This July is seven years since my Dad died. S E V E N whole entire Y E A R S! It seems wild to me, tragic even, that in the last seven years, I went away to college, graduated college, started a career, got married, moved several times, and walked through childhood trauma all without my Dad here on earth. And at times it still hurts that he wasn’t there to see me graduate college, walk me down the aisle, or never met my husband or my future children. It’s sad, and it is ok to be sad about it.
Through these seven years, I walked through the five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. There is no particular order to these stages, they can go in a different order, or one may take longer than the other.
Thankfully, I had the opportunity to walk through grief with professionals. I sought out good counselors that helped me process the loss of my father on my own schedule. Yes, I had days where it was difficult to get out of bed, and days I emailed my college professor saying, “Hey, I am having a tough day, and I cannot come into class.” Or I left a conversation when an individual was talking about “dancing with their daddy on their wedding day” - something I knew I would never get to do. A fresh wound hurts, but over time it heals. And trust me, there have been times I never thought it would heal because the pain was so deep. But as I was able to clean the wound, and take care of it, God brought me through this process.
The pain is real and raw, and it hurts, but we must walk through it. Psalm 139:7-8 (NKJV) says, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.” No matter what pain we feel, God promises to be there with us through the pain. He will walk through the struggle with us. He will be with us in the highs and lows. He is there the nights we are up and can’t sleep, wondering why? Or when we get angry when we realize the moments we will miss with our loved one. When we start crying at the drop of a hat, because something reminded us that our loved one is no longer with us. Or the first holiday season without them, and seeing that empty chair where you wish they were. And wishing you could have been around more for them or done something to save them. There are seasons of grief, and just like the seasons they change.
I remember a week after my Dad died I was up late at night. Could not sleep, mind racing, thoughts, worries, anxieties. It continued on and on. At this time, I was in my 3rd year of college. We had been planning for me to transfer to a 4 year school. With our lives changing forever with the loss of our dad, provider, safety, etc., I no longer expected this to be a possibility.
That night, I humbly prayed a prayer that I will never forget, "Lord, if my Dad is gone, I need You to be my father. I need You to take care of me".
The next day I got a phone call that answered that prayer specifically. My entire first semester of college was paid in full by a life insurance policy that my Dad had signed days before he passed. Since then God has truly been my father. As I have leaned on Him through transitions and seasons, He has not walked away from me.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you. Isaiah 43:2 NKJV
Friend, He is with you as you walk through the waters of grief and sorrow. On the days it seems too hard to keep walking forward, He will not allow the flames to hurt you. It’s okay to not be okay when you are walking through grief. It feels like no one around you understands, but God understands. Walk with Him through it, seek professional counsel, take one step at a time. God is faithful in the pain and the suffering. He has not left you, He sees you right now where you are, even when it does not feel like it.
Now, grief feels like running into an old friend at the grocery store. The friend that you are not sure whether to say hi to or quickly go into another aisle, hoping you don’t get seen. You can run from her or embrace her. In different moments of my life, I have done one or the other, sometimes both, sometimes neither.
Grief looks different for everyone. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, but if we can not embrace her, we can not heal and move forward. So go up to your old friend, lean in, give her a hug. Embrace her for a second or a moment. Do what feels comfortable. Tell her how you’ve been and what’s new with you. Next time you run into her at the grocery store it might be a little easier to say hello again.
Christiana is a happily married wife and has worked in ministry for five years. She completed her bachelor's degree in Organizational Leadership at Southeastern University. Currently, she is pursuing wholeness and healing through Jesus. She currently resides in her home state of Maryland, and enjoys spending time outdoors, selling random stuff on Facebook marketplace, caring for her houseplants and sweet Maltese puppy Titus.