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Sometimes Grief Feels Like I'm Stuck in Limbo


Limbo is defined as “a condition of prolonged uncertainty or neglect.” When I fall into limbo it feels as if I have fallen into the proverbial “rabbit hole.” A rabbit hole is defined as “something that is intricate or convoluted like a labyrinth and often has no outlet or resolution.”

To me, grief is definitely a time of uncertainty that feels as if there is no outlet. Although I know such times always do pass, the feeling does not agree with my reason. An internal conflict develops between what I know to be true, and what I “feel” is true. Because of my beliefs, I can search the Scriptures for God’s promises. I can remind myself of similar past times assuring myself I always somehow climb back out. Yet, when in limbo, I still feel stuck.

When I was a child, there was a huge snowstorm where I lived. Folks were unable to drive their cars. Our family, along with neighbors, ventured out along the road to walk to the nearest store which was approximately one mile away. The snow drifts were so high that one of them reached the top of our garage door. I wanted to go visit my friend who lived across the street and I was able to make it about half way when I discovered I could go no further. The snow was piled so deeply that I simply could not take one more step. I was forced to go back the way I came.

There are times we can be faced with taking “one step backwards, two steps forward.” Making the decision to take that step back can be frightening. Perhaps we fear if we change direction we will be unable to move forward again. However, if we try to force ourselves on a blocked pathway, we go nowhere.

Sometimes birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, and other triggers to our grief make us feel as if we are taking a step back. These situations could potentially take us back to a place we do not want to be. It’s a place of memories we often want to forget, and understandably so. They are not always pleasant memories. They are filled with the dark side of our grief and can often be excruciatingly painful. We might simply not want to “go there.” We might anticipate them with a sense of dread.

The reality, however, is that we often can’t avoid them. If we are to move forward, we might have to take that one step backward. Mulling it over can add to our distress. Anticipating the pain and the loss could add to our pain. The bottom line is, it is a situation in which we have no choice. Every year the birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and such occur, there is no escaping them.

Yet, we do have another choice.

We can decide in advance to take that step backwards and allow ourselves to once again embrace the pain of it all, while knowing we can reverse course again and take two steps forward when we emerge from that state of limbo.

It’s similar to a river. A river is constantly moving, forever changing, yet it remains constant in its existence. Our grief can be like a river. We can try to stop it, attempt to dam it up, try and control its flow, but a River will continue to find its own way.

It’s OK to take that step backwards. Often, if we don’t, we can’t take the necessary steps forward. We don’t need to fear that by going backwards we will never again go forward. Like that river, we will find our own level. We will continue to flow even if temporarily diverted.

I, eventually, did make it over to my friend’s house that day. I found another way and eventually the snow did melt and warmer, sunnier days once again emerged.

Limbo is a temporary state.

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

“Do not judge the Grieving Mother. She comes in many forms. She is
breathing, but she is dying. She may look young, but inside she has become ancient. She smiles, but her heart sobs. She walks, she talks, she cooks, she cleans, she works, she IS …but she IS NOT, all at once. She is here, but part of her is elsewhere for eternity.” ~Author unknown

Jude’s book, “Gifts from the Ashes,” is available at Direct Textbook.

A version of this post originally appeared on Jude’s website.

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