Processing Grief in An Antique Garden

This hay rake stands in the middle of a garden containing other antique farm equipment. Its polished surface contains no rust or dirt. For farmers in the area, it carries fond memories. For me, it stirs up a special memory of joy mixed with a tinge of sorrow.

While we were together for a week, celebrating our 70th birthday, my sister and I visited this place. Having grown up on a farm, the machinery interested us. We skipped along the path, looking at the displays, sharing memories, and bringing one another up-to-date. My brother, who was with us, put his head through one of the old cow stanchions. We all giggled and I took a picture.

Near the end of our walk, something else caught my attention. I noticed my sister was not keeping up with me. This was unusual, as she had always walked faster than me. It seemed hard for her to stand up straight. And her hand had a slight tremble. A little alarm went off in my head. What did these things mean?

I tried to push these changes out of my mind, but I felt some anxiety. Later, I found out these were signs of Parkinson’s disease. For my sister and me, this began a long journey of loss and grief. For her, it ended two weeks ago.

It has not ended for me. Last week, I shared part of this story and my poem of releasing her into the arms of Jesus. I felt the pain of separation. I cried. Her suffering was over. I felt relief and joy. I said to myself, “How well you are doing!”

That was the first week. This second week has been much harder. I’m sharing my story because, for many years, I lacked knowledge about how to grieve in a way that brings deep healing. I’m learning new things. Maybe some of you can relate to this. If so, I hope you will walk along with me in my journey of learning to process grief in a healthy way.

In my growing up years, I learned some helpful lessons about grief and some unhelpful ones. Some emotions were acceptable. Some were not. What did I do with them?

My first poem describes where I was in past journeys of grief. My second poem reflects where I am in this journey.


After the funeral the people go home
Does that mean their grieving is done?
 
For some it seems so, I don’t hear them say
Anything more than “she went away”!
 
They talk of memories that brought them gladness?
What do they do with all of their sadness?
 
They might bury their anger and bottle their tears
Does that mean those feelings disappear?
 
They go back to their jobs and act like it’s over
Don’t lose their temper, have perfect composure
 
Their friends tell them how well they are doing.
Is this really true? Who are they fooling?
 
Are they trying to be “holy”? Trying to look good?
By acting in the ways they were told they should
 
June 23, 2020
Jane Ault

Embrace grief. Do it wisely
Do it gently. Do it kindly
 
When feeling sad, put on red
Celebrate what you had
 
Cling to memories that made you glad
Let go of those that made you sad
 
This may take some time and work
Don’t cover up what occurred
 
Trust the friends you know can help you
Invite them to join you in your venue—
 
Your site of comfort and of safety
Take your time. Don’t be hasty
 
Don’t dump on them your pain or anger
Let Jesus always be your anchor
 
June 25, 2020
Jane Ault

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