“Within our Christian subculture, we are so quick to shine things up and make them look happy and give them a happy ending before we’ve given proper nod to the lacerating loss that we’ve experienced. I was very determined to not be fake.”
On May 31st, 2008, September Vaudrey’s young daughter Katie was in a fatal car accident. In the aftermath of her death, September, her husband, and their four other children walked through grief. September refused to put on a brave face and instead allowed others to see her pain.
“I might be messy and ugly for a long time, but I would not try to put some shiny happy story on this.”
September always carried a deep capacity for joy. It took nearly a year and a half until she was able to feel the joy returning in the midst of the grief.
“I had just had a nice evening with my friend Kay; we have a Wednesday night service at our church. I was watching back to the parking lot and I got this surge of butterflies in my stomach, this happiness. I recognized that is the feeling of joy, and I have not lost it forever. It may take me a long time to really get my feet under me, but there is hope for that to happen if I continue to be authentic in my sorrow and just be open-handed toward God.”
When someone is suddenly taken from our life it can feel like the happiness and laughter will never return, but the grief journey changes over time. September describes the process as a slow thaw. The first year after Katie’s death was a “grief fog” for September, as it is for many of those who suffer loss. Friends and family are close, understanding, walking with the grieving person with all kindness and compassion.
“There’s almost a protective anesthesia that God provides in year one, because the trauma of that kind of a loss is so severe that you’re kind of walking around in the grief fog. You just can’t think, you can’t fully feel. You cross into year two, [and] the anesthesia has worn off, and now you’re feeling the full brunt of your loss.”
If someone in your life has lost a loved one, be there for them, and reach out to them, even if it’s been a few years since it happened. It may not be fresh grief for you, but it may be fresh for them.
September shares her story and helps others through grief share programs at her church. She penned her story, and Katie’s story, in the new book . While she would never want this to be part of her life, she knows that God is working things out for good and that He has the power to hold her up. It’s a declaration of faith to stand and look for joy in the face of grief, which is what September chooses to do today.
“I will never not hate that my daughter died. I will never be glad this is part of my life story…and my life is still beautiful.”
Featured Songs: Give Me Jesus by Jeremy Camp; Songs in the Night by Matt Redman; Sinking Ships by Lincoln Brewster