the practice of grieving and living at the same time.

When you cry every single day for 100 days, it’s definitely hard on the soul, especially when you look toward the next 100 days and realize that it’s just the way life is going to be now. We’re learning how to live with it. We are getting more used to going from crying to laughing to working to sleeping to crying to sobbing to talking to crying to walking to walking AND crying over and over again each day. 

Last week, on the day after the three-month anniversary of losing our beautiful boy, my husband, Jose and I were sitting in our living room in the place I go every morning to drink my coffee and catch up on a few things to start the day, talking (and yes, crying). It was our oldest son’s 28th birthday and we were reflecting how the day before–on such a hard sad day realizing 3 months has felt like 3 years and how desperately we miss Jared–we also had celebrated the arrival in the mail of my copies of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, got the approval of our 501c3 for #communityheals—Making Spaces for Transformation Accessible for All in our mailbox, and landed on a title for a new project coming with Westminster John Knox Press for Advent called A Weary World: Blue Christmas Reflections. Yes, all in one day. OMG!  We sat there celebrating our oldest son, remembering that moment of becoming parents for the first time and all the mothering over so many years. We talked about how our new life—grieving this hard and deep—along with all the things that were already happening is really, really rough. Our conclusion that morning before we left for work:  “This much freaking paradox is definitely hard on a soul.”

All this grieving.

All this living.

At the same time.

It makes me think of what grief advocate Frances Weller says—”the work….is to hold grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and be stretched large by them.”  

I don’t want to be stretched this large, but we are. 

I am also reminded of my very favorite quotes from Megan Devine, whose work at Refuge in Grief has been a healing balm for each day the past several months–“Some things cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.”

This past weekend in Denver we had a 70-degree Sunday—in February. It was awesome. Then the next day, I officiated a memorial service at The Refuge for a dear long-time friend and single mom of 4 who lost her battle with cancer at 43, and it was 25 degrees and snowy, icy, gray, and down-right cold. The juxtaposition of it all really struck me in the deepest part of my soul because that, my friends, is the reality of life.

Summer and Winter right next to each other, all tangled up, in so many different ways. 

At her gathering I shared what we have been saying to ourselves–that our best hope over the long story “is learning how to grieve and live at the same time.” 

All the grief.

All the life.

At the same time.

They aren’t separate. It’s not either/or. They aren’t “Oh, when we’re done grieving, we’ll move on to living.” Yes, grief takes a front burner and we just.can’t.do what we used to do. But we also want to keep living, especially for our 4 young adult kids who need us.

We are finding, for us, that our way forward is the practice grieving and living at the same time.

That doesn’t mean we don’t have days where we can barely breathe. Or we don’t cry all day. Or we aren’t stumbling around in a fog. That we still cannot believe this alternate reality we feel like we’re in.

It just means that those days are mixed in with days where we do celebrate so much good in our lives, in the lives of our kids, in the lives of our community and work. That we do get out of bed, take a shower, and go do what we love to do—and just cry whenever we need to.  That we eat frosting out of the can for dinner and watch Cheer on Netflix and are amazed by what humans can do. 

Grieving.

Living.

At the same time.

And there are so many other practices all tangled up in there, too. Practicing has 10 of them—Healing, Listening, Loving, Including, Equalizing, Advocating, Mourning, Failing, Resting, Celebrating. As I was thinking through them this morning preparing to facilitate a retreat in Santa Fe, I recognize that they are all weaving through our lives right now, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. 

Some get illuminated more for different seasons, but they are all part of living out some of our dreams for ourselves, our families, our communities, the world. 

They’re all hard.

They’re all good.

They’re all not masterable.

They’re all possible. 

Preaching is way easier than practicing, but I know in every part of my soul that this wild and beautiful paradoxical life God gave us is mean to be practiced. Jared had a lot of sayings, and one of them was “be comfortable being uncomfortable.” Easy to say, hard to do, and in this season I am definitely having to practice things I don’t want to. I am quite certain so many of you are in the same boat.

You’re also grieving big losses.

Trying to get unstuck. 

Struggling with the state of the world.

Feeling so vulnerable. 

Life is hard.

The world is hard.

The divisions are brutal.

The hope of what could be sometimes feels so far away.

Yet here we all are in different ways,

Trying.

Growing.

Hoping.

Dreaming.

Crying.

Stumbling.

Bumbling.

Practicing.

Grieving, living. 

Holding it all in the same space at the same time as best we can.

It’s God’s image embedded in humans. The ways of Jesus reflected brightly–and subtly. 

I see it every day in so many lives around me. 

I see it in you and the stories you share with me.

All the mess, all the beauty.

All the hope, all the despair.

Grieving.

Living.

At the same time

Love from cold and snowy Colorado today. I looked, and tomorrow it’s sunny.

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Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life and online. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

11 Comments

  • Thank you for this beautifully written post. It struck a cord for me today. HUGS and grace to you.

    Reply
  • Really beautiful. And raw. And honest. I sent it to my oldest son whose 2nd baby was born Oct. 3 with a rare neurological issue. They have (we all have) been grieving and you are right: living in the paradox is oh so hard. Lament, sorrow, suffering grief…those are words I I have had to come to accept as have you. I am so sorry, Kathy. I wish with all my heart it wasn’t so. My heart is so tender towards you. From one mama to another: I love you.

    Reply
  • It seems I’m in a fog most of my days but I’m trying to move forward. I’ve lost my daughter and recently my husband. I am aware I have so much to live for but some days I have issues putting one foot forward. I’m lonely, sad & the silence in my days is unbearable. Some people understand but others tell me to move on. I will get through this at my own pace. Here I sit in quiet and try to understand it all. It’s hard to put on a happy face when you are dying inside, but I do this.
    Every day I awake with my husband on my mind. I play a song ‘ Wish You were Here’ which reminds me of my daughter & husband, always brings a tear to my eyes. Music takes me to another place, a thought thinking place.

    Reply
    • Anne – you’ve stated so well how I feel today. In a fog. Trying to move forward but have issues putting one foot forward. Unbearable loneliness. Unbearable sadness. Extremely unbearable silence. I feel like Smokey Robinson’s song – Tears of a Clown. I try to smile on the outside because people get tired of hearing about or seeing my sadness. In fact, they miss my husband too and I REMIND them that he died just by seeing the sadness on my face so not only have I lost him, I’ve lost friends and family too.
      I’m sorry for your loss. And I’m sorry for mine too. Thank you for posting – it helps me put into words what all this is. Mostly it’s just unbearable. Except for the One who bears all continues to remind me He is here. Today He used you to remind me I’m not alone.
      My story in a nutshell – I met the only person in the whole world who has loved me unconditionally in 2016. He wasn’t perfect but he was perfect for me. He adored me and believed in me. I had never known what it was like to feel safe and I never fully understood God’s love the way I do now, having been loved by him. We were engaged New Years’ Eve 2017. Our wedding was planned for August, 2018. 2 weeks before our wedding he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I watched him slowly die over the next 15 months. He was swallowed up by life on November 26, 2019 and left me here, dying inside. His business partners stole his business. His kids stole everything from our office. I’m drowning in drama and toxicity from so many directions. It’s unbearable sometimes.
      I’ll pray for you. Please pray for me when you think of it.

      Reply
  • All these comments are so good. Music-makes me cry, and it soothes my soul. I’m 28 years from my 18 year old daughter’s ‘graduation to heaven’ but she is always on my mind. The constant everyday tears are gone and gratitude for her life is there – loved this line – “Some things cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.” I didn’t think it at the time, and I didn’t understand it at all, but I do know now that Jesus really is all I need, and He feels my void. Jenny was not mine to keep but she was a gift from the start and I am so thankful for those 18 years. If my brain someday goes to Alzheimer’s, I’m thankful that the memories from earlier life will be there! Today there are so many great grief helps that we’re not there 28 years ago. Thank you for an excellent article!

    Reply
  • Thank you for your openness, and your sharing.. it comforts me. The raw and real of the being “ comfortable being uncomfortable.” That is truth.. Praying that your family will be held in the middle of this stormy horrible beautiful chaotic life that is uniquely yours..

    Reply
  • You have a profound way of sharing your grief. I am thinking of you and your family often.

    Reply

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