Wednesday, May 27, 2015

a few thoughts on grief

I wrote this back in January and am going to post it as I wrote it then.  Since then, I feel like I have things to add, plus it needs to be edited, but I don't have the energy for that right now, so you get it as is.  If any of you have insights from your life, I'd love to hear about them.

January 16, 2015
I was able to spend the evening with Alisa last night. She called me and asked if I would come and help her plan her funeral. I was honored and heartbroken and anxious to help, all these things. You can imagine the thoughts running through my mind.
We laughed and cried that night.  I look like I've got a decade of trouble on my mind and she is as gorgeous as ever, even as we talked about life going on after her death.  

But this morning I want to write about our conversation about grief. She is so worried about the pain that her death would cause to her family, her boys and Josh especially, but for everyone. We talked about grief a little and she asked me to write some things for her boys to know and for others to know as they help her boys. She wants me to write some of the things I've learned about grief, too. I figured I should do it now before I am too sad to do it.

Grief is a hard thing and it is very real. People talk about your heart breaking, and I think it is because there is a real physical pain that can only be described that way. Alisa wanted her boys to know that is is okay to be sad and that they should be sad. She doesn't want people to try and make it better for them with trite sayings like, "it will be okay" or "it is for the best." Because for a while it really won't be okay and even if in the end, this is a part of the plan, right now they will feel like having her here is the very best. I found it most helpful when people acknowledged my pain and simply said they were sorry.

It was really helpful for me to read about grief and to understand it better. There are so many resources, one I like is on a cancer website. I was going to write lots of that, but it has already been written so you can read it there.

One explanation of grief really helped me for some reason--it explained how our nervous system is truly healing from a loss of someone that was a real part of our emotional and physical world. Every time we think about that person, or are in a situation where our soul expects that person to be there, it is like rubbing an open wound, or walking on a broken leg. It hurts. But each time it happens, it might hurt a little less and eventually we can heal. There will always be a scar, but it won't always hurt as acutely as it does at first.

When I lost my baby, I experienced grief like I never had before. It was a difficult time, and honestly still is in some ways. On the other hand, in the days and weeks following his death, I was upheld by the spirit. Christ promises that He will not leave us comfortless and that "blessed are those that mourn: for they shall be comforted." I will tell you that this is so true, I felt very strongly that I was being held up and carried on. And I even felt like that although I had a very painful sadness, that my life was in God's hands and that Daniel was in God's hands and that everything really would be okay someday.  

Alisa told me about a blog post that kind of helped her. She couldn't remember who wrote it, but it has stuck with her. It was written by the surviving wife of a fellow cancer patient who suffered terribly at the end of his life. Someone told this to his kids. "What if I told you that your dad could be totally taken care of, with no pain, no troubles, no sorrow? Where they can rest and have peace. The only catch is that you won't be able to see them again in this life." Alisa has been in so much pain this last week that I think she sees it as a nobrainer that the kids would want their dad to have no pain. But I don't know that it is so simple. It is really hard to let go.

The other thing about this story is that really, the kids, the dad, Alisa, us....none of us really has the power to keep someone alive when it is their time to go. That is one of the hardest things about death for me. It truly is in God's hands. So even if her kids would rather have a suffering mom here than a painless mom in heaven, they really don't get to pick. Hopefully, we will be able to find some comfort that she is in a place devoid of suffering. I have to think that means that she won't be sad to be separated from her kids--that she will have a better understanding of God's plan and that time will be short until she is reunited with her kids.

Something we talked about was that love has no boundaries. She was giving what she called some "mini sermons." No matter where Alisa is, she will love her kids more than anyone can except for maybe Josh and certainly Heavenly Father. Her love will be here even when she is not. They will love her and she will love them right back. I honestly believe that her spirit will be nearby and be the very best of guardian angels for her boys.

If we lose Alisa, it will be very hard for all of us. Grief is physically exhausting and very difficult. It will take time, but there are things you can do to help heal. Spending time remembering her, writing down memories and feelings, crying, reading the scriptures, visiting her grave, drawing pictures, playing or listening to music, praying. All of those things will help. At first that is all you will want to do, but eventually, you will find that life goes on and you have to do other things too. And it will be hard to do things like homework and chores. Sometimes going to school or work will be a good way to go on with life and forget a little about the pain. Sometimes it may feel to painful to go and forget.

I want to tell her boys this: You will never forget your mom. You will always love her. Even as time goes on and you feel happy again, you won't forget her. She will want you to be happy, so don't hesitate to grab every ounce of happiness given you. That is how she lives her life.


  1. Sonja,
    Thank you for that. I so appreciate your insight into greif and suffering. My heart breaks for the months and years ahead for you and Alisa's family. I wish that things didn't have to be the way they are, but there truly is peace and comfort in recognizing that we are all in Heavenly Father's hands even when we don't understand or agree with the plan He has for us. Hug those boys for her.
    Love you,
    Jen Heiner

  2. That was beautiful, Sonja, and helpful too. It is incredibly hard to lose a loved one to death. One thing that helps me feel some comfort is watching other people who have lost loved ones (someone like you or my best friend's family) and have the opportunity to watch and to see that they truly are continuing forward and are experiencing joy and happiness in their lives. It takes time, but it does get easier. I've watched in real-time how the Lord works his comforting and lifting magic in those people's lives who have experienced the trauma of losing someone close and vital. Our prayers will continue everyday for Josh, the boys and the rest of the family as you work through this loss and learn to live a new life without Alisa. I'm just so grateful that I know her and I know we will all feel her love as we finish out our time here, then we will be with her again. Thanks for posting this.

  3. Thanks for sharing Sonja. This is good.

  4. Dear Sonja,
    Thank you for such a beautiful post! You don’t know me, but I was your father’s secretary for five years, and have been following yours and Alisa’s blogs since 2011. I have been so touched by your faith as you’ve gone through so many difficult challenges. Your example has impacted my life as you have faced Steven’s cancer, the death of your sweet Daniel, and now the death of your best friend and sister Alisa. I have three sisters that I love dearly, and can’t imagine losing one of them. My heart aches for you! I have been so touched by your courage and your willingness to press forward in faith despite all you have suffered. My sister and I still talk about your story about the ballerina music box, and have taken comfort from it in our own trials. Please know that you have been an influence for good on many people! I am praying for you!