An Ocean Loud Enough to Hold My Grief


I had saved my pennies for months. I said no to as many coffees as I could and finally boarded the plane to the Pacific Northwest.

To Portland.
To my baby sister.
She was holding space for me to grieve.

I needed space to heal. I needed to feel the oxygen from the trees release and fill my lungs. I needed air big enough to hold my screams and an ocean loud enough to hold my grief. I needed a mountain to climb and remember what physical exhaustion felt like. I needed my feet to feel the earth below not move, but climb higher. I needed to hide in the cover of the fog. I needed to see the waterfalls cry out. I ached to be heard and moments to process. I longed for this space to heal.

My therapist recently suggested I watch The Shack. She said it may help me process the pain and see God in a new way. What she didn’t tell me is how, for the first time, I would feel God. I would feel her see me. I lay for hours in the fetal position on my bed. Watching the movie over and over again. I know so many had issues with the book and movie. And normally I don’t watch Christian movies. Well, because quality. And because I don’t want someone to tie my faith up in a bow and put a privileged stamp on it. My faith is messy and complicated and pair that with the institution of the church and affiliations and I had lost hope.

When I watched the movie, I had no idea it was filmed at Multnomah Falls. This is the exact place my sister brought me the first day. I stood silently on the bridge below the falls and just wept. Knowing God was there. I could feel her. Watching her weep with me down the side of the jagged rocks. People around me were taking selfies and group shots and arguing where the best angle was. And all I kept thinking was, “Shhh … you can hear her … You can hear her cry.”

We hiked through the trails that week, sometimes in silence as our feet climbed the earth and sometimes in step with our stories. Each day, I released a little more of what I was holding into the trees. My sister drove me to the ocean where she watched me scream into the water. The wind whipped my hair and as the waves carried my anger away from shore.

I spent the week listening to myself. What did I need to move through the grief? I quieted myself and welcomed it all to the table. Every emotion. Every fear. Every resentment. Every mistake. I made space in my soul to sit with it all. To receive what I needed.

Things I learned when I made space to heal: 

I can climb a mountain.

I screamed at Fear in the face and he heard me.

I had carried this sadness for so many.

I feel alive in the woods.

I can hear God in the trees.

I feel safe in the water.

I feel afraid of the ocean.

I am afraid of the full truth.

I need to forgive myself.

The mountains had to erupt for this beauty to birth.


About Sheli:

Sheli Massie is a story keeper and seeker of justice, healing and hope in a broken world. She believes in longer tables, unlocked doors and living a barefoot life. She and her husband live outside of Chicago with their five children and one grandlove. You can find her over on Instagram @shelimassie, Redbud Writers, FacebookTwitter and  her website.