Blindsided By Grief, Even 5 Years Later

It’s sudden and surprising. As I drive around the winding road, it catches me off guard. My thoughts stray from my normal; family, children, laundry, husband. When it hits me, the wind is knocked out of me. I cannot breathe.

The memories come flooding back. His wispy hair. His sparkling eyes. His laugh. The tears fill my eyes as I remember the five-forever years it’s been. The five-years we had. The lifetime of memories buried deep within me.

Sometimes the sacred parts of my heart are shared. Sometimes it’s more than I can bear. And I don’t want to face it. I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to share the memories or his sweet smile. I don’t want to hear the laughter, because it hurts so much. And it’s difficult to talk about him. It’s difficult to share these deepest parts of grief. This deep five-year grief is somehow sacred. It’s bringing parts of me to surface that I thought I’d buried good. Days are long and dark and sometimes difficult to function normal. But years. The years have gone by in the blink of an eye. Somewhere in these five years I’ve learned this grief dance well. The circle of longing and pain and surrender and joy.

Choosing joy. Yes, choose joy. Somehow within this grief dance, within the mourning there is joy.

And there’s guilt here, too. Within the sacred grief dance, there is guilt. Mother’s guilt? Survivor’s guilt? Guilt because of the blessings I’m surrounded with. When others have not, I have much. My husband and other children. And hope. I have hope. I have a warm home on cold nights. A gentle breeze on hot summer days. I have food, fresh and canned. I have clean water and clothes to choose from. I have books and head-knowledge to cope. I have time to grieve. Oh the gift and curse of time. I have days to wander and renew my spirit. I have truth sitting in the form of a precious book. I have the Holy Spirit living within me. I have a Creator, a Saviour, a blessed Redeemer.

And even so, some days grief feels a better choice. Even so, choose joy. Yes, choose joy over sorrow, in memories hard to bare. Through tears and old home videos of cute raspy voices, choose joy. Choose joy in sacred grief. Maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s how. Maybe it’s painful sacred and we never dig that deep. Maybe the deeper the sorrow, the more strength to choose joy is given. Maybe the deeper the bleeding wound, the more delicate the pain, maybe the more sacred the journey. Maybe embracing grief now, five-year grief, allows even more joy to overwhelm the soul. He promises to restore my soul. Oh dear Lord, restore my soul! 

But the soul will not be restored. Not wholly, beautifully, redemptively restored earthside. It is not finished. I am not finished. He is not finished with me yet. He continues to whisper gently into these sacred grief moments.

To choose living in spite of, or because of, the death of my son, brings beauty to life. Beauty to a life he once lived. 

“At least I know where he is.” The whispered truth rings in my ears, hangs on my heart and breathes life into my soul. The sacred pain of grief. The dance. It’s smiling through tears. It not grieving because we have not, it’s choosing joy because we have. We have the memories. We have the love. We had the life of a beautiful child. And we have the hope of heaven.


This post originally appeared at Order Tiffany’s new book Still: When All Else Fades Away.


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Tiffany Nardoni
Tiffany Nardoni is a wife, homeschool mom and writer. She and her husband, Jeff, are raising a family in the       midwest, seeking a quiet life and learning to love others well. Her book, Still, a memoir about the life of her son Thao and learning to live past his death, is available now for pre-order on her blog,