I remember the weekend after my husband died I took my girls to a concert. It was just the healing balm we needed. The music washed over me and somehow helped me breathe. My girls jumped and danced with their friends. Laughter rang out in the aisles.
After the concert, we saw a friend who used to attend our church. She rushed down the row and burst into tears in my arms. “I’m so sorry,” she sobbed.
For the first time, I realized this grief journey was going to be hard and awkward. I would have my private grief, and I would have my public grief. And I would have to learn to navigate both.
I was not feeling sad at that exact moment. God met me during the concert and my spirits were lifted. Even though I was the newly-minted widow, I was not in the moment of sorrow. I had no tears to share with that friend.
I wondered who else I knew was at the concert that night. Did they see me singing and raising my hands? Did they see the girls and me laughing? Were we grieving right in public? Were we dishonoring my husband?”
These questions raced through my mind, but as the weeks unfolded I realized I had to quiet the temptation to please others in my grief. I had to step into the messy and awkward moments, and allow my community to grieve with me and apart from me too.
I had to let myself dive into the deep of being without my life partner, my beloved. I also had to give myself permission to laugh again. And, that I discovered, takes courage.
Kate Merrick’s book, And Still She Laughs, examines the Bible’s gritty stories of resilient women as well as her own experience losing a child to reveal surprising joy and deep hope even in the midst of heartache. The book was released in March but I happened upon it at just the right time smack in the middle of this summer. I took the book to the ocean and drank up the words with the crashing of the waves as my backdrop.
Kate’s a Southern California girl from a surfer family and she weaves her love affair with the ocean into her story of grief and glory. Sometimes a book can be healing. Sometimes a book read in a specific season in a specific place can be even more healing.
Kate writes,“This book is not intended to take the place of grieving; rather, it speaks to what to do when the tidal wave washes past, when the sizzle from the burn settles, when we finally look around and wonder what’s next. When we wonder if it is actually possible to come out of the paralysis of darkness and find laughter again.”
Needless to say, I was hooked.
If you are walking through grief of any kind, or if you love beautiful, candid storytelling, this book will minister to your soul. Kate also helped me see some of my favorite Bible characters through new lenses and with new compassion.
What I appreciate most is Kate’s honesty. She doesn’t sugarcoat the pain. She doesn’t offer up pat answers or trite, happy thoughts for navigating grief. She’s frank, funny and real. She’s not afraid to talk about the day of her miscarriage or the time a dog peed on her at the beach or how she and her daughter pranked the nurses during her daughter’s cancer treatment.
Kate makes me laugh. And she is convinced laughter is the key to survival. Laughter “can be healing, literally,” she writes. “It can inject an impossibly terrible situation with a whoosh of fresh air. Sharing laughter fosters a bond between humans. In its purest form it brings life.”
Kate’s book opens with this: “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future” from Proverbs 31:25.
My prayer is that you and I can live and laugh like that too.
**If you’re a reader and you love to talk books, check out more of my book reviews here.
***I’d love to send you my Glorygram – a weekly word of encouragement with book, podcast and recipe recommendations. Opt in here.