Grief Like Oceans

Jan 10, 2022

Seven years ago, my brother’s life on this Earth came unexpectedly to an end. When you’ve only lived to be 24, seven years is a very long time.

A few months before that shattering news came, I had moved to Charleston where the coast and the ocean became very much a part of my life. I’ve learned a lot about grief and the ocean in the past seven years, and the one has helped me understand the other.

The ocean, like grief, is constant. It’ll always be there. The power and influence it holds on those of us brought to the water’s edge will never go away. But the way it presents itself changes day by day, and our handling of its nature will determine its degree of damage.

Sometimes the tide is out and the beach has dried. The waves are real and present, but gentle enough to let them roll over without causing harm. During those moments, I can face the breeze, soak in the sun, and feel at peace with the vastness and the unseen. The ocean, like grief, seems tamed and controlled.

Other times I can see a storm brewing in the distance. The signs of black clouds, heightened winds, and dark waters can prepare me for what’s coming. It’s the holidays, birthdays and anniversaries. The milestones and unshared news that can’t be told. Storms are hard to weather, but I’m learning to prepare for them. They’re not as frightening and overwhelming as the first storms used to be, and I’ve gotten better at surviving what those turbulent waters bring forth.

Then, there’s the waves.

The giant waves that form on a sunny day, triggered by a distant rumble in the Earth. There’s no telling when they’ll happen or how strong they’ll be; but usually they go away as quickly as they came and I’m left tattered and trembling under blue, sunny skies.

It’s the unexpected memory or random connection; the triggers and emotions coming out of nowhere that leave me gasping for air. Like the sound of a siren and unanswered phone calls. The taste of a food; the waft of a smell. Those moments have left me sobbing in the car or crumpled on my kitchen floor, life still flowing about me, unaware of my trembling hands; my shattered heart. It’s hard to explain the mountain-sized wave of grief when it’s gone before I had the chance to even acknowledge it was there.

Sometimes these triggers feel irrational. They’re irritating, and a fresh reminder that the ocean can never be tamed. Those waves aren’t as frequent or as strong as they once were; but the ocean is always there, and so will its nature be manifested until the end of time.

And while grief comes and goes like the ebb of a tide, her sister – fear – lurks just beneath those murky waters. Fear that everyone I love will be swallowed by the sea. Fear that this anchor grounding me to the deep will at some point snap, sending me spiraling through currents of the unknown. And like the ocean…like grief…fear shows her true nature in all those familiar ways.

The peace of calm when all is well.

The storms swelling in preparation for what’s to come.

And then come the waves, crashing nonsensically through time and space.

Paralyzing, unpredictable waves of fear.

If you find yourself brought to the water’s edge, there’s not much you can do but learn to read the signs, watch the horizons, and build your shelter on solid ground.

There’s no changing the ocean, and the ocean won’t be going anywhere. It is constant, vast, and unforgiving. In the end, my handling of its influence over me and my choice of foundation are what will stand up to the test of storms and time.

These past few years my faith has been battered more than ever before. A faith that came so easily turned into a desert trail. Prayers that used to flow freely seemed childish and unnecessary.

But He’s not finished with me yet.

I thought by now I would have come to tame the seas.

But what I’ve learned through this time is that only I can determine what the ocean will become for me.

The promise of a firm foundation never included a shelter from the storms. I can scream at the winds and whip the waves, shaking my fists at the tides that seek to drown me; but never once was I promised a shelter free of storms.

“And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” Matthew 7:25

I don’t like living by the water’s edge. I’m tired of storm-proofing my house. I long for meadows of wildflowers and mountaintops. I dream of heaven. But until then, this journey by the water’s edge will teach me to sing in the rain; to dance in the middle of a storm.

Hi! I’m Amy…

I am a stay-at-home mom with a passion for books, baking, gardening and homeschooling. My calling to write stems from the desire to share the depths and vastness of grief and suffering, and how to point it back towards an eternal perspective through Jesus. Called to live full and grace filled lives, I hope to acknowledge pain, inspire joy through brokenness and find purpose in the beauty, the ugly and the mundane of parenting day to day. 

My husband, Ryan, and I live in Charleston, SC with our 4 busy boys, 2 dogs and constant influx of tadpoles, frogs, crayfish and lizards.