05 February, 2018

Nameless grief

I'm sitting at Narita Airport typing this. I'm just a little early for checking in and our son hasn't arrived yet, so I thought I'd sit down and process today a little in words. It's been a big day so far, and I won't see a bed for more than 12 more hours! Though I hope I'll be exhausted enough to sleep on the overnight flight.

This morning was really hard. Much harder than I'd anticipated. Watching our younger sons try to say goodbye to their big brother for five months was gut wrenching and tear-inducing. I know this is the right thing for our son, but it is harder to see how it is the right thing for his brothers. I don't want to invade their privacy by telling you about their relationships with one another, suffice to say that our eldest is deeply embedded in both of their hearts.

Missionary families tend to be tight. There are no other people in this world who come close to sharing all the experiences that we've had together. Splitting that up is super difficult.

Then I had my own dramas. I've had a medical issue that saw me at the doctor three times in the last month. Last time he said I didn't need to come back because things were fine, but if things changed, I should go back as soon as possible. Yesterday and this morning I thought I saw a symptom that warranted another visit, so I had to make the difficult decision to change my plans. Today was supposed to go like this:
8.30am Wendy leave to go to our monthly mission prayer and fellowship meeting, which is about halfway to the airport.
2.30pm Wendy to proceed onwards to the airport and meet our son who would make his own way there.
7.30pm we fly out of Japan

But getting in to see the doctor proved challenging and by the time I was done there was almost nothing left of the fellowship time at the meeting. Just a policy planning meeting, that isn't my forte, not to mention that I was already emotionally exhausted and physically not a lot better (sleep's been difficult lately), not in great shape to contribute to such a meeting.

And so I grabbed some lunch at home and headed off straight to the airport. Oh, by the way, the doctor was very reassuring and I've been told not to worry, there is no problem that he can see. Phew!

But back to before 8.30. I had to figure out how to deal with a distraught son. I tried to reassure him that tears were fine and normal. That our grief at this parting was a sign of how much we love his big brother. But of course I was weeping too.

Later, while waiting for to see the doctor I went for a little ride down the river. [There are no appointments, you simply line up and put your name on the list, the earlier you arrive, the earlier you get on the list...I was there 20 minutes before the office opened, but still had to wait two hours and since their waiting room holds barely a dozen, you are told when to come back, so it becomes like an appointment.] 

The small amount of exercise was good, but even better was hopping off my bike at a small weir. There were some gorgeous cranes that I watched for a while and then I realised that the weir held a metaphor for this stage in our lives. The water was calm, you could see the bottom (it's not deep). But then it hit the weir and it became chaotic and white and you couldn't see the bottom. It rushed over the edge and smashed into the water below and some of it hit a big rock. Further down the river the water gradually became calm again, though there were small waves and ripples for quite a distance.

It's a simple metaphor: We've hit a weir in our family. Things are bound to be chaotic and unpleasant for a time. But they will settle down again. 

I told our eldest about this when I got back to the house and his immediate response was to say, "Thank you Holy Spirit for that insight."

Naming the grief
Last week I saw a good article about the importance of recognising grief, even when it doesn't fit into what other people consider as significant or you don't feel able to tell others that you feel sad about it.

There are some griefs that are more easily admitted to, more "socially acceptable". Our grief right now fits into the more acceptable types, though that may not be so for our younger boys who probably don't feel comfortable talking to their peers about it. I hope that they can feel safe to grieve at home.

But much of the grief that missionaries struggle with isn't talked about and it probably just as little understood by those outside of the missionary community. 

I remember struggling to have joy about coming back to Japan last time and finding when I told someone I thought would understand, she didn't. She thought that my call to Japan would enable me to be joyful about going back to Japan. I was feeling the grief of once again letting go of Australia and especially all the new, precious relationships I'd made during my year there. That didn't allow me to feel particularly happy about returning to Japan at the time, though my emotions followed later.

Today's parting brings back many memories of people we've said goodbye to over the years. That probably makes it all a little bit harder for us all to deal with, even though we know it's the right thing and we wouldn't want to hold our son back from moving on to the next stage in his life.

So there are today's ramblings. I will rendezvous with our son soon and we'll go about all the details we need to take care of to get onto the aeroplane. In a sense I'm glad that we're done with the farewells for now (it was getting to feel like a funeral) and we can do some practical stuff then get into some hellos.

1 comment:

R.Y. said...

Feeling so much with you just now, dear Wendy. Grieving yourself and feeling you would like to also carry the grieving of your younger boys so they wouldn´t have to hurt............
My tears are running with yours as I have just come off skype with our oldest son, his wife and our little grandson who´s turning ONE on Wednesday...... VERY, very thankful for the possibility of being able to see each other, and yet not being able to hug this little guy.......
Seeing and hearing they are doing fine but as both are TCKs (the other grand parents don´t have a permanent address either, working in Cambodia after China, where she grew up), hearing of encouragements and struggles and not being able to be more helpful from this distance..............
Just thinking, may be for our next HA modules it would fall under one of those: "Is it worth it all".... Knowing the answer in my head, but my heart just now will need more time again, until I can write that "punch line" yes, "I can see that....."
Praying for you for much grace and also the ability to leave behind those with their grief for the moment and fully be involved and excited with your oldest son and the new adventure he is stepping into. -- praising the LORD for the privilege of being able to letting go of a son like him, whose response to your experience was like you described earlier. Thinking of you all, also David and the rest of the family staying behind.