I think back to the summer of 2011, when our oldest son died suddenly in August. From that moment on, my life forever changed. All the plans I had made were now in the background as I searched for normalcy.
Even daily routines were put on hold, as I grappled with just doing the next thing in my broken life. And that included a Master Gardening class I had previously enrolled in, paid for, and was scheduled to begin that fall.
I told my husband that there was no way I would do this class. In those first stages of grief and shock, I found it difficult to think clearly, much less to commit myself to something like this.
Yet he said to me that he thought I should do this, that it might help me somehow.
How on earth could this be feasible? I would be driving fifty miles once a week to be with strangers, in an intense time of study and exams. How could I, when my mind was occupied with the trauma we had just experienced?
Yet with much uncertainty, I finally agreed to go. But I also determined that I would not tell anyone in the class about our son’s passing. I would be incognito. I would not reveal my hurting heart.
This was how it had to be. The reason? Because if once I opened up this door, I didn’t know if I could control my emotions when the sympathy it would evoke began. I wasn’t ready for this.
And so it was. Friends I made in class never knew about my son. Alone in my car, I would cry, lament, pray, or at times even scream as I drove down the highway. This became my grief time, and it was a step in the healing process.
I began to look forward to this freedom to express to God, and to myself, things that were hard and painful. I began to gain some clarity in my new way of life without our son.
It was a strange time as well. The person I was in class showed no sign of the grief. My mind was forced to concentrate on gardening, on facts and knowledge, not feelings.
I am grateful for being gently shoved into going ahead with the decision to do what I felt at the time was impossible.
Doing something hard helped me to push back my grief, take a deep breath and move forward. Over time, there have been many other hard and rocky places in this world of deep loss. I have learned better ways to handle grief and, surprisingly enough, find joy along the way.