It's been a while since I wrote about how I'm really doing in terms of the grieving process. In light of some recent events, I thought I would share a little with you.
The time this summer was an especially important time for a few reasons and I am so thankful for my friends and family who really pushed me to come home for a few weeks (even though I insisted I didn't need it:-). The time at the cottage was an emotional break for me because Bob had not been to those places and so I was not faced with the visual reminder of his absence 24/7. Spending time with family and friends, playing games, reading, and catching up on much needed sleep, was very healing. During those two weeks, I felt the fog begin to lift.
A couple days before we returned to Ghana, a very important event happened that had God's hand all over it.
In the morning, I had coffee with a friend from the LEAD Grand Rapids group, David Graf, who together with Judy King, another member of my church, had been actively praying with me twice a week over the phone since Bob died. I was shared with him about how I had been reliving Bob's death every night since he died. Dave's ears perked up and he said, "You are reliving that every night? You need prayer for that! We need to pray for you this Sunday after church." Since I was having lunch with our pastor and his wife that same day, he encouraged me to talk with them about this. I shared this with them, and Melanie (Pastor Dave's wife) asked if I had prayed for that nightly memory to be taken away. I sheepishly acknowledged that I hadn't - I just assume that when you go through a traumatic event, that is what happens for a period of time...plus I was still trying to solve what really happened with Bob each night when I relived it, so ending it would feel like I was abandoning him in some way. Pastor Dave then asked if I had ever heard of praying Jesus into a memory, which I hadn't, and he informed me that Judy King does that sort of healing prayer. Well, I just "happened" to have meeting with her later that afternoon.
Judy and I met later that afternoon and since she was not going to be in church that Sunday, she offered to pray for me right then and there. She took my hands, asked me to close my eyes, invited the Holy Spirit into our time, and then had me "go back" to that hospital room, describe where I was standing, what Bob was doing, and who else was in the room. I ended up reliving that last hour of Bob's life, but with Judy inviting Jesus and the Holy Spirit into that memory. At one point, she asked me to place a cross between myself and Bob, and I told her I didn't want to. The cross could be there, but not in-between us. This was an important realization for me, as releasing Bob to Jesus was something that I had not yet done. And so, with many tears, I did that.
I can't describe everything that happened during that prayer time, but to say that it was significant would be an understatement. I realized that I was still trying to take care of Bob through the reliving of his death, trying to figure out what really happened (since we still don't know and never will on this earth), trying to determine what those last minutes were really like for him. And ultimately, reliving those things were my attempts to hold on to him and not let him go.
The results of this prayer time? Several. First, whenever I picture that room now, I picture Bob, lying on his back, with his eyes closed, and the room is peaceful with a sense of Christ's presence; even the lighting is softer. Prior to that, I always pictured him lying on his left side, agitated and the room chaotic, with bright lights. Jesus has become part of that memory. Second, I have stopped reliving his death every night. I have begun sleeping again. Third, I feel like I have accepted his death. I am very thankful to God for this and for the body of Christ in the form of my church family.
I always thought I was a quick study but it appears that when it comes to grieving, I am not. It appears, with the benefit of hindsight, that I spent the first four months following Bob's death in the first stage of grief, denial. I did not realize what a stupor I had been in for those four months. Every email, every phone call, every conversation that was not about Bob took great effort and energy. I had no interest in anything except lying in my bed. I'm amazed that any work actually got done during that time and appreciate the patience of Partners Worldwide and the teams with whom I work as they allowed me to grieve.
The grieving process is not over yet though. To use an analogy, I would say that prior to this vacation, it was like being in a hurricane. The time at home was like coming into the eye of the hurricane which was a beautiful thing, and for about two weeks, I felt great and remembered what it was like to feel normal. I now feel like I'm entering the back side of the hurricane in terms of some new stages of grief to deal with, but at least the shock and stupor seem to be behind me.
Thanks to so many of you for your prayers, your encouraging emails and comments to these blogs, your calls, visits, and hugs!