The Journey of Grief

It’s a day of grief in my family.

Three years ago today at three o’clock in the afternoon, going about the busy-ness of my day, tending to the trivia that seemed so urgent at the time, I was interrupted by a phone call.

My father’s tearful, panicked voice still echoes – “Sally, Joe Rex has been killed in a car accident.”

I dropped to my knees, feeling sick to my stomach, heartbroken.  Wishing I had never answered the phone.  As if that would have kept my world from being permanently altered.

And over the course of the next few days we wept and mourned my cousin’s passing – so abrupt, so unexpected, so far from any kind of pain I’d ever experienced.

Joe was about 13 in this picture, which would've made me around 18 or 19 years old. The summer of a really bad perm....but get a load of Joe's 'tube' socks!
Joe was about 13 in this picture, which would’ve made me around 18 or 19 years old. The summer of a really bad perm….but get a load of Joe’s ‘tube’ socks!

It wasn’t the same as my grandparents’ passing.  This loss was different.  Only five years old when he was born, Joe was the first baby I’d ever held. 

Three years later and I can still hear his deep voice, his soft little chuckle.  I see him in airport terminals and just yesterday I saw him in Starbucks.  From behind, the guy sitting next to our table looked just like Joe, in a golf shirt, cap and shorts, as though he’d just come from playing 18 holes.

I love those random sightings.  They remind me of how overjoyed we’ll all be to see each other again some day.

Grief is a strange thing, coming in and out of our lives at the oddest times.

A friend whose eighteen year old son passed decades ago reminded me this week that well-intentioned souls give us three months to grieve, but in reality, it never goes away. 

“The years roll by and grief changes.  But it doesn’t leave.  And sometimes it sneaks up and bites us unexpectedly. . . . What I’ve learned about grief, though, is this:  it’s the only way.  I can’t ignore it; I can’t set it aside; I can’t pretend.  I must grieve my way through the sorrow and the loss.  Painful as it is, grief is a gift – a part of the healing process.

“It allows me to remember; it forces me to remember how strong love was and is; it slowly – slowly! – allows me to imagine a new future.  And it keeps me dependent on God, eventually looking back over the many miles and realizing how true the words of the psalmist are:  ‘You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.’  This is not a naïve, Pollyannish joy.  This is the joy of those who have known deep loss . . .” 

                  From Megan’s Secrets by Mike Cope, p. 145

What’s been most helpful to you as you grieved a loss?






4 Comments Add yours

  1. Norton says:

    I really really miss my little brother

  2. Karen Koonce says:

    Sally, what has been most helpful for me is being given the space and the grace to grieve in my own way and on my own timeline. It has been almost 17 years since I lost an older brother in a car accident and I still have moments where I am overcome with grief. It ebbs and flows…

    There is a very good book called “Tear Soup” that is really great at painting a picture of the many ways we deal with our grief. I recommend it to anyone who is struggling.

  3. Carla McDonald says:

    Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, one day at a time, and breathe, whether you want to or not.

    1. sallygary says:

      Thanks, sweet Carla. Sure love you.

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