Letters to Taylor: On Grief and Imagination
My dear Taylor,
Each day since your graduation to heaven has left me wondering what grief lesson I have yet to learn. I could say that I miss you, but those three little words understate my true feelings. Emotional highs and lows grip my heart at random times and in unexplainable ways. To be only a five-letter word, grief surely packs a powerful punch.
My mind has gone back to your viewing and funeral time and time again, in fact all the events of the last eight weeks have replayed themselves in my head many times. Partially because there are days when it feels like your suffering and death was all a bad dream. Like I could just wake up in the morning and go peek in on you sleeping in your bed, then move to the usual routine until you woke up. That’s how we had lived for years. But no, the reality is that things have changed, and you are in heaven.
I remind myself continually that you are well and whole, and I can only imagine how that must feel for you. Incredibly wonderful and beyond human words! But the world here on earth feels awfully strange and abnormal without you. So much of how we lived our lives and chose our schedules was based on your care. The void is enormous and weird.
If I could compare grief to a mathematical process, I would say that it doesn’t just multiply; it multiples exponentially. Not only do we grieve you being gone from our lives, but the grief compounds when we realize so many others are missing you too. Trying to understand the pain of others while they’ve empathized with us has been a mind-blowing experience. I’ve felt stretched. I’ve also feared that friends and family will tire of my sharing because of their lack of understanding or empathy.
Grief is teaching me to learn how to empathize with others when they don’t know what to say or how to respond. One of the reasons I share these letters I write to you with other people is so that they know they are not alone in their feelings and there is hope. A few weeks before you left us for heaven, a friend shared that some of the things said to her at her brother’s funeral were not helpful at all. In fact, they flat-out made her feel deeper pain.
Daddy voiced a few of his feelings to a co-worker, who replied with, “Yes, I know this has no comparison, but when my dog died of cancer…” Really? Then if you know it has no comparison, wouldn’t it have been better to keep it to yourself? Your sister has encountered accusation of seeking attention because she has shared her heart. I really hate that for her sake. But people are human and can only try to relate on their own level. Some of the intended encouragement and intentional criticism must pass through without evaluation and absorption. Doing this requires a ton of discipline and character from your mama, not to mention divine intervention.
There’s one phrase that I’ve found comforting. I know a lot of it has to do with the heart of the people who have shared it with me. But it’s so simple. Some have said to me: “I can’t imagine.” That phrase has brought a lot of salve to the wound because none of us can wrap our heads around the loss of another. Every person grieves differently. No loss of life can be compared to another. Each and every human is divinely and uniquely created. So, I tucked that little phrase away to whisper to other hurting hearts in the future.
Your littlest sister told me that she dreamed about you last night. This photo of you and her came up in my feed this morning. She said that in her dream, you were playing with a baby. I didn’t ask her a ton of questions, but my immediate thought was of the baby our family lost to miscarriage those many years ago.
What was your heavenly meeting with your brother or sister really like and what are you doing now?
I can only imagine.
I love you, precious girl. God’s got you. And us too.