My Encounter with Grief

FuneralSeventeen years ago tomorrow (October 20th, 1990), I had my first real encounter with intense grief. Yes, I had seen other people grieve. Yes, I had played the piano and sung at funerals … but nothing this close to home …

It was the day my mother passed away – Joyce Conner. My parents had flown to the USA and my dad had left my mother in the LA airport where she was waiting to catch a flight up to Portland, Oregon to spend time with my sister, Sharon. My dad flew on to Chicago for some meetings. While alone in the LA airport, my mother had a massive heart attack. She was rushed to intensive care. My dad had to come back to LA and Nicole and I flew over to be there too, along with my sister and her family. My mum went into a coma and after 10 days we agreed to switch off the life support. She kept breathing on her own for a few days, while still in a coma, before breathing her last. We didn’t get to have a conversation with her – she had gone.

It all happened so quickly – the phone call from my dad, the sudden trip to the USA, the days spent praying and waiting and hoping that she would wake up from her coma, and then coming back home … without her.

We were in shock for many weeks – it seemed like a bad dream that we were all going to wake up from any moment. It couldn’t be happening. She was just here. Surely, she’s coming back. This can’t be happening. She as only 65 years of age. We weren’t prepared for this. We didn’t have time to say ‘goodbye’.

Over time the stark reality that my mother was gone … and that she wasn’t coming back … began to settle in. We had to let her go. Her time on earth was finished. She had run her race. As much as it hurt, we wouldn’t see her again … in this life.

Eventually, we had to reach out to the future … a future without her here with us. We had lives yet to live. We couldn’t live in the past. The memories lived on, as did her impact. But we had to move forward.

This whole process (shock, accepting reality, letting go, and reaching forward) took many months … even years. Emotions were unpredictable. At times the loss would hit me like a tidal wave and I would cry uncontrollably. At other times, I couldn’t cry, even if I wanted to. Just when you think you’re through the grief … something would trigger a memory and the tears would be there again.

Any time you lose something or someone you love, you experience grief. It’s a normal emotion – it’s the way we respond to ‘loss’ … of any kind. Understand that it takes time to work through the process of healing and grieving. Be patient with yourself. Lean in to your emotions. Feel them deeply. Don’t be ashamed to weep. Pour out your heart to God. Don’t rush the process. In time, you will be able to move forward … to see the light of a new day … maybe even to understand a little of the ‘why’ … and hopefully, to find joy and laughter again.

Mum, thanks for everything … you live on in our hearts and lives … we miss you!

Isaiah 53:3. "He (Jesus) was … a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief." NLT
Psalm 30:5. "… weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning." NIV

13 Replies to “My Encounter with Grief”

  1. Hi Mark,
    Thanks for sharing those thoughts. Happened to me also this year when I my dad passed away in February, most unexpectedly too. One moment in good health and the next his health spiralled and in 3 weeks, he was gone. He had blood clots in his lungs which the doctors never diagnosed till it was too late. And I couldn’t make it back in time to Singapore where he was, to say my good-byes. Strange thing was, we believe he had an angelic encounter before he left us (your earlier post). A real comfort to us to know he’s with the Lord and we’ll meet him again when Jesus returns.
    But, my first real encounter with grief too and still working through it.

  2. That’s a very moving post Mark.
    It’s a timely reminder for me with my parents visiting town for a few days to make the most of every moment with them, even as I venture out into independent life.

  3. Great Mark to share your loss. I think many will identify with your loss as many of us have had to let go of a loved one or more in our journey. I lost my sister in an air crash and also both my parents one day after another. Yet only we who have the hope of eternal life can rejoice in loss for our hope is that we will meet our loved ones again. What a hope we have in the Lord.
    Blessings,
    John

  4. Great Mark to share your loss. I think many will identify with your loss as many of us have had to let go of a loved one or more in our journey. I lost my sister in an air crash and also both my parents one day after another. Yet only we who have the hope of eternal life can rejoice in loss for our hope is that we will meet our loved ones again. What a hope we have in the Lord.
    Blessings,
    John

  5. Wow, that’s intense. Tragic… thanks for sharing. In the last few years I’ve lost several family to various things (disease, suicide, etc.) and to say it’s been hard would be an understatement. I’ve learnt something from the experiences though – I don’t thin I’ll respond to someone’s news of a close family member’s death with “were they a Christian?” It gets pretty hard when that was all I got asked and often the answer was “no.”

  6. Hi Mark,
    I can understand how you felt when your beloved mum passed on. My mum went to be with the Lord late in 2003 and it was such a sad and painful experience for me. On the day of mum’s funeral the sun was shining so brightly and it was a beautiful day. I could recall when I took mum out how mum always mentioned, “Jesus is so good to let the sun shines whenever I go out.”
    Even now, I do miss her very much as mum will always be dearly remembered. However, I can take great comfort in the fact that she is not dead in the spirit and I will see mum again. Yes, we will see our mothers again and what a time of rejoicing that will be. Hallelujah!!! The signs of the time are here for the soon return of Our Beloved Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This may be sooner than we think. I can hardly wait for the Lord to return.
    What a majestic scene that will be! Hallelujah!!!
    Bless you Mark!!!
    Stephen

  7. Mark,
    Thanks for sharing about your mom. In the last 17 years so many new faces have come to Citylife and yet your mom was a huge part of the church before the Lord took her home to Himself. I did not know her closely as you would probably know but I do remember her and that she was very lovely. Those of us that have been around for ages (although I have been away many of those years and returned) still remember her.
    Life is very different without both parents. For me it has given me a completely different outlook not just on death & family but probably more so on children from broken homes. The role of a parent is such a huge part of our lives even when we are grown.
    Thanks Mark for helping us Remeber such a Beautiful Woman your Mother.
    Blessing,
    Rachel

  8. Hi Rachel. Yes, mum was special and impacted so many people. It’s hard when parents aren’t there any more, as you noted. Makes you appreciate them more and feel for those without. All the best!

  9. Hey Mark, even though i never knew your mum she sounds like a wonderful person. You are so blessed Mark to have a mum who cared so much for so many. I have a mum, i know where she lives and she knows where i live, but, because i suffer a chronic illness my mum (and the rest of my biological family) have washed their hands of me. I didn’t choose to get ill, it just happened – 12yrs ago. I may not have my biological family any more, but i have something so much better. My family at City Life (Knox) Lyn

  10. Dear Mark,
    My beautiful extraordinary grandmother passed away couple of weeks ago on the 20th October – like your beloved mother.
    Would please be able to post some information on your blog regarding biblical view on death and what it means ‘to be with the Lord’.
    Thank you so much,
    Angina (your Czech member of CityLife)

  11. Hi Angina. Good to hear from you. So sorry to hear about your grandmother passing away. That must me really tough for you.
    I can recommend a good book to you. It is ‘Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection and the Mission of the Church’ by N.T. Wright, an English pastor and Bible scholar. Nicole just read it and found it really helpful. I’m sure you could get it at either WORD or Koorong bookstores.
    Hope that helps a bit.

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