I’m thrilled beyond belief to have Playlist Fiction author Laura Anderson Kurk sharing with us today. Laura is one of the sweetest, most awesome women I know. I’m so blessed to know her and you’re gonna fall in love with her, too!
My YA novel, Glass Girl (Playlist Fiction, April 2013) tells Meg’s story. She’s sixteen and she’s just lost her older brother, her hero. It’s in that place where she never wanted to be that she learns lessons she never wanted to learn. Like parents aren’t perfect, life’s not always sweet, and the dead don’t write back.
Her family is falling apart and Meg wraps her own guilt around her for comfort. But it’s an odd, false comfort. Then she meets Henry, a boy with a soul as deep as hers, who sees what’s she doing to herself, and time with him is like breathing again. He shows her that being sensitive is not an excuse to sit this one out and that the best things in life require uncommon courage.
Glass Girl is a bittersweet and unconventional love story told by authentically imperfect characters who just need a little room and a little time to figure out the big issues—love, loss, forgiveness, and mercy. Mistakes are made but self-awareness happens.
I know about these issues myself. The last few years have been a season of loss for me and the people with whom I share life. Every time I lose someone, I remember again how deeply it hurts. And I think, I can’t go through that again. Yet somehow the pain of it hasn’t made me stop loving with my whole self.
That’s what life is about, after all.
We’ve seen that in Boston, too. Even in their grief, Bostonians are reaching their arms around their neighbors and friends. They’re loving more completely.
Allison Smith, in her memoir, Name All the Animals, wrote something that haunted me with its honesty. She had just lost her older brother and she’s sitting alone in her bathroom, trying to make God be with her to answer her questions.
But she says:
“God was gone. It felt like somebody had suddenly taken the needle off the record, and for the first time, the music I had heard my whole life, the music that was all around us, just stopped. I had never heard such silence.”
Have you felt that? The silence?
There are not many guarantees in our lives, but one that is heart wrenching in its certainty is that we will lose people that we love. I remember being your age, when that concept floated in the realm of things that would never happen to me.
I attended funerals with friends when they lost loved ones and I tried to cry appropriately and feel deeply. When a few friends lost parents, I watched them to see how they made it through each day. I couldn’t imagine a more difficult fate.
And I filed away the things they did and the things they said. And I catalogued all the ways in which they humbled me with their grace and their peace in the face of sorrow. When my own parents each faced life-threatening illnesses (with courage that only comes from the Lord) when I was a teenager, I began to get a taste of how hard life on earth can be.
The fact is life will go on. It just will. And we all need truths that we can remember easily and hold firmly when our emotions are making everything in our heads fuzzy. Things to help us remember that God is not silent and that He grieves with us.
I take these lessons from a study of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the grief she endured, and from the experiences and actions of Mary Magdalene when she lost her dear friend, Jesus.
1. Draw strength from your own experiences. You’ve already made it through some hard things and you’ll make it through this.
Look at the life Mary, the mother of Jesus, was asked to accept.
“His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.”
(Matthew 1:18 NIV)
“’Get up,’” he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’”
(Matthew 2:13 NIV)
2. Just be in the moment. You will never regret the minutes or hours that you spent at the feet of someone you love who is dying. They will have things they need to say and you would be wise to listen.
“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother . . . when Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”
(John 19:25-27 NIV)
3. Allow painful feelings. The more you feel, the more you heal.
Mary Magdalene let herself feel grief honestly.
“Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she said, ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’”
(John 20:11-13 NIV)
4. Get busy. Go for long walks. Find a way to help others who are in need. It helps, I promise.
Mary Magdalene went to the tomb to do the things that were expected when a loved one died. She chose to stay active, keep moving, and help out where she could. She was able to help her friends in their grief when she carried the news that Jesus had risen.
5. Talk about it and remember the person you’ve lost. I read once that human beings need to talk about traumatic experience at least one hundred times before they can begin to heal. “There is no grief like the grief that does not speak.” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
Mary went immediately with the disciple after Jesus’s death. She was not alone and she had concerned friends around her.
Mary Magdalene, the disciples, and others who followed Jesus were together grieving and then rejoicing. They talked about every detail.
Two other important things you should remember when you’re facing hard times—
Rest and eat healthier than you ever have.
You might feel like you’ve lost control of everything, but these two things are in your control. Rest. Chill. Eat right. And know that you’re doing something good for yourself.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
(Matthew 5:4 NIV)
And remember, we don’t only grieve after a death. We can grieve a lost relationship, a friendship that’s gone sour, a hometown we’ve had to leave. In any significant loss, we go through a time of uncertainty and mourning. Any trial you experience will prepare you to be a stronger, deeper, more loving person.
One of my favorite poets, Rainer Maria Rilke, wrote this:
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
It’s true. Grief hurts in beautiful and terrifying ways, but it’s not final. And we know how the story ends.
Laura Anderson Kurk writes contemporary YA. Her debut novel, Glass Girl, is available now from Playlist Fiction and a sequel, Perfect Glass, releases in June 2013.
Laura lives in Texas with her husband and two children. She blogs at Writing for Young Adults. She writes a monthly feature column called On Hollywood at Choose Now Ministries. You can also find her at laurakurk.com, Facebook, Pinterest, and on Twitter (@LauraKurk).