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Grieving our Losses 4- Grieving the Past

Grieving Our Losses
Day 4- Grieving the Past
Ruth P. McDonald

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, ESV)
“Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22, ESV)


The other day, I was thumbing through a stack of old pictures and felt an odd sense of loss, a feeling that I couldn’t put my finger on. Looking back, I could sense it was a feeling linked to grief. It was not an aching hole kind but an “I wish I could spend a few days in that era again” kind of grief—an era when school pick-up lines, back-to-school shopping, high school swimming, sleepovers and family vacations for four were my reality; an era when Barney sang “I love you,” nap time meant wake-up snuggles, and childhood chatter bounced off the walls of our home.

I loved those years—full years of raising our kids, laughing at their silliness, and even feeling exasperated with their rule breaking. I really did cherish those days when I lived them, because everyone reminded me how quickly they would pass—and they have. The truth is that they passed before I felt ready.

Now my home is mostly quiet. Except for the often ridiculous barking from my doggy duo, the days are spent in a hushed calmness. No more rushing from school to practice. No more last-minute school projects that require a day-before trip to the store for posterboard or markers. No more lunchboxes to pack or teacher workdays to celebrate. And I miss it; I really do. The more I think on it, the more I believe many of us experience grief as we move on from that stage of life.

For mothers especially, much of our purpose in life and our day-to-day activity centers around our children. Then, as they mature and grow up, we feel less needed and a little unsure of our purpose in the present. For 20-something years, we’ve poured ourselves into mothering these wonderful humans, but now that they’re adults, what do we do? Honestly, it can make a mother feel a little lost during the adjustment stage.

My new reality is that some pretty awesome adult children need me far less. But while I miss the days when my kids needed me more, I am processing that it’s going to be okay—that this new phase of life is also exciting and rewarding. It’s okay to miss the past, but if we spend too much time mourning what used to be, we’ll miss the beauty of what is.

My last one is an adult, but she’s still under my roof. My heart will break, just as it did with my son, when that room is all packed up, and for the last time she walks out the door of our house as her home. Writing it is hard enough, but living it brings such a feeling of loneliness. For parents who have seen every child move out and move on, you know the ache. Yet that ache is natural. It doesn’t mean we aren’t excited for them or feel joy as they embark on the next phase of their lives; after all, we raised them for this moment.

The comfort we have in any stage of life is that Jesus walks with us through every closed door and into the next. He’s our constant Companion and Friend. When life seems eerily quiet and we look back at the fullness there once was in our home, it brings an enormous sense of gratefulness for the blessings we’ve enjoyed from His gracious hand. Our life has purpose no matter what stage we are in. As I look toward the future, I can do so with hope and even with joy, knowing He has good plans for me.

Whatever stage of life you’re in will have its own set of challenges and joys. We may look back with a sense of sadness for the days that felt so warm and full, but not loss. No, what we’ve come through shaped and molded us (and those we raised) into who we are today. As long as we have breath, God still wants to use us. It may look differently than it once did, but it’s no less impactful when we are willing to do the work He has for us—maybe as a grandparent, maybe in a new career, maybe doing mission work, or taking on a prayer list for so many we know and care about. Being engaged in the present and following where He leads will open up new doors for us. Remember the past; appreciate the blessings of what used to be. But may God be pleased when He sees us with hearts that continue to desire Him and His path for us.


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