Then I paused.
The beautiful, innocent Ada Rose quickly replied: “We can only call grandad now, Dad.”
Fact check, seven-year old style!
Yes Ada, we can only call grandad now. But, truth be told, I wanted to ring grandma in the lead-up to Christmas. Usually when I ring my parents my Dad answers the phone – “523114”. They added the “49” more than 25 years ago but Dad’s never bothered with the extra two digits. Within seconds of saying the number and hearing my voice, Dad would say “I will put your Mum on”. That’s just how it went.
But not now. And it will take some time to get used to “the new normal”.
Grief is so bloody hard! I just needed to get that off my chest. It’s good to do that, particularly in the season we find ourselves in.
And words are therapeutic for me. And just maybe, what comes next will be helpful for someone else, dealing with grief in their own world this Christmas time; at the end of the year where the experts tell us we’ve all experienced grief in some shape or form.
The reality is, I’m in a profession where I have had lots of experience standing with others in their grief. I’ve journeyed with many people who have lost a parent. I’ve officiated at many funerals. I’m told I do a good one, which is a badge of honour.
But I’ve discovered you enter new territory when you lose your own Mum. I haven’t navigated this space before. And it’s stretching. It’s painful. Something inside me says by the time you’re my age you should be prepared, but I wasn’t – made worse by COVID closed borders. Something inside me says, it should be easier, because my Mum lived a good, long life. But some days this doesn’t cut the mustard – because I wanted more time with Mum, as much as I know she needed her rest.
I’ve had a number of men – some I know, some I don’t – reach out to me over the past six weeks with lovely messages of support, saying how hard it was for them to lose their mums and encouraging me to take care of myself and “grieve well”. Today, I feel some bond with these authentic comforters, because this road is harder to navigate than I envisaged. And I am trying hard to genuinely work out what grieving well means, beyond what I know the text books say!
As I walk through this season, I have been jotting down in my journal, things I am learning, things I am thankful for, things I need to keep coming back to.
Here’s some of these very incomplete lessons to date:
Tears are so good for the soul
I’ve cried a lot in recent months and I’ve been reminded how good tears are for the soul. They’re healing.
They come easy for me. My kids laugh because I am always the one who will be wiping the tears away in a movie or in some sentimental moment. My dear Mum was the same.
A colleague dropped in some flowers a few days after my Mum had died and we briefly chatted in my front-yard. Suddenly I started crying. Initially I felt discomfort, but then suddenly I was struck by the fact I was in the presence of a trusted friend. I was safe and I needed to weep. He stood by my side and let me do just that – no words needed.
I’ve met too many Australian men who feel they cannot weep. I’m thankful that over the past few months I’ve had many safe and sacred spaces to cry!
I’m thankful for a God who sees my tears and hears my pain – an Emmanuel God, here with us now!
Mates are so good for the soul
A few days after my Mum died two close mates asked me out for a beer and bite to eat. To be honest, I didn’t want to go and they gave me an “opt-out” card. But something inside me said I needed to take them up on their offer and I am so glad I did.
Over the past month these two mates and many others have called, texted and messaged. I’ve sat with trusted friends over coffee, a beer, a good red, breakfast and Zoom. And I am so much the richer because of loyal mates who dare to believe in me, who stand by me and who don’t seek to offer “quick fixes”. One good mate said the other day: “I haven’t lost a parent, but I imagine it will be gut wrenching, so I just want to do whatever I can.” He is and I’m so fortunate.
We all need “mates” on the journey. Rewind in my life and I’ve had lots of good friends, but all too often I kept them at a distance. I’ve needed to learn [I’m still learning] that I have to let others in, all the way in!
Salt water is so good for the soul
The morning after my Mum died I got in the car and drove to the beach … well the bay [the best I can get too in half-an-hour in Melbourne]. I needed sand and salt water. I needed rocks to scamper on; a place to breathe. The water that day was so cold, but I came to attention. I was in my refreshment space.
Where do you go when life seems stretched to the limit? Where are the places and spaces that bring comfort and renewal to the soul?
At the end of a long day, after my Mum’s funeral, I found myself back at Merewether Beach and Ocean Baths; a place I have been coming to since birth. In fact, I was born just up the hill. I was there with my little kids – a new generation learning the soulful benefits of salt water therapy! As they played, swam, splashed and build sandcastles they were in one of their favourite places. I smiled, as I know my Mum would have.
The Psalms are so good for the soul
Over the past few months I have been digging in the Psalms. My Mum loved this section of the ancient book.
She held fast to Psalm 27:1 – “The Lord is my light and salvation, whom shall I fear.” She spoke Psalm 23:1 over her life many times: “The Lord is my Shepherd”. At her funeral I read and reflected on perhaps of her favourite, Psalm 46, which begins “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
This month I’ve been holding on to the promise of Psalm 4. The writer describes having been in a “tight space”. Into this constraining space comes a freeing, spacious, gracious God.
I’m thankful for the power and encouragement of ancient, soulful words.
Solitude is so good for the soul
I’ve always loved being around people, but the older I get, the more I’m appreciating solitude. It’s an artful discipline I wished I had cherished earlier in my life.
Truth be told there have been a number of times in recent months where the last thing I have wanted is to be around others, but while I have, it has also been good to celebrate time alone.
A few weekends ago I sat on my own – with all of Bells Beach to myself – a rare opportunity. The seaside, silence, sun and solitude – it was beautiful.
In the busyness of life, with our crowded schedules and the overload of information and technology, may we all learn to value anew the importance of “quality time” alone!
Perspective is good for the soul
A legacy my Mum has left me is the importance of perspective. Throughout her life she would remind me “there is always someone else doing it harder”. She was reminding her family of this up until her death.
As I celebrate my Mum’s life, I am mindful of the sudden, unexpected death of a woman my age, leaving behind her husband and two young adult children. I am mindful of a family at my kids’ school shattered by the death of a young parent. I am mindful of a wonderful friend fighting, but not winning the battle, with the cancer. I am mindful of so many who face so much more than I do in this beautiful, but broken world.
Yes Mum, there is always someone else doing it harder – and I am thankful for this valuable life lesson you impressed on me.
Symbols are so good for the soul
I love rituals, metaphors and symbols. And I love how some of these treasured practices are captured by the next generation.
When we were in Newcastle last month, I was at the beach with the kids on the last day before heading back to Melbourne. I was chatting with my 11-year-old Imogen about taking home a rock from Merewether Beach to remember this milestone week in our lives.
My beautiful girl picked up and put down so many rocks, before saying: “Dad, I think this one is a special one to remember Grandma by.”
I looked at the rock – uniquely shaped by the waters, with multiple colours. It seemed like the “right rock” to bring home. Today it sits on my home study desk and I have picked it up many times in recent weeks.
Words are so good for the soul
If you’re still reading this blog, you will appreciate words are therapeutic for me, so thanks for sharing in my journey.
Over recent months many people have written to me – cards, emails and texts – and I have appreciated these words of comfort, encouragement and testimony to my Mum.
I have valued time to scribble in my journal – pouring out my heart on paper.
I have valued the opportunity to write to other family members – cheering them on and thanking them for being in my life.
Let’s never lose sight of the power of words! A word in season is so good for the soul.
Pascall jubes may not be good for the body, but they may just be soulful!
Whenever I visited my parents’ home over recent years, they would always be in bed before I was. With a glass of wine in hand I would open my Mum’s “sweets’ cupboard” and my weakness was always her container of Pascall jubes.
Nothing healthy about this sugar fix, but they remind me so much of my Mum.
The day after my Mum died, Megan cooked a roast [my parents’ go-to dish] and she surprised me with a packet of “my Mum’s jubes”!
As I write, I am enjoying a few – reminding myself that simple pleasures often bring with them rich associations!
And finally – I am so thankful for family!
Too many people face the challenges of life on their own, but the past few months have reminded me of the beauty and joy of family!
I am especially thankful to my beautiful, caring wife who has journeyed with me in this stretching season and allowed me to grieve one day at a time, unsure of what the next day will bring!
I am thankful for all tribe of kids for their love and support.
I am thankful for my extended family.
I am thankful for my Dad – who after 58 years of marriage is learning to navigate life on his own. He has always been a creature of habit, but he now embraces a huge life change.
One thought on “Bloody grief!”
Scott, I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your grief and your thoughts with us. I particularly liked this comment about your mum:
“A legacy my Mum has left me is the importance of perspective. Throughout her life she would remind me “there is always someone else doing it harder”.”
This is wisdom, for sure!
Blessings to you. May you feel God’s constant comfort and grace.