Grief: Two Years Later

October 3 marked two years since I, along with daughters Sheri and Sandra and sons-in-law John and Kyle, stood in muted reverence beside Linda’s bed holding her hands as she serenely slipped into that mysterious realm we call “death.”

Though the moment had been anticipated for months, even years, as the losses had been inexorable over a decade, the finality of this moment was emotionally jarring. It set in motion a life-altering process with new challenges and adjustments.

Grief, though universal and unavoidable, defies all our attempts to fully explain or completely control. We confront our losses out of our own reservoir of experiences, values, traits, and relationships. Therefore, I offer no prescriptions for how others should grieve. I can only describe my own journey and hope others might find their own resources.

C.S. Lewis’s image of grief as a bomber flying overhead continues to speak to me. Two years ago, in the aftermath of Linda’s death, the disorienting bombs were dropping relentlessly, shattering every aspect of my being with waves of deep sadness. I didn’t know if I could endure the bombardment of such painful feelings of loss, disorientation, regret, guilt, anger, and loneliness.

Now, two years later, the bomber hovers further in the distance. The bombs fall with less frequency and intensity. Recovery and reorientation come more quickly. The pervasive and penetrating sadness has abated. Preoccupation with the images of disease, decline, suffering, and death are receding as joyful memories of decades of shared love and happiness move to the forefront. Gratitude is overshadowing regrets. Forgiveness is at least softening the pangs of guilt.

I’m learning anew that grief can only be lived through. Attempts to deny it or escape will only delay and exacerbate the consequences. We can get through it and move toward the future with hope. Indeed, love endures!

Marilynne Robinson in her acclaimed novel Gilead writes:

Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave — that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm. And therefore, this courage allows us, as the old men said, to make ourselves useful.

  • This prevenient courage comes to me in. . .
    • the encouragement and support of family and friends
    • tasks to be accomplished
    • memories mingled with gratitude
    • the beauty of an approaching autumn
    • works of art or melodies and words of music
    • prayers of lament and thanksgiving
    • sharing the suffering and grief of others
    • nurturing old friendships and entering new ones
    • the birth of a great grandchild bearing Linda’s middle name

Anne Lamotte writes, “You lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly–that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”

I never could dance, as Linda often reminded me. But I do walk a lot! The limp you may sometimes detect is prevenient courage enabling me to move toward the future with hope.

The wise and compassionate Don Saliers summed it up in a thoughtful and much appreciated message to me: “This deep rhythm of loss, consolations of grace, and then gratitude for the joy of shared life, it is a great mystery, isn’t it?”

Yes! Mysterium Tremendum! Tremendous Mystery! I call it GOD!

24 thoughts on “Grief: Two Years Later

  1. Ken, you continue to inspire me with your writings. I am touched by your expression of personal grief and recovery and am right now thinking of good friends that have recently suffered similar losses. I am sharing your words with them, knowing it can assist them along their road to life without their loved one but with memories to sustain them. You help us in so many ways, please know your planted words have sprouted and are bringing new life for many of us.

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  2. Thank you, Ken for sharing your heart so beautifully. Were it not for love, we would feel no pain in grief. So perhaps the more we love the more we grieve, and isn’t that what makes grief beautiful? It reminds us that we have loved deeply! Thank you again for bearing witness to love!!!

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  3. I lost my husband a year ago on August 1, 2020. I have read about your grief journey through your blog. It has helped a lot, thank you for putting it out there. Keep sharing, it’s so relatable and comforting at the same time. Maybe I will survive the journey.

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  4. Thanks for sharing your journey through grief. You have wonderful memories of Linda. Recently I have noticed that those memories are growing stronger than the grief. It is a privilege to know you and we all learn so much from your sharing your experience. Thanks.

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  5. This is really beautiful, Ken. It’s been decades since I last saw you, but my memory of you and Linda is that you had a real love affair full of empathy, respect, and great humor (and two amazing daughters!). Thanks so much for sharing this.

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  6. So thankful for your remarks. After the loss of my mother who was was ministered to and cared for by my family and me since my birth, for 60 years, grieving her death was the blessing of God. He walked with me from the evening it occurred telling me as I crossed a river going to the hospital where she had been sent by the rest home where she lived that she was HOME with HIM. I smiled as I remember her saying that one day she would cross the river and go home. God is faithful to bless and sustain up. Mom died in the year 2000 having lived a century…@ 99 years young with all her faculties. Her heart just gave out! I feel her presence still and know she still prays for me. I have a daughter, our youngest who has MSA-Parkinsonian so I may experience more grief and your sharing will be helpful. I really liked the part about Prevenient Courage. That was what helped me in the year 2000.

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  7. Thank you Bishop Carder for sharing this gracious and powerful witness on how beauty and grace can be found in pain and loss. My prayers remain with you and thank you for simply being you.

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  8. Oh, Ken. This just opened the flood gates…again! Had anyone told me my Mom’s passing would hurt this much, I never would have believed them! Her 1st anniversary was September 13, however it actually began on Sunday of Labor Day weekend. We went to bed that night after our regular routine & she did not get out of bed until the next Sunday, 13th. I can’t be upset or angry, because God answered my prayers asking for her to not suffer! As a Hospice nurse, I was well aware of what could have happened. (I was told she probably had a stroke.) This year has been full of changes, good & bad, BUT I could not have made it w/o God, my Stephen Minister weekly on ZOOM, my counselor every other week virtually, YouTube Church, and my precious fur baby! I miss her terribly & I know these rushes of emotions will ebb, BUT I DO KNOW SHE & MY DADDY ARE WITH ME!! THANKS BE TO GOD!!!🙏❤💜

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    • Thank you, Cynthia, for sharing your pain with me. Yes, the rushes of emotions will ebb, but they hurt deeply when they come. Love hurts! Yet, it is a hurt that connects us more profoundly to the Source of All Love! May that Greater Love enfold you as you weep! Blessings and peace to you, my friend!

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  9. Thank you for this … for all your posts … heart-cries that we all need (or will need …). Blessings on you, dear friend and mentor of us all! Martha Chamberlain

    On Wed, Oct 6, 2021 at 11:55 AM Shifting Margins wrote:

    > Kenneth Carder posted: ” October 3 marked two years since I, along with > daughters Sheri and Sandra and sons-in-law John and Kyle, stood in muted > reverence beside Linda’s bed holding her hands as she serenely slipped into > that mysterious realm we call “death.” Though the mome” > Respond to this post by replying above this line > New post on *Shifting Margins* > Grief: Two Years Later > by Kenneth > Carder > > October 3 marked two years since I, along with daughters Sheri and Sandra > and sons-in-law John and Kyle, stood in muted reverence beside Linda’s bed > holding her hands as she serenely slipped into that mysterious realm we > call “death.” > > Though the moment had been anticipated for months, even years, as the > losses had been inexorable over a decade, the finality of this moment was > emotionally jarring. It set in motion a life-altering process with new > challenges and adjustments. > > Grief, though universal and unavoidable, defies all our attempts to fully > explain or completely control. We confront our losses out of our own > reservoir of experiences, values, traits, and relationships. Therefore, I > offer no prescriptions for *how* others should grieve. I can only > describe my own journey and hope others might find their own resources. > > C.S. Lewis’s image of grief as a bomber flying overhead continues to speak > to me. Two years ago, in the aftermath of Linda’s death, the disorienting > bombs were dropping relentlessly, shattering every aspect of my being with > waves of deep sadness. I didn’t know if I could endure the bombardment of > such painful feelings of loss, disorientation, regret, guilt, anger, and > loneliness. > > Now, two years later, the bomber hovers further in the distance. The bombs > fall with less frequency and intensity. Recovery and reorientation come > more quickly. The pervasive and penetrating sadness has abated. > Preoccupation with the images of disease, decline, suffering, and death are > receding as joyful memories of decades of shared love and happiness move to > the forefront. Gratitude is overshadowing regrets. Forgiveness is at least > softening the pangs of guilt. > > I’m learning anew that grief can only be lived through. Attempts to deny > it or escape will only delay and exacerbate the consequences. We* can* > get through it and move toward the future with hope. *Indeed, love > endures!* > > Marilynne Robins

    Liked by 2 people

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