On July 9th, 2013, my older sister died from her long-term battle with Multiple Sclerosis. A week after her death, I sat in my car in a dark, shopping plaza. I listened to music and cried. I despised being at home, as it was the place where my parents and I found her dead body. Home also served as the place where my parents, and I watched my sister transition from a beautiful, young woman with red lipstick to a wilted person in a hospital bed.
In the plaza, I glanced at the Gap Outlet filled with clothes. The red bullseye, a trademark of Target, was in the right corner of the plaza. I struggled with the decision to leave and visit my cousins, to go home, or to drive aimlessly.
If I visited my cousins, would my grief be understood? Internally, I had rejected my family’s attempts to comfort me. I heard statements about my sister being in Heaven now. While I knew that she was finally living in peace, I needed her to be alive. I missed the sister that I had before the disease rampaged our family.
And if I went home, my grief would become stifled. My mom, dad, and I contended with our pain differently. My mom allowed her tears to pour out while I never witnessed my dad’s tears. When I cried, I forced the sounds from my body to be quiet. I was embarrassed to have my parents hear my mourning.
When a close loved one dies, it as though someone took your heart out of your chest and stomped on it. I discovered that I couldn’t force my tears to become silent through such emotional distress.
Lastly, if I decided to drive around, where would I go? Would I drive around the city or would I drive past its confines? Would I become a pilgrim and launch my own adventure? Maybe, I could find somewhere else to live and be someone else. Be a woman without grief. But I knew that if I left my home city, the grief would accompany me.
Hence, I turned my car on and drove home.
As much I did not want to be at home, I needed to go on the grief journey. I had to invite God into my questions and confusion. I had to trust that He could carry me through the achiness.
On my grief journey, I both welcomed the pain and pleaded for it to dissipate. With grief, the natural process of crying and dealing with sticky feelings must occur. The process can’t be neglected, because the grief will explode during inconvenient moments. A gentle conversation between friends about a simple topic can turn into an ugly argument if one of the individuals has unresolved grief.
During my journey, my words were scattered during prayer time. I wondered why my sister had to suffer for so many years. My family and I believed in miracles and the power of prayer. My hope was that sister would be healed from the disease. That she would become a model, a fashion designer, or even a mom. I know that she would have been wonderful mom based on her kind nature.
But she died, and it brought up those questions that folks have asked for multiple years. Why do good people suffer? And why are some prayers left unanswered?
Through my questions, I learned that God gave my sister a miracle. He provided my family with one too. He allowed us to know this incredible woman. He gave her the gift of salvation and eventually brought her to Heaven. And He showed me that it was okay to grieve, and that it made me a real woman with real emotions.
I prayed to the One who knew pain, because He experienced it on the Cross! He died but rose again. He began His life again so everyone could receive eternal life.
In my grief journey, I slowly re-learned the essence of my relationship with Him. I didn’t have to be ashamed of my faltering faith or hide my sadness. I found out that He valued my authenticity, and my resolve to stick with Him through my pain.
Monica “afrotasticlady” Vance is a graduate student, writer, blogger, and naturalista. She blogs about faith and life at afrotasticlady.com. When she’s not being frugal, you may even see her drinking a specialty coffee from Starbucks. She also embraces community, so feel free to chat with her on the following social media outlets: