Author Guy Delcambre writes about grief in his new memoir with this powerful reflection: “If you never fully hurt, you never fully heal.” Delcambre lost his wife suddenly in the course of five days, and was left to raise three daughters on his own. He’s sharing a guest post today based on his book about that experience: Earth and Sky.
“Do you get sad still?”
She sat quiet, half leaned into my ribs, lost in four-year-old thoughts, which roam and meander in a world too big. Her sisters cried through stories recalling time with their mom. She cried, too, nearly every night in the year after their mother’s unexpected death. But me, I exerted much of my energies moving beyond her death and growing strong again as fast as I could. This was my duty as their remaining parent: to pick up all the broken pieces and rebuild life. I am a 33-year-old widower, father to three little girls all under the age of eight. I am clueless as to what to do. That was over four years ago.
In the four years since my first wife’s death, I have learned much more about parenting than ever before. More so, I’ve learned myself in ways truer. On mountainous trails teaching them hiking basics and good enough fishing spots where patience delivered their first catch, I discovered how to recognize my daughters’ wanting hearts. My daughters taught me the art of the quick, perfect ponytail. For hours, I practiced on them as they modeled how to gather all the hair together in just the right spot. We celebrated with joyous dance when I finally got the hair band twisted tight enough to hold the ponytail in place. They, too, wanted the future and the warmth of hope that I often told them about, but they needed the past to get there. The past hurt. It reminded me of failure, of God not there where I needed him. Returning to the past scratched counter intuitively across my heart. When I left, I never wanted to return.
Back on the couch, my youngest tucked into my side, contemplating the world her dad knows free of apparent sadness, she taught me one of the most formative lessons to shape my parenting.
“Yes, sweetie, I get sad at times.”
“Well, you hide it really good, Dad.”
As a result of me always being okay and in the busyness of me liberating myself from the hurt of her death, my daughters grew more isolated in their own bewildering grief. Those simple little words of my littlest daughter found me moving ahead alone, leading no one, just in time.
To hurt honestly is to hurt wholly, to admit wrong and to welcome the future through the past. This is what my daughters were missing. Rather than me leading them, they only heard me talk about a foreign place of hope disconnected from the reality of death they knew all too well. Grief piled atop their grief. I was leaving them as well.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” At first glance, blessing coupled with mourning is a bad matched marriage. No one sinking in grief recognizes any sort of benefit in his or her tears, other than the momentary release that serves as a reminder that life has indeed twisted askew. However, the more I mourned, the more frequent the release of emotion proved to be blessing. Mourning guided me through grief. Sharing my hurts and fears and frustrations with my daughters served as guide for them.
Grief is a life-long journey that when committed to can bloom the deepest blessing in the darkest of life. The third Thursday of every November is Children’s Grief Awareness day, an opportunity to raise awareness and affirm healthy grief for children who have experience loss in their little lives. Death can be such a scary life event – in a moment a loved one can disappear into forever without understanding and so much as a proper good bye. Take time to consider those little ones who may be struggling through the lost of a loved one. If not your own, those little ones could be your child’s classmate, neighbor or friend. Revealing your own held fears and hurts about death could very well be their way out.
(*Matt 5:4 ESV)
About Today’s Guest Blogger
Guy Martin Delcambre is an author and public speaker based in Dallas, Texas, who writes about faith in thin moments, strength found in weakness, and God’s grace immeasurable. Guy was once a pastor, a church planter, and a widower, in that order. From the darkest night in life— the death of a spouse— to learning to live life as a single father to three young daughters, Guy has traveled the greatest distance of the heart to find home in God’s faithful goodness.
He lives with his wife, Marissa, and three daughters, Elizabeth, Emily, and Chloe.