Breaking

#ATOEpiphany: After 17 Years, I’ve Reached the Final Stage of Grief

ATO Epiphany / Breaking / Carousel / August 25, 2016

I still call her mommy when I think about her, when I talk about missing her. Because up until a few days ago, I was still 10 years old crying in the shower because I just learned my mommy was gone and was never coming back.

As a part of my premarital process, I sought biblical counseling within my church so I could spiritually unpack some remaining baggage before stepping into marriage. In my very first homework assignment, I was charged to write a letter to my mother, put it in an envelope without a stamp, and then drop it in a mailbox. It seemed like such a good idea at the time it was presented to me. Then, for some reason, I wouldn’t make it a priority. I was given the assignment two months before I actually had it completed. And it’s still not in the mail. I thought it’d be cathartic and I’d have all of these deep thoughts and emotions to bleed on the page, but it was not like that. It wasn’t like writing a poem or some pretty prose for my blog. Writing the letter, if anything, highlighted just how gone she is.

She taught me so much in the 9 years I got to spend being her daughter. She poured so much of her love, her patience, her gentleness into my little heart. And as God is peeling back the layers, I am beginning to realize just how much. No person on this earth has ever loved me, nor will ever be able to love me, like she did. Even on her death-bed, her greatest concern was my well-being.  She was the first person to ever love me. She was the first person to show me light in this dark world. She risked her life for my life to exist.

Then she was gone.

It was just that fast for me.

She’s been dead for more than half of my life. The older I get the more years there are in between the last time she hugged me, kissed me, watched TV with me, read with me, picked me up from school, taught me…  And I miss it.

It scares me how much time has lapsed, because I never want to forget her. I still want her to know me. I want her to be able to see some of the fruit of her forbearance. All intangible traces of her, the electricity that preceded her touch, her smell, her voice, are just…gone. But I want her to be here. I never want to listen to the recording of her voice from our old voicemail and hear a stranger. But the fact is, her voice is unfamiliar and sometimes I have to crinkle my forehead to bring to my mind what she looked like. And that hurts. The pull I feel to let her go fighting against the tight grasp I have on the little bit I have left of her, it weighs on me.

I don’t want to let her go.

As I wrote the letter to her, however, I kept feeling a tug to let go. With each letter I wrote, the conviction kept getting louder and louder.

LET GO.

And if she were here, as strong as I know she was, she would probably tell me the same.

It just feels like I am betraying her and dishonoring her memory; letting go of her feels so dirty and disrespectful. But God is revealing holding on to her so tightly also holds me back from what He has in store for me. With both hands tightly wrenched around any remnant of her presence, I am unable to grab hold of what God has in His plans to give me. My hands are full of ashes, not a person, ashes that no longer flicker with the fire of her spirit because her soul is resting with The Lord. She loved Him fiercely; I’ll never forget that about her. So knowing she died in Christ should provide solace for my soul awakening. And the closer I get to Jesus, the closer I get to experience the love she gave me, plus more than I can even imagine.

I just have to let go first.

The great mystery behind letting go, giving everything God gives right back to Him in order to receive far greater than we as humans can ever think or imagine, continues to blow my mind. But His ways are not my ways; His thoughts are not my thoughts. And that’s okay. He is in control.

In faith, I have to give everything I have left of her back to God and trust that it won’t destroy me, trust that I won’t be left with nothing. I have to put to action the kind of faith I witnessed her have all the way until she took her last breath. I have to remember that even her death served great purpose. It was the most painful experience of my life so far, but it helped shape me and mold me. It helped me get to this very moment where I am finally able to face the pain of saying goodbye to her, remembering out of pain comes great testimony and fortitude. I needed each and every part of my journey up until this moment. I needed to know darkness before I could know I need to always seek light. I needed to know anger, and low self-worth, and rage, and depression before I could truly comprehend joy and peace. I needed to know abandonment to know that I am never truly alone.

But most of all, I needed to come to Christ and experience His life-changing power before I could lay my mother to rest in my heart.

Each and every negative experience pushed me so far to the bottom that once I hit rock bottom I had no other choice but to see that God IS the rock at the bottom. And on the way back up I realize I am okay. I am alive and actually living. I am learning to love and be loved again. I am opening up and unpacking all of my baggage.  Freedom is here.

So, as I finally begin to navigate the last stage of grief, I release myself from feeling like losing my mother was meant to harm me. I choose to honor the resurrecting birth that bloomed out of her death. And I know she would want that healing for me too. I will never forget anything about her that taps into the joy God placed in me when I accepted His son as my savior. But I have to let go of her death in order to breathe and receive life.

It took me seventeen years to receive this revelation of hope, this epiphany…and that’s okay.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares The Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

– Nykia D.B.


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