On Leaving and Grieving
I feel like most missionaries who leave their homes to go to a new place, rarely talk openly of the grieving required in the transition of moving. As I’ve entered into what feels like a whole new world of people who have endured the significant loss of moving cross country or across an ocean, I have found that my experience isn’t uncommon, yet it feels unspoken about, at least in the public forum.
Leaving for me has felt a little bit like a dull headache in the back of your neck. It’s subtle, so most of the day you don’t know it’s there. Then you stop what you’re doing long enough to realize, wait, my head actually hurts. Live with the dull ache in the back of your neck long enough and eventually you start realizing the tension in your temples, shoulders, and you’re starting to feel really exhausted from living with the pain. By the time you’re ready for bed, you start to cry because you’re just so exhausted from carrying the load of tension all day. You thought it would go away on it’s own, but the truth is, if you don’t address the tension, it grows into a great pain.
This is what moving to Massachusetts has felt like in a lot of ways. Even through the fun new experiences, the pretty water fronts, the beautiful community of believers in our church, and the hope of greater things yet to come, there is always a tinge of sadness that starts to creep in. I may go days without noticing it, and then all of the sudden out of nowhere, a rush of emotion crashes over me like a tidal wave I wasn’t expecting.
Moving our lives has been more of a grief process than I think I was really prepared for. The preemptive grief of knowing we were leaving, but not having left yet, was almost unbearable. It’s painful to see your friends knowing this is the last time you’ll do XYZ together. It’s even painful to visit your favorite restaurant for the last time, believe it or not. But being on the other side of leaving has brought it’s own challenges as well. I was at a park the other day, it’s brand new and gorgeous, right on the water. The kids and I enjoyed it for a while until that sinking feeling came rushing back again when this thought came into my mind: but I can’t invite (insert friends name here…there could be many) to come enjoy it with me. “I just know her kids would freak out over this park, they’d love it!” In a lot of ways it feels like someone has died, except instead of just one person being gone, it’s my whole life. Seemingly every area of my life has been cut off. I know it will some day start to regrow, slowly, step by step.
There’s a book about going through hard things that we have been reading to Everett and Reaghan that talks about a little seed being planted in the dirt. He has to go to the messy hard place before he can sprout and become a big oak tree. As he transforms he recounts how the Farmer is good and the Farmer is kind, and the Farmer is always watching over him. I’m in the messy, lonely, hard place. It’s scary here because you don’t know what’s ahead for you. It’s lonely because not many have walked this road. There is profound loss because we’ve chosen to follow God NO MATTER WHAT, and it' has cost us a great deal. But there is hope. There is trust, that out of the messy hard and lonely places, God is growing something far greater, grander and more beautiful than we could have ever produced on our own. Who wants to stay a seed in a cozy packet on a rickety old shelf in the farmers shed, when they could be an oak tree that provides shade for their friends, beauty for the community, and lasts the test of time? I think we all want to be the oak tree, yet skip the dark part in the dirt. Well, since we can’t skip the dirt to grow, we sit, and trust and wait on the Lord to produce the beautiful good fruit in His own timing.
And in the meantime, it’s okay to grieve.