View from a Prairie Home

By Hege Herfindahl, Columnist

I wake up, confused. My favorite aunt, my Godmother tante Eva, just hugged me. With compassion. And love. Whereas my mother was strict and demanding, her younger sister was always kind and loving. She died more than 10 years ago, but in my dream she was the same, understanding with a big heart.

My heart sinks. It feels broken. In pieces. I seem to have a big lump there. That squeezes. The term “a broken heart” makes more sense now. I get nauseous at times, my breathing is shallow. But I get out of bed. Go to the kitchen and grab a cup of coffee with lots of coffee creamer. I go to the porch and take out my Bible. There is nothing in the Bible that says bad things happen for a reason. God gave man free will. I could be angry at God. But two years ago, after the death of my son-in-law, Patrick, a friend gave me a book by Harold Kushner “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” It changed my prayers from asking God to change the situation to asking for peace and comfort.

My daughter, Ingvild, recently gave me another book. “It’s OK that you are not OK,” by Megan Devine. Reading this book helps me understand grief and how I am not alone with the ferocity of my sadness. To grieve deeply means that I loved deeply. I loved Erland, my child. Now that he is missing from our lives, it is natural to not feel OK. Grief is not something we should get over. The loss will be with us forever. To deny our feelings is harmful and will catch up with us in many ways. Like not being able to eat or getting headaches.

To deny grief is like denying love. And if we love, we will experience grief. We should let the grief wash over us, but we should not let the suffering be so intense that we just will go into a corner and scream forever. There are things we can do to help lessen the suffering. We should try to sleep. And eat. We should try to move and be outside. In nature, if possible. Our recent Bible study focused on God in nature. I have always felt closer to Him there. And I am lucky to live right next to a beautiful prairie in an old house surrounded by trees. 

We should also try to avoid toxic people. When I read this, I thought about how I don’t think I know toxic people. People who make me feel worse. On the contrary. We have been surrounded during Erland’s sickness and especially after his death by kind people. Compassionate people. People who come over and water my garden. Pick tomatoes and can them for me. Fill my freezer with food. Hug me. Send me cards. Cards with their own personal messages. So many words of love. 

During church one Sunday, I predictably started to cry. Arms opened. Hugs were given. Words of love. Dear friends: I know I haven’t been good at writing thank you notes. (Grief often manifests itself in lack of energy.) But all your words, all your good deeds, all your concern and all your hugs…thank you. They help. I might be more sad than I have ever been in my life; but I do not feel alone.