Grief Like A Tsunami

1 Feb


The other day I was driving on the highway when the most outrageous rainbow I’d ever seen appeared in the sky. It had been raining lightly in Southern California, which in itself is rare. I was so taken by the rainbow that I turned off the highway to photograph it. Right off the exit was a Denny’s, so I pulled into the parking lot. Of course when I later posted the photos on FB, people joked about the rainbow leading to Denny’s and not a pot of gold.


Denny’s photobombing my rainbow was classic. What better place for Glory to descend than in the middle of an ugly, Southern California highway? If Beauty can lower herself to the banality of Denny’s, perhaps Grace can appear in our darkest moments?

I was having a rough day, filled with a sense of doubt about many things. For comfort, I drove to the church my mom and I used to attend. I don’t frequent there often, but when I long to feel close to her, I visit the church.

I don’t know my mother’s exact state when she overdosed on amitriptyline. I know her death was intentional though because she left me a suicide note. In it, she wrote that she lived in “a world of utter darkness, despair and pain.” She continued, “I cannot stand life anymore. There seems to be no way out. Depression has totally overcome me.”

Whatever the causes for pain of this magnitude, no amount of cheerleader pep talk helps. This vortex of existential angst can suck us into the blackest hole. Despite not harboring destructive tendencies, I sometimes perceive this state and and know why she ended her life.

Enduring intense pain is like sweating out a fever. Emotions, like toxins, move through us, begging for release. Running a fever isn’t something to be taken lightly and sometimes needs professional care. At the very least, tender love and care. In an ideal world, another human being sits with us and holds our hand until a ray of light pierces the night and we feel less bleak.

Grief can hit like a tsunami, knocking us down with little warning. I lived in Indonesia and remember watching, years later when back in America, the news coverage of tidal destruction that hit the Indonesian archipelago in the 90’s. It was devastating to think about and witness. The path towards repair can seem futile and the anguish insurmountable. And yet like the biblical story of Noah, in which a rainbow appears after the flood finally calms, sometimes a sign appears – a vision of color cascading through the sky.


This wasn’t just some little rainbow gracing the skies of Southern California yesterday. This was a big honking rainbow. Thank you, mother for winking at me from the sky.




3 Responses to “Grief Like A Tsunami”

  1. marrangeliz February 3, 2015 at 2:44 pm #

    Thank you for sharing! Speechless!

  2. Bill Lentz February 7, 2015 at 7:03 pm #

    Perceptively written. Emotionally unlocking. Exceedingly grateful. Thank you.

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