Thursday, August 19, 2010

It's Okay to be Sad

It’s amazing to think that one year ago today I watched my son enter into a new chapter of his life: a student on a university campus. As I hugged him, said goodbye and drove away, I remembered the words of John Mellencamp who, singing about death said, “I always knew this would happen, but I was hoping not today.”

Now, a year later, I am thanking God almost hourly that I am not the mother holding back tears at Freshman orientations taking place across the nation this weekend. I am thanking God that I am not coming home to a more-empty house for the first time. I am thanking God that I am a year past the pain. And even though, as I drove my son back to college on Tuesday and at one point reached over and tousled his hair and got choked up, I swallowed hard, kept driving, and the lump in my throat subsided as the highway miles sped by. It still hurts in short bursts, but not as much and not nearly as all-encompassing as before, because I have come through the other side. And the only way I got here was to go directly through the experience of being sad.

There’s a children’s book I used to read to my sons called “Going on a Bear Hunt.” It tells the story of an imaginary bear hunt and the obstacles along the way. Be it “long, wavy grass,” “a deep, cold river,” or “thick, oozy mud,” the mantra of the story is “We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. Oh, no! We’ve got to go through it!” There are no shortcuts through the pain of life events, nor should there be.

Next week, a close friend will go through the same thing I went through a year ago. Just as she was there for me, I am there for her now, reading her tear-filled emails and ready to meet with her for coffee after she drops her son off at college. I’ll meet with her, not to make her feel better, as I know I can’t. But to sit smack dab in the middle of her pain with her, listen, commiserate and support her in our mutual belief that the only way out of this feeling is through it.

The world never wants us to be sad, and pharmaceutical companies make a lot of money telling us we don’t ever have to be sad. But sadness is just as much a part of life today as it was for David. And David lived in and got through the pain (I don’t want to say “embrace” because that makes it sound as if our sadness should be glorified and that we can somehow gracefully waltz through our pain in a Zen-like obliviousness. I did not embrace my pain a year ago and wearing sunglasses around the clock to hide blood shot, puffy eyes and sniveling over dirty socks was not graceful.)

Crying out to God, in silence or in real words, is where Grace comes in: His grace. At the feet of His Grace is where we fall disheartened. That’s where we scratch out an existence in the wee hours of our pain. In His Son, Spirit, Word, power, strength and perseverance we come out on the other side.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18


Brenda said...

Hi Barb,
It does get a little easier each year. But, it is never easy. Dale is helping our youngest, Zach, and his wife more farther away. Those family times together become all that much more precious.

Barb Harwood said...

Hi Brenda,
Thanks for stopping by. I need to hear from moms like you who've been through this. We need to stick together! I hope all goes well with Zach's move.