Diane wrote on Monday that grief is something you live with, not something you get through. After suffering through her mother’s murder, this is a truth that Diane’s friend, Melissa Tamplin Harrison, knows well. Today, we’re featuring a beautiful, honest interview with Melissa on the subject of how she learned to live with grief.
4word: If you had to describe the grieving process in one word, what would it be and why?
Melissa: Excruciating. When I hear that someone is grieving or dealing with a loss my heart just sinks. Breaking off and separating ourselves from something or someone that we love can be absolutely gut-wrenching. Whether it’s a parent, spouse, child, or friend – even a job, dream, or home – separating our heart from the things we love the most, in my opinion, is the deepest pain we will experience on earth. And, although we may learn to manage and live with it, it never completely goes away.
4word: Is there something about a loss being sudden makes the grieving process harder?
Melissa: You know, I’m often asked this question, and it’s such a tough one to answer. I think any type of loss is hard – whether it’s sudden or anticipated. There is something particularly difficult about unexpected loss, though.
You are completely caught off guard as your life changes in an instant. You wake up that morning beginning your day as normal and have no idea that when you go to sleep that night you will be living a complete nightmare.
When I reflect back on the day my mom died – it started out so ordinary, so mundane, so typical but ended completely surreal. Sudden loss also often delays the healing process because there is so much shock to deal with initially. The complete process of healing can take months and often years to go through.
4word: In the weeks following your mother’s death, how was your relationship with God affected? Were you angry with Him? Doubted his goodness?
Melissa: For the first few weeks I was on “spiritual autopilot” – I went through the motions of my faith but felt completely numb inside. Three months later I was getting dressed for a morning Bible study and asked God – How could He allow something like this to happen? Especially to my mom?
I describe that morning as the time I “broke up” with God. I couldn’t see Him as loving and didn’t feel I could trust Him with the rest of my life – and I told Him so!
Looking back now I can’t believe I prayed that way. Even though I raised my voice and cussed at Him – God never stopped pursuing me in the months that followed. I eventually turned back to Him.
Looking back now, that’s the moment my faith actually got real. I learned that God can handle our questions and anger. He truly will never leave us or forsake us and desires for us to be real and honest with Him when we are dealing with our grief.
4word: Were things you did/thought while grieving that, looking back, you can identify as unhealthy? Do you think there even is an unhealthy way to grieve?
Melissa: I didn’t realize the grieving takes time. I took care of all of the ‘business’ surrounding my mom’s death – the funeral, the estate, the sale of her home – and thought that was it. I was anxious to put my life back together and get “over” my pain – not realizing that, in order to truly heal in a healthy way, I needed to work “through” it.
A year later a counselor I met said I needed to do “grief work”. I didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded dreadful! She went on to explain how many people come to her office facing a number of issues – addiction, sexual abuse, relationship troubles, etc – and 9 times out of 10 it’s because they have some unresolved grief in their lives.
“Deal with grief or it will deal with you,” she told me. And so I began the lengthy and important process of dealing with my mom’s murder on an emotional and spiritual level. That’s when my true healing began!
4word: As your friends and family came alongside you in the wake of losing your mother, what was the most beneficial in helping you to heal?
Melissa: Friends and family members would send cards and letters, many of them quoting scripture to help comfort me. They would say things like “All things happen for a reason” or “God wouldn’t give you more than you could handle” or “She’s in a better place now.”
Even though they had good intentions, none of it eased my pain. If anything, it confused me spiritually because I felt like it wasn’t okay for me to be sad or angry.
The friends who really helped me were the ones who weren’t afraid to sit with me in my darkest hours. They didn’t judge me or try to convince me that I shouldn’t feel the way I did – they just loved me through it. Some of my deepest friendships were forged during that period of my life. Now those friends are with me today during happier times of my life and deep down I know, no matter what happens, we will face it together.