The Moment Grief Became My Undeniable Companion

My life took an unexpected turn in August 2020 when our two oldest sons, Ian and Lucah, were involved in a severe motor vehicle accident. As I rushed them to the emergency room, little did I know that our challenges were only beginning. That night we also discovered Ian had a brain tumor. 

I remember that moment so vividly, the doctor asking me “Has Ian ever had a scan of his head before?”

 At that moment I knew the next words out of his mouth were not going to be good.

 “He has a mass growing in the right frontal lobe of his brain.” These words hit me like a freight train.

 It felt as though someone had pressed pause on the world, and suddenly, I observed everything unfolding in slow motion. It was surreal, it was a nightmare. 

In those initial moments of shock and despair, grief subtly crept into my life, disguised amidst the trauma. I did what I could to put on a brave face and tend to the medical needs of my two oldest sons while attempting to keep life as normal as possible for our two younger sons. From the outside looking in, it appeared that I was doing a good job at handling all the unfairness that life was throwing our way. 

That was until four months later, grief revealed its full magnitude when my husband Collin received the devastating diagnosis of leukemia. 

Again the words of the doctor foretold of oncoming devastation. My phone rang it was 9:00 pm on a Friday night,  “Hello, Mrs. Jager are you able to talk in private?” Then the devastating words followed, “The tests came back, and unfortunately Collin has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.” 

It was at that moment, with a resounding smack, that grief became my undeniable companion.

Confused and terrified, I instinctively tried to push away the overwhelming pain. Every whisper of grief was met with distraction—I tirelessly cleaned and organized the house, I dove into work, and I did anything to avoid confronting my feelings. Why? The emotions were paralyzing, and I believed I couldn’t afford the luxury of being paralyzed. Between endless hours at the hospital, running our business, and caring for our four kids, I was drowning in responsibilities.

Exhausted and emotionally drained, I desperately tried to shut the doors and windows on grief, shouting, “Not here! Not now! Leave me alone!” Unsurprisingly, this strategy proved unsustainable. The breaking point came in the form of a nervous breakdown, a stark realization that avoidance was not a solution. If I wasn’t going to willingly face it, my body and mind were going to make sure I did.  Then something happened that I wasn’t expecting, as I started to surrender to the grief it had less power over me, and the more I surrendered the less I feared it. Now, I share this story not as a tale of triumph over adversity but as a testament to the resilience found in embracing vulnerability.

Grief is not a battle to be won; it’s a journey to be navigated.

Through acceptance, I found the strength to face the pain, to lean on my support system, and by acknowledging the depth of my emotions I was allowing the healing process to unfold organically.

Navigating grief and dealing with the complexities and layered emotions is much like a bull confined in a pen versus a bull allowed to roam in a meadow. In the pen, there’s an initial inclination to confine and control the powerful force of grief, perhaps driven by a belief that strength lies in restraint and suppression. Much like trying to keep a wild and formidable bull contained.

However, the reality is that grief, much like the bull, resists such confinement. Attempting to control it within the constraints of a pen only intensifies its impact, creating an internal struggle that overwhelms and paralyzes. It’s a futile effort, like trying to impose order on an inherently chaotic force.

In contrast, the bull in the meadow symbolizes a different approach—an acknowledgment that grief is a force to be reckoned with, an integral part of the landscape. Allowing it the freedom to roam, acknowledging its existence without attempting to control every aspect, brings a sense of surrender. In this surrender, there’s an acceptance of the uncontrollable nature of grief, and surprisingly, a newfound strength emerges from letting it unfold naturally.

It’s not about taming or defeating grief; rather, it’s about finding resilience and strength through acceptance. 

The meadow becomes a space for growth, healing, and the eventual coexistence with grief, transforming it from an adversary into a companion on this journey we call life.