No Way Out But Through

The day after Thanksgiving, my husband found me in a heap on his parents’ guest room bed. Eyes red-rimmed and swollen and not yet all cried out.

My beautiful, beach-loving, California-girl, sweet, Johnny Cash and ultimate-Dodger-fan Grandma returned HOME, the day before, on Thanksgiving night.

On one hand, there was no place I’d rather be than surrounded by family, the 3 generations, the newness of the ones who had come in on the breath of angels just a few years before.

Yet my grief made everything feel too loud, too much — I was so raw – I felt like I was walking around without skin.

So, I had retreated to the guest room, laid down on the bed and let my feelings move through me.

You see, I’m convinced there is no way out but through. I have tried to shortcut grief in the past – to go around it – but I now know that there is no tying grief up in a neat package, setting it on a shelf and coming back to open it later at a more convenient time.

I now know: “When it comes let it come, when it goes, let it go….”

Because, if you don’t do emotion…emotion does you. And, unacknowledged and unexpressed grief can leak out in strange ways, none of which are healthy for anyone involved.

So, on that day, and days since, I have felt it all…the earthly loss of one of the people who loved me unconditionally, who knew me longest, my father’s mama. My proud and adoring grandmother. The woman for whom words of love and pride rolled effortlessly off her tongue. The woman who never met a baby she didn’t love, who had an abiding faith, who survived the loss of her son before his time and who delighted in the simple beauties and joys of this world. She knew the little things were really the big things.

When it was time for me to call it a night, my eyes puffy and throat lumpy – it felt important not to slip out the back door, but to say goodbye to my husband’s family – my family – one by one, and not to hide my pain. Whom would that serve?  So, I did. I said goodbye to each one, individually. And, I was struck by the sweetness that came back to me. My oldest-college-stud nephew patted my arm and offered sweet condolences. My 11-year-old niece hugged me tight and didn’t let go. My sister and brother-in-laws gave me warm, knowing hugs, acknowledging the blessings that lie in my sensitivity. My mother-in-law who offered her assistance and my father-in-law, in his quiet way, embraced me.

When we got home? The new ones? My babes? They wrapped their arms around me and gifted me their favorite paper airplanes. They offered me their most precious currency at this juncture of their lives – something they had built with their own sweet hands. “An orange and yellow one, mama, because it will make you think of the sun in California. Because you love California.”

And, my wise husband, who put me to bed that night, and got up early with the kids and kept them engaged and quiet to let me sleep until my body woke up, which it did, nearly 12 hours later.

Oh, how Glennon Doyle got it right when she called this life “brutiful.” My Grandma’s passing, on Thanksgiving, and the expressions of grief and love that have followed are, indeed, equal parts brutal and beautiful, and somehow fitting, as, for the rest of our lives, we’ll give thanks for hers.

16 thoughts on “No Way Out But Through”

  1. Beautiful- as I have tears running down my face I feel so very blessed to have had such a treasure in my life. My beautiful mother sure knew how to show her love for us.

  2. Love this and love you Jessica. You are such a shining light in this community and I’m grateful for you. I had my grandmother pass a few days before thanksgiving last year and it’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with. The grief comes often and I let it. When it comes in times that I can’t let it move, I make sure and ask it to move with me later. Thank you for this beautiful piece.

  3. This is beautiful Jessica. Eloquent, real and true. Even on such a “raw” subject, your words make my heart sing. What a special relationship the two of you shared. I had a similar relationship with my Grandma Billie and still, when something funny or special happens, I think how she would have enjoyed it and her infectious laugh. Just remembering her laugh can make me smile still and she has been gone for 28 years. She too passed less than a week after Thanksgiving.

    I know you have a family and young children, but if you ever have a desire to come visit me at the beach, please know that my door is always open to you.

    Continuing to hold you and your family in my heart. Corrine

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Corrine. I think letting what comes come and what goes go is also true for the joyful parts! We can feel levity and sweetness on this journey as well! I think the key is to make space for ALL that may come up and know that it can change day to day and transform over time.

  4. Oh, Jessica. So sorry to hear about your passing! It seems kind of cruel that our paths cross with our grandparents for so short of a time, doesn’t it? What I wouldn’t give to go back in time and sit on their porches and chat as friends when we wouldn’t be so separated by decades! I’m sending wishes for peace and comfort, especially during the holidays, your way….

  5. Thank you for sharing Jessica. Tears also filled my eyes after reading your article. I was really inspired by your display of love and courage to be present, in how you described your experience. I suppose I can recall times when “ slipping through the backdoor…” was so much easier and not having to share your emotions seemed easier. But, in reading your lovely words on the loss of your Grandma, made me think that you chose LOVE to share your emotions and to be PRESENT for your family. I am sure this is what your Grandma would have wanted. Thank you for your gift.

  6. Jessica, I love reading your thoughts- so eloquently stated! You are a great writer. Made me cry. I am sorry to hear about your grandmother, but love knowing what great family you are surrounded with. Take care, and you can be sure that I am following your posts ( :

  7. This was a beautiful tribute and also very helpful for those of us who grieve. You are so right to let it come, embrace you, take over your thoughts and go THROUGH IT. You are a wise young women and I love you dearly.

  8. Your gift with words moved me to tears. I’m so very sorry for your loss, but admire the courage and honesty in which you approach your grief.

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