Act 4 in the grieving process, according Mourning Into Dancing (see Booklist page on the Menu), is acceptance, slowly realizing we are still living and there is a tomorrow. A scar remains on the heart from the pain of deep loss, and this heart will never be the same. Act 4 is the time when the griever has nowhere else to go. Despair and hopelessness leave us with no hope. There is little we can do at this point without God.
For me, this was the hardest part of grief. This stage didn’t come all at once as in a lightening bolt of change. It was a process, the process of grief purging me of my pride. The problem was never an absence of God but in my inability to see or hear because I was consumed with “ME”.
Look at Wangerin’s explanation:
The goodness of grief is that it dramatically sheers the self away. By degrees it reduces the arrogance. It silences the clamor. It strips the false image of autonomous strength to one bare bone of truth. Behold the human, how small she is and how needy! She is now ready to see the Truth. (Mourning Into Dancing, page 250)
Looking back at myself I can see that this definitely happened to me, but at the time reading about this stage just gave me knowledge of the process. It didn’t mean my heart arrived at the same place that my mind understood. Remember Wangerin’s other words? “When the heart is ready, the mind will let understanding come down.”
from my prayer and meditation journal
July 6, 2002
I continue to wonder if Jennifer had completed her job on earth. Certainly she had reached a pinnacle, but her potential to do more makes me question whether God’s hand was in her death. “Good people are taken away, and we don’t understand.” Amen, Amen. “but she finds rest in death.” (Isaiah 57:1,2)
God, is Your vision for me this path of grieving? I do’t think so, but I know You expect me to use it to Your glory. Guide my feet, Lord.
July 8, 2002
These times of intimate fellowship are filling my spiritual bank account. When I need them during moments of crisis, I can withdraw what I need.
God, You are faithful and holy. You have blessed me with love and support through these difficult days. I praise You for Your abundance.
July 24, 2002
Father, I ask You to guide my thoughts and memories to this promise: “What I see will only last a short time, but what I cannot see will last forever.” Remind me that Jennifer’s time here was a blessing to so many and that her story continues to be spread around the world. She has found rest in death even though I do not understand it.
I copied a Scripture from Paul a few days later, and it gave me much comfort: “God will strengthen you with his own great power so that you will not give up when troubles come, but you will be patient. And you will joyfully give thanks to the Father who has made you.’ Colossians 1:11
August has ALWAYS been a busy time for me as I prepared mentally to return to school. Bulletin boards were ready to put up, and new units of instruction were ready to implement. Some years were more exciting than others, perhaps in-service sessions in which I would be presenting or changes in administration brought a little anxiety of the unknown. But in 2002 everything had changed for me.
August 6, 2002
Lord, as I begin the school year officially tomorrow I have lost some of my zeal and energy. I will need Your hand Father to hold me up as I become tired or sad.
I have promised myself to change some things in my classroom:
- to give my moments to You
- to pray for my students
- to remember my mission statement of a Spirit-Filled Center
- to do less and accomplish more — slow down in the classroom
Give me the power and strength physically, emotionally and cognitively to do these things.
August 10, 2002
Reading in My Utmost for His Highest Chambers says, “Jesus never measured his life by how or where He was of the greatest use. God places His saints where they will bring the most glory to Him and we are totally incapable of judging where that may be.” We surely don’t know where we can bring God the most glory. I think of the places Jennifer served God in her short life and know some of the most unlikely places were where she gave Him glory. Her decision to give up her track scholarship at Tennessee Tech to serve as youth intern brought glory to God even after her death.
A busy week of working at school every day before the students come. Wednesday night again brought tears during the songs at church. Other nights were tearful and sad. Last night I was just flat – sad, sad. I just miss talking to her and hearing about her adventures and plans. Even though this is my busiest time of year she was at home, making her preparations to return to school.
Last Sunday I was so sad and weepy. It’s like a big cloud shows up Friday evening. As I left school yesterday I could feel it coming. It didn’t linger because we had plans for our anniversary celebration.
Talked to my classes Wednesday about making a difference and talked about Jennifer briefly and how many people her life impacted.
I decided on Wednesday to tell my classes a plan in case I felt overwhelmed with grief and could not continue teaching. I got emotional 4th period but went on with my explanation. I told them that if I was unable to teach in the middle of a class, I would put an assignment on the board and expect them to work on it independently..
As the weeks in September became busy with lesson plans and grading papers as well as beginning a new class in my doctoral program at Trevecca, my time for meditation, reflection, and prayer disappeared. Journal entries became scarce except for one on September 11. This was 2002, the first anniversary of 9/11 and was fresh on everyone’s mind. In my teammate’s history class Brittany made a comment about courage. She said, “We don’t know those other people in New York, but Mrs. Souder’s right here. That’s courage – what’s she’s going through.”
I’ve tried to show through these journals that I could swing back and forth between faith and despair, from one day to the next. I was feeling my way into this new life of sorrow while trying to carry on with the demands of hormone-driven 8th graders. I wrote the following poem sometime in that first year after Jennifer’s death. Since Langston Hughes’ poetry is a favorite of mine, I patterned this poem after his “What happens to a dream deferred?”
by Martell Souder
What happens to a grief deferred?
Does it bubble up inside
when memories wash over me?
Or does it feel like a hard scab
to be forgotten
until the wound is exposed
and screams with pain?
When does the pain ease?
Will spring always bring
fresh memories of
the days we buried her?
Is it easier to defer this grief,
Or does it make it worse?
Some days I feel
held together with
fine cotton thread
that could break
Counting the joy of Jennifer’s influence on young girls to live their best life for Christ.