by Carol Longenecker Hiestand

In the fall of  2005 I lost my only surviving sibling, my brother, age 49. He was hunting, got lost in the Beartooth Mountains in Montana and died of hypothermia before he was found. [ This rocked my world, having lost two other siblings as a child, a tiny baby sister and a 2 1/2 year old brother.

Although it has taken a long time, I have come to see grief as an uninvited guest who just keeps showing up.  Occasionally I expect her. Other times she comes when least expected. She’s not someone to be rid of. We have become friends. After all, she is here because the one who is missing was deeply loved.

* * * * * * *

Grief, I wasn’t expecting a visit from you tonight. You know his birthday is tomorrow don’t you? Your visits have been fewer and further apart and I was hoping you wouldn’t show up this year. 

But here you are.

You show up when I’m least expecting you. If I don’t invite you for a visit, you invite yourself. At first, I was glad to have you around because I understood you are evidence of  having loved well. For a long while, I was comfortable with your presence. I needed you to help me make sense of all I was experiencing. Then you gradually drifted away as I learned to live without your constant companionship.

So, tonight when you tapped on my door as I headed into the coffee shop to sit by the quiet fireplace and just be alone in the crowd, I tell you to go away. The tears you bring with you will make my aching head pound even louder than it already is. You continued to insist. I asked you to hold off another day, but you followed me right into that public space.    

You sat down in at the table across from me, a steaming cup of black coffee in hand. I asked , “Won’t all that caffeine keep you awake?” 

The stranger seated at the table next to me doesn’t need to see my tears.  I don’t like how I look when I am crying. Unsurprisingly, you refused to leave. I finished my cup, then I invited you to ride home with me in the car when I was ready to go home as it was obvious you weren’t planning to go anywhere else.  

You followed me into my house. I didn’t try to stop you. It wouldn’t do any good anyway. You stay for the rest of the evening, grabbing one of the afghans my mother made, curling up on the other end of the couch [gh8] from me. We sat together in the quietness, and when the tears came, I let them flow freely in the privacy of this space. When I finally went to bed, you were still here. But sometime during the night you crept away quietly.  

I spent my brother’s birthday thinking of how grateful I am I had him in my life and reflected on how God answered my little girl prayer for a baby brother so many years ago. It was a good day.

Grief, I expect you’ll show up again, and although I am glad you come less often, when you do, I’ll greet you, hand you an afghan, and sit in your company. I’ll thank you for being with me on this journey.

You seem to leave sooner that way. 

* * * * * * * *

Grief will find you. Grief will heal you when you befriend her. Denying her entry will come at a great cost, for grief will find its way into your body and come out in harmful, destructive ways to yourself and others. She will find you even when you try to keep her away. Tears, so precious to God he collects them in a bottle, are the way to healing. 

You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? (Psalm 56:8)

In the beginning, I wanted to know when grief would end because the pain was so all-encompassing. Over time, it has become apparent we are meant to be lifelong friends until we arrive at the time and place where tears are wiped away and there is no more death or dying. Those I have grieved will be with me. Grief’s work will be done, for the missing and the grieving is for those I have lost and now found.

At that long-awaited reunion, I will joyfully release Grief to befriend another who needs her. It will take a while for them to be friends. I wish I could tell them they will find her patient and kind, even though she will insist they pay attention to her, for embracing her is the way to peace in the losing.

Carol Longenecker Hiestand writes when inspired about things that often go unnoticed, and sees herself as a storyteller. She’s a wife, mom, grandmother, and friend living right in the middle of the second half of life. She’s passionate about writing to and for her grandchildren about her life, passing on the things she’s learned. You’ll often find her immersed in making photo books for  her  family, working to keep her scattered family connected. She’s a lover of all shades of purple and rose. Lilacs, waterfalls, any body of water, porch swings and Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi (when she can find it!) make her happyShe writes at