Grieving in the Land of the Living

By: Barbara Florvil

          It has been 11 months and 9 days since I woke up to my silent phone ringing. At around 2 am, my spirit knew there was an emergency.  I heard my brother’s voice on the other line. A voice that was usually strong and sure was breaking gently as he tried to explain the sequence of events that led to him telling me the worst news of my life.

          Grieving is your heart using the present tense when your mind is telling you to use the past. It is almost neurotic. My mom is…or was? “Was” becomes a word that betrays your heart and its desire to hold on. It is a word that pushes the agenda of “moving on” before “moving on” is an option because in your spirit and your heart, she is… As my family and I approach this anniversary of the worst day of our lives, I am compelled to think about what I have learned about recovering from this day and all that it means for the rest of my life.

          I have found that grief can deteriorate all filters. There is a lack of precaution that you take in your state of affairs because the worst has already happened. It all sounds quite dismal, however, there is a sort of transcendence that comes with losing someone that close.  Grieving while living is existing outside the “bubble of denial”. A friend once told me the “bubble of denial” is an imaginary space shrouded by the belief that nothing bad can truly ever happen to you. The denial is the unconscious belief that car accidents are unlikely; that bullets don’t stray; that all sickness is preventable and that life’s storms always give fair enough warning. The bubble is gone and somehow you are now liberated from the ignorant bliss that life is always the result of what you do or don’t do.  You realize just how delicate everything is and how nothing is guaranteed.

          It rains on the just and unjust, and as the rain falls, you hopefully realize that you can either be upset that it is raining or glad that rain dries. More than ever, in this season, I have experienced utter gratitude when things go right, or at least not cataclysmic; when the mountains are not falling into the heart of the sea; when the earth is not giving way. There is nothing like gratitude when you are grieving because while the worst has happened or could happen in another way, you get to choose gratefulness. Gratitude is not a feeling. It is a practice - a discipline of disciplines - because if you live in the “Bubble of Denial” or if you are involuntarily living outside of it, a heart of gratitude can make everything a little better. 

        Training myself to be grateful has been a healing practice in this season of my life. I exercise this training when I hug my dad in the morning - I am grateful to be able to do this. I am training myself to be grateful for the vivid memories of how my mother taught me to cook her way. I am grateful to love on her plants the way that she loved them. Much like Alice Walker, I am in search of my mother’s garden. In search of hers, I am finding my own with a spirit of gratitude grateful for every seed she has sown and for every flower I can now enjoy. Because of my mother's garden, I can have my own…

          It is beyond difficult to imagine a future without someone who you always assumed would be there. As many times as my mother has fought off illness, I still was sure she would live to see 125. That’s what I told her, and with no respect to science or real life, I believed it. At 125, she had permission to cross that river Jordan only because by then, surely I would know how to let her go to be with God. How bold, naive, and unlikely...I know.

Surely, she’d be sitting in that front row at my wedding in a blue suit with decorative pearls and beads smiling and holding my daddy’s hand.

Surely, she’d be teaching me about how to properly (fill in the blank) my future babies.

Surely, nothing is for sure in the land of the living.

In the midst of pain, sorrow and grief, gratitude is a choice; it is a muscle to be built that helps one to be present and have strength to carry on another day. It adds color to the darkness and adds light to the day. So I choose to be grateful:

For my family: not everyone has people who are supposed to be there for you - and are actually there for you.

For my church family: not everyone has a church, let alone a church family they can always count on

For my friends: not everyone has their own cheerleading section.

For my schooling: not everyone has the support they need to go to school and graduate.

For my edges: I am working on this one.

For my nose: I used to think it was too wide, now all I see is the perfection of my mama.

For my life: 

"I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the Living" - Psalm 27:13

These are the things I'm grateful for, what are you grateful for?




Barbara Florvil is a lover of all things faith, fashion and fun. She hopes to inspire others to live an inspired life.She is currently in her second year at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, NJ pursuing her Masters of Divinity. You can follow her on IG @babzflo and on Facebook as Barbara Florvil.