The One with Grief

I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. I also happen to know that thats the most “basic” thing to say because really who actually makes them in the first place?

Its not like we all don’t have goals but I think NY resolutions got a bad rap, cause everyone goes hard for a couple months and then falls off. In reality, thats probably not that much different from goals set in say August, the only difference is that the entire world doesn’t put you on blast when you stop going to the gym in October versus if you fall off in March with the rest of the Resolutionists 😉

I say all that to segue into one of my resolutions, which is to write.
Happy? Write.
Sad? Write.
Heartbroken? Write.
Confused? Write.

I promise that as funny stories happen, I will continue to share those moments here. In fact, I have a date this very weekend and already I am blowing off the bad date bingo card to see what adventure I may have! Will he be a leprechaun? Maybe a furry? Does he only eat foods that begin with the letter B? Stay tuned.

But part of my goal to write, is writing in the midst of the moments that also aren’t humorous. Writing in the midst of confusion, sorrow, and grief. So here is another piece of my very real life and very real story- the awkward funny dating stories, the dysfunctional family, the job I absolutely love, and the savior who loves me so perfectly.


I’m not sure where the saying “good grief” actually came from because I don’t think I recall grief ever feeling “good”.


Thats what grief feels like for me most of the time. Now I will admit that I have had a more unique upbringing and life experiences than most and that certainly plays a huge part in how grief plays out in my life.

If you are new to my blog, or my life, let me catch you up. I grew up what some call a TCK- Third Culture Kid. Basically what that means is that I grew up between 2 or more different cultures. What that feels like is never really know where home is.

I was born and raised in Japan.

No I don’t love anime.
Yes I speak Japanese.
No I don’t want to tell you how to say an obscure phrase in Japanese.
Yes it is a beautiful and rich cultural country.

Born there and moved permanently to the states at age 11 but came back and forth every few years. My parents were missionaries, but other TCKs would include military kids, diplomats kids, or other ex-patriats who are living in a cultural maybe not originally their own.

It gets really complicated to try to explain but I’ll explain how this relates to grief.

I grew up for the early part of my life, not really knowing family beyond my immediate family. Cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles- they all held a different place in my life than for most people. They were strangers I’d see every few years that clearly loved me but I didn’t feel knew me.

On the other hand, I grew up having “grandparents” and “aunts” and “uncles” that also lived in Japan that held that role in my life in big ways for the first part of my life. These were the people that saw me grow up, that I played with their kids all the time, and looked forward to going to their houses to get treats from.

Moving away from it all and making the permanent decision to move our family to Sacramento when I was 13 changed it all. The family I had never known well was now nearby, and the “family” I had only known was now half way across the world, and to those around me it didn’t make sense for those people to be closer to me than my own family members.

Good ol’ wikipedia says that acculturation is when individuals of a differing culture try to incorporate themselves into the new more prevalent culture by participating in aspects of the more prevalent culture, such as their traditions, but still hold onto their original cultural values and traditions.

Thats a pretty good picture of what happened and has made grief such tricky thing in my life.

Changing my thoughts and feelings and my traditions to fit in with the greater culture, I let go of some of those relationships in Japan and worked to get acclimated to the “new ones” that were the ones I should have- cousins, grandparents, the like.

But what do you do when you grandfather dies? The one who you aren’t actually biologically related to? The one whose lap you sat on as a child, who you still look up to as a 23 year old woman?

If you think there’s nothing hard about that….

How do you ask for time off work to go to the funeral of a man who isn’t your grandfather? What do you do when you show up at a funeral for your “not my grandfather” and are asked to explain how you knew him? Or how do you grieve around the “real family” that you didn’t really know because they were half a world away when you were sitting on Grandpa’s lap listening to stories? How do you explain that you haven’t seen Grandpa in years- because you were trying to acculturate and let go of what didn’t make sense?

The reverse is also true, in that I often don’t feel the grief that people would expect me to have for people you would assume are important in one’s life.

This complicated journey I’ve had with grief hasn’t limited itself to the ones where acculuration is a factor though. My Uncle Mike was probably my favorite person in the world. He was one of the few blood family members I remembered and had affection for even as a kid. But when I went to college I got to spend so much more time with him and the conversations I’d have with him late nights after he picked me up for the weekend were some of the most formative and important conversations of my adult life. He was a second dad to me especially for those years.

But I moved away and while I did keep in touch and call to talk to him or get his help with my car problems, it became more and more confusing for me to figure out my place and what made sense.

I know it sounds silly, but if you’ve ever chuckled at someone who got so attached to a TV character that they cried when they died- thats as close as it gets to explaining what it can seem like people think of my grief at times.

Which is why when I got the news that my uncle passed away, I cried for days and weeks and still do cry every now and then when I think of it, but I couldn’t justify finding someone to cover for me at work and buying a plane ticket to go to his funeral. I felt like I didn’t have the right for my grief to invade the grief of his immediate family.

So I grieved alone.

Something that to this day is probably one of the few regrets I’ve had in life.

This came up again this week when my non-grandma passed away. A dear dear woman who I admired always and long to be like as I grow up. There are few people I would say I’d like to emulate in that way but she was one of them. But when I received the news, I wasn’t even really sure what to do with it. I didn’t really say much to anyone because I didn’t want those who knew me to confuse it for my dads mom passing, but I also didn’t entirely know how to explain that I probably wouldn’t be invited to the funeral.

So working through grief is complicated for me. Writing this out is one of the steps of working through it though. But there are a few things that I can take out of even my complicated messy grief:

  1. You love who you love. It doesn’t have to make sense to everyone.
  2. Grief is always messy. Maybe your messy grief looks like missing someone who also hurt people you care deeply for, or something else altogether. But its never easy or clean.
  3. You don’t have to explain your grief. Let the people you care about in, let them know you are grieving, let them be there and love you through it, but don’t feel the need to explain or rationalize why you are going through it.

Above it all, I think the thing that helps me through any time of grief and something I point others back to is this promise:

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit

Psalm 34:18

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