Making sense of my grief: I need scaffolding

Making sense of my grief: I need scaffolding

I remember a day in 1979 when I studied social work, and our lecturer taught us that you
might be busy with a client and receive a phone call to say that your mother had passed
away. She taught us that professionalism meant to be able to put the phone down and
continue your conversation with the client as though nothing has happened. I did not agree
with that formulation of professionalism then and I do not agree with it now. Such a reaction
would mean that you are a robot – not a human being.
In some ways, that was actually how I acted the past fifteen days. I became a grandmother
for the first time on the 27 th of May. Three days later I also became a widow. I liked the first
title very much. I detested the second one. I managed everybody’s shock, became the
catch-net for the clinical course to enable it to continue, debriefed two groups of 25 students
(narrative course for Coram Deo and the clinical course for HospiVision), answered phone
calls eight hours a day and made all the arrangements to greet my husband of 37 years in
unnatural ways like recordings and webinars. Ministry taught us that your own needs are last
in the queue.
On Wednesday morning last week, I was busy with the task of logging people in on Zoom for
the webinar training. Ten minutes before it started, the bell rang at the gate. When I got to
the gate, it was someone from the funeral parlour who came to deliver Andre’s ashes to me.
“This is part of the services we extend to you amid the guidelines for your safety during
Covid-19.” Yeah right, what about the safety of my heart at this unexpected pleasure? For a
moment I stared at the small box of your last remains and fleetingly wondered if I could give
it back to her and say that I do not want it? I did not want your death to become so real, so
soon? I walked hurriedly back into the house, marched into your office and put your ashes
out of sight in a cupboard in your own study, my Love. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. So
fitting that you rest here a while where you poured yourself out for HospiVision and pastoral
care every day. Like a robot, I continued with the tasks of logging people in on Zoom and
started the training by welcoming the guest lecturer. That afternoon I had to sit with our
daughter Danica to make a photo slideshow for the celebration of your life. That evening I
was supposed to do a video clip to greet you. There was no time in that day to sit down and
figure out what I wanted to say. I have a pile-up accident of grief on my highway and the oil
in my lamp has gone dry.
When a building has been damaged and needs repairs, they put scaffolding on the outside
to support the workmen during the process of restoration. I am not a robot. I am a
compassionate counsellor and I need to show compassion to myself as well. I know how to
deal with depression and has lived for thirty-five years with the threat of suicide. The grief of
death is new to me. The scaffolding I need will look different as time go on. For now I need
to go underground for a number of days, into the bomb shelter of God’s presence, waiting for
the aftershocks of self-death to subside. My Trinity-God is my ultimate safe space.
What I need now is some time and space to grief and learn about being a widow. Becoming
a grandmother was easy – another human being to love fiercely. At the moment nothing
seems to be more urgent than death. It is asking my focused attention now. I teach people in
my self-care workshops the statement on the back of my business card. It says: “You can
only care for others, if you care enough to take care of yourself.” It is time to practice what I
preach. Psalm 71:20 (Passion translation) “Even though you’ve let us sink down with trials
and troubles, I know you will revive us again, lifting us up from the dust of death.” :22 “My
loving God, the harp in my heart will praise you. Your faithful heart toward us will be the
theme of my song.”

I will Hold onto Him as I encourage others who journey with depression and the threat of
self-death. A community of compassion that can offer scaffolding to each other as we rebuild
and restore the damage wrought by death.
Annette de la Porte
(author of Hold onto Him)

Leave a Comment