I remember so vividly the day we moved our daughter into her dorm room at Baylor University. She and I had shopped for all the mini-things you put in a micro-sized room, chosen her bedding to reflect her personality, stuffed every available hiding place with shoes and desk supplies, all the while focusing on the joy of this new beginning for her. I knew what was coming all too well, because, well, I knew ME, and I also knew how close our family was….no amount of “We’re so happy for you!” joy was going to erase the looming sting of separation.
Her dad and I handled it like champs, I must say. After the final goodbyes, and promises to call, (no face-time then!), we got in the car, looked out of our respective windows, and cried….all the way from Texas to California! (Well, maybe that was me, but there was definitely some eye-swiping and nose-wiping action happening on the driver’s side too!)
One of the most difficult things about being separated from those we love is the sense of being apart from, and being disconnected from the safety and comfort of our people – those we return to when we’ve fought off the dragons of the world outside the safe and cozy nest.
Loss, grief and sadness from separation can all feel the same, whether the separation is geographical, emotional, or even due to the passing of a loved one. Grief is grief, and it all needs to be felt and tended to.
There’s an amazing children’s book that was initially written in 1996 by author, Patrice Karst as a way to respond to her young son’s anxiety at being dropped off at pre-school. Mom knew he was safe and she would be picking him up later in the day, but his little heart couldn’t hear any of that. He just knew it felt better to be connected than apart, and “The Invisible String” was her way of helping him to understand they were never really apart. As long as there was love between them, there would always be an invisible string that connected them together, “anywhere and everywhere” they happened to be. She wrote, “You can’t see it….but you can feel it.”
Since then, this book has exploded into a bestseller as it’s tender message has helped countless children and adults alike, struggling with the concept of separation, love and loss. The book ends with a beautiful illustration of the entire world being encompassed by all of the strings that connect us to friends, family, pets, and loved ones wherever they may be. And that means that no matter where we are in the world….we are never alone.
I know far too well the way grief can swell and threaten to pound us into the ground when that very tender nerve of separation gets pressed. It can feel like a rending of connection all over again, but with time, I have come to hold other things in those moments, too. I can validate the pain, let it have it’s room, and also embrace all the love I’ve ever known, along with gratitude and hope in a certain reunion with all those I am holding onto with my invisible string. God has done such healing in my heart, and I know that work will continue until I see Jesus (and Brett!) face to face.
If you are feeling the sting and grief of separation on Day 27, know that Jesus has been there too! We can rest in the safety and security he offers all of us, knowing we are connected not only to him, but to one another through him.
He sees you, he loves you, and he’s showing you the way through. It will take as long as it takes….meanwhile, he’s got you, and he’s not going anywhere. <3
Connected by love,