Grief Is Sneaky

I started this morning like many others. Good morning, Lord. What are we doing today? I thought I was being led to a study on the current topic God has been teaching me about – The Courts of Heaven. I began writing in my journal, starting at the beginning when God first made me aware of the Kingdom of Heaven. It was about 5 years ago and Martin and I were perusing the clearance section at Mardel, a Christian bookstore. We both loved to read, especially about things pertaining to Christian living and I quickly realized it was gonna be too much to write. So, I switched over to my computer.  As it booted up to initiate the Word app, my eyes glimpsed across the Photos folder. There was a picture of a family outing, my close family…and my hubby was there. We were bowling and having a good time. Suddenly, I burst into tears and boo-hooed for a while.

It has been 2.5 years since Martin transitioned. Our marriage was not perfect. As a matter of fact, we had had one of our many arguments the night before his death. And it was a bad one. We retreated to our separate corners, him to his office and me to my craft room. I emerged after spending some time with Abba and poked my head in Martin’s office. He was on the phone. You wanna go for breakfast at Texas Spice tomorrow? This was my olive branch. He raised his head and gave me a look that said Yes, I agree that we need to talk and I’m ready, too. There was still love between us even though the argument had turned if from clear glass to stained. We could still see each other through it.

While sitting at my computer crying, I began to wonder why. Why was I crying now when I had been moving forward in my new life as a widow? Why the tears when I had been blooming through this darkness as God told me I would? I gazed at the picture again and thought back to being part of a team. A team with its issues but a team, nonetheless. I thought about family gatherings that would be taking place right now, today, if Martin were still here. Today is Father’s Day and we would probably be preparing for dinner with the family to celebrate him and my brother-in-law. Today is Father’s Day. There it was. A trigger that snuck up on me.

Emotional muscle memory is what it is called. It is part of the biochemistry of the brain. The autonomic nervous system is the part of the nervous system that is just beneath our conscious control. Although I am in a place of growth past grief, my brain remembered and emitted a strong emotional response – without my consent. I am a little bit of a nerd when it comes to psychology, so I remembered learning about this in Psych 101. Not long after Martin passed away, I had random and automatic bouts of tears and sadness, and that was to be expected. And while I know there is no time limit on grief, everyone moving at their own pace, I wonder if I am sentenced to be held prisoner to this response for life? I would have to dig a bit more into that but in the meantime, I my way of navigating through it.

A few weeks after Martin’s funeral, I was at my sister’s house for a movie night.  In this movie there was a man dealing with the murder of his daughter. He was so caught up in finding the killer that he did not take time to mourn. Eventually the emotions stored in the brain caught up with this guy and he broke down. His friend who had also lost a child physically restrained him in a strong and caring embrace and encouraged him to “sit in the grief”. The stuck with me. Sit in the grief. Then, I felt Holy Spirit co-sign this. Sit in it. Acknowledge it. Feel it. BUT don’t become overwhelmed by it. So that’s what I did today and will continue to do whenever the emotional muscle memory triggers an unsolicited emotional response.

Yeah, grief can sneak up on you and that’s ok. Doesn’t matter how long or how short the time frame. Your brain can trigger you without your permission. But you do not have to let it overwhelm you.