This past Saturday evening, I was nestled in bed around 10:30pm. The week had been long and busy. Up and on my feet all day, I was finally crashing into what I hoped would be a long and fitful night’s sleep. But a sneaking sadness had been growing in my heart throughout the week, and suddenly, in the stillness of almost-sleep, it hit me: An explosion of grief half forgotten and deeply buried and pushed aside.
Tears came. The wound opened up as if it were brand new again, not almost three years old. The pain filled everything, as if no progress had been made, no healing had happened. Why do I feel it so deeply? I thought. Why is it coming up so suddenly?
It wasn’t until about an hour later that I realized something: My Kindred Spirit’s wedding anniversary was August 18th. The wedding where she gave over her life completely to an abusive man who destroyed her and everyone else in a cult environment. It’s been three years. Three years ago, she was married. And three years ago, the downward, abusive cycle that had gradually encompassed her entire life began to drown her. She was surrounded by people who didn’t truly care about her wellbeing, and she died because of it. On October, it will be three years since her death.
It’s strange how long three years seems, and how short. Time is a funny thing. It seems worlds away since her death. It seems like a moment ago. So much has changed. My life has changed, the world has changed. But what lingers is an unchanging moment of finality when a life ended. That will never change, no matter how the years speed by. I am changed because of the unchangeable occurrence, and it has been both freeing and heartbreaking to walk the path towards healing and wholeness that began after Bethany’s death.
I’m no longer who I was. My faith is different. My heart is different. This was something I mourned for a quite a while: that everything changed when Bethany died. Yet the changes–which were agonizing–have ultimately been for the better. I am wiser, slower to pass judgment, more courageous when facing reality, quick to defend the voiceless, and passionate more than ever about Love.
What was meant for evil has turned into good in my own life–which doesn’t mean it isn’t painful. I still miss Bethany every day. But the ache will drive me to a lifelong pursuit for beauty, truth, and love.
I’ve stopped writing about grief because last year it became too deep, too personal, and too hard to even put words to the aching abyss I felt. Gradually, I gained hope and healing. However, there are things left unsaid, and I feel an urgency to say them. Pain denied and swept under the surface will eventually reemerge in darker forms, and woe to those who stifle pain’s calling, who drown out its voice and pretend it isn’t there. Pain is a teacher, and I want to talk about this strange friend who has taught me so much.
I’m going to be compiling all my writing on grief over the past few years into a book. I will also add and expand to everything with the unblogged thoughts and wrestlings and conclusions I’ve come to over the past year of relative silence on my blog about grief. I think it’s fitting to do this in honor of Bethany’s death and in honor of her life. She was a writer, and she wanted to write. It was a dream we shared in common, a dream that wilted in her heart as it grew and expanded in mine. If my writing about the pain of her absence and the healing I’ve known can bring hope and healing to someone else, I know Beth is joyful. Her legacy continues on in the seeds she planted, and they will spring evergreen.
Let me be clear: my book will not about Beth’s time in the cult or what happened inside the cult. My writings will only be about the grief I felt after the earth-shattering realization that the Bethany I knew and loved was gone (long before she died), and that lies upon lies had mounted into an unspeakable tragedy. It will be a testament to who she was and our friendship. But I will only vaguely (if at all) deal in the brutal details, questions, and narratives surrounding her death.
But it isn’t just about Beth. Yes, her death was the nail in the coffin, but it also was in many ways the catalyst for the realizing and summarizing of multiple pains in my life–relational, health, faith, etc–that all became one interconnected ball of grief upon grief upon grief. And I think, in many ways, that’s what I want to write about. Not just Beth, but the ways my life imploded and fell apart (before and after Beth) and the slow recovery, the slow rebuilding, the slow rebirth of all I had ever known into something beautiful.
Many people over the past few years have suggested or asked me to do something like this. To write a book. I’ve hesitated because I didn’t feel as if I’m an expert on grief in any way. I’ve only tried to be honest and authentic and raw. I’ve only ever tried to fight for healing with every inch of my heart instead of caving into the hopelessness I often felt after Beth’s death. That’s all I ever could do, and somehow, I came out alive and whole and free despite the destructive forces that tried to crush me.
For the next few months, I’ll be working on writing this memoir of grief and suffering, hope and healing. I will then self-publish it. I’m not exactly sure on the timeline or anything. Stay tuned for updates. I truly do believe that in order to move on with my own writing, this book needs to happen.
And now is the time.
Bethany, my dear Kindred Spirit. I will always love you.