It’s been five days since the book launch and I think I have some organized words now. Or at least I have some words now. Grief work is never through, even in the most joyful of celebrations.
ICYMI, I released a book last week – a memoir, I suppose, although the easiest way to describe this has been “a grief book.” It’s the true story of the birth and death of our first son and how his little magnificent life has underscored every step of mine ever since.
I have always believed in LJ’s story, and in the message of hope it brings. And I believe in that message of hope not just because it is a nice story (it is), but because it has brought me through the last ten years of my life. Sometimes that experience has lit a very dark path. Sometimes it has been the dark path itself. But if I could boil what I’ve learned down to just one thing, it’s this: there is abundant life to be lived on the other side of grief.
“I realize now that there really isn’t an “other side.” Rather, real people with real grief simply find a path moving forward and choose to walk it one step at a time. Sometimes you can go quickly, sometimes it’s slow, and sometimes you have to sit down and rest. Sometimes you get completely lost in the weeds. Frustratingly, there’s no GPS for bereavement. Stopping to ask for directions, pausing to find your bearings, or even going in reverse for awhile, are all okay. Quitting isn’t. Your mind, body, and spirit will tell you when it’s time to recalculate and get back en route. As long as you keep going, there’s light along the way.” – Joy Comes in the Mourning
Not surprisingly, I got lost in the weeds many times in the process of putting this book together. I believe when we are making waves for good and for God in the world that the enemy will throw every distraction, every discouragement, and every weapon it can.
Grief work is not easy. It’s why so many people don’t and won’t do it. Because grief can be a cranky, untrained dog. Most of the time it looks okay and minds its manners. But when provoked, it bites. Its jaws are filled with pain, anger, regret, shame, guilt, disappointment, confusion, depression, doubt, and fear. And the better you’re feeling when it lunges at you, the harder it’ll clench its teeth.
I think those repeated wounds are meant to discourage us from ever healing. We’re not much use for the kingdom of God when we’re bleeding. Yet if you can stare your wild grief animal in the eye and over time patiently demand that it obey, you become a confident and capable master over its power.
It’s admittedly hard to teach an old dog new tricks. Grief will bite, when you least expect it, regardless of how much time has passed, or the nature of the grief itself. As I put pen to paper (or really, fingers to keys) to tell LJ’s story, all sorts of grief came up. Not only about losing our son but also about almost losing our marriage and our family too.
When those memories and emotions rise to the top, I have two choices: I can stuff them down as fast as they appeared, or I can confront them, acknowledge what they’re hurting, and decide to breathe through it.
What I don’t have to do is live in those memories and emotions for long. THAT I believe is the fine line between healing and hopelessness.
I believe I have hope because I found it. I believe I can heal because I’ve felt it. I believe I am meant for something wonderful in this life because I am still here. And isn’t that the most humbling invitation to sort through the mess of grief? To emerge from the ashes humbled, stronger, battle-worn, and even more convicted of our purpose?
All this is to say, I live with this stuff every day of my life, rumbling around in my head and heart. It matters to me. So to put it into a book, and see that other people cared about it too, has truly been the most joyfully humbling experience of my life.
Never since LJ have I felt so supported, loved, cared for, and believed in. Five days have passed and I’m still teary writing this note.
The pain of grief and all those other “bites” it brings with it are universal heartaches. Which is why I believe there’s truly something for everyone in this little book, whether it’s simply a chapter on anger or depression, or any quote ranging from infuriation with God to trust in His infinitely mysterious plan. Something different has resonated with each person on our launch team and that’s been an incredible learning experience for me.
So I guess what I’m saying most of all is thank you. For reading, for caring, for being willing to touch all these tender ideas of healing. It’s the only way I know how to come through the fire and it’s never as lonely when we go it together.
If you didn’t get your copy of Joy Comes in the Mourning yet, here’s where to find it:
I’ve packaged every single book myself, and there are still (just a very few) signed copies left. We’ve sent them literally coast to coast, and one even went to Pensacola to someone I don’t know yet. If that’s you, please know that nothing made me smile more than knowing one of these little books is headed to my happiest place on earth! (It’s where this whole crazy blog idea was birthed, too!) Someday we’ll meet in that beautiful white sandy paradise.
It’s bound to be a crazy week, no matter your line of work. We have “grab-and-go” meals ready for literally every single night through Sunday. If your schedule looks similar to ours, take an extra minute today to breathe, pray, focus, and hold on tight to what’s most important. The other stuff clamoring for your attention is just a distraction from loving your people – and yourself- well.
If you're local and would like to pick up your book rather than have us ship it, enter code "PICKUP" at checkout and contact me to pick it up! Just head to www.getjoy.shop to get started.
Jessica is a writer, musician, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. Jessica's mission is to write "real" - shining light into the dark places of the tough stuff we all experience. She and her husband Jack live in Houston, Texas and have weathered the storms of grief, infant loss, adoption, and a marriage that almost fell apart. Jessica and Jack have 4 children, LJ in heaven, Grace, Jackson, and brand new baby Elisha.