As a writer I have been challenged to find my “niche”. People have access to so much information, so many stories, all the advice they ever wanted and every opportunity to be inspired. So I’ve asked myself….
Why do I write? What unique perspective do I have to offer a world who has all the inspiration and information at their fingertips?
I have asked God those two questions over and over again looking for a different answer. But each time I’ve asked, in my spirit I have heard him say “Speak to people about grief.”
I’ve always felt like that was such an unusual calling, but the last several days I have wondered if he has given me this passion for such a time as this.
I say that, because we have all lost so much, so fast. We have lost our world that felt safe from super viruses, rations and quarantines. We have lost our sense of normalcy, everything feels unsteady and unknown. We have lost our ability to see the people we love, in fear of making them sick. We have lost the life we had just a few weeks ago.
I have had a lot of opportunities to grieve in my life and I have not done it well. I have paid the price for that and so have the people I love. I want people to learn from my mistakes.
I want people to have a better understanding of what grief looks like in real life. It doesn’t just look like a weeping widow or a desperate mother. If you are looking, you can see in a person’s eyes or hear it in their tone. You can observe it in people’s shoulders or how they hold their gaze. If you are looking, you’ll see it all around you.
Especially right now.
The Coronavirus is still pretty new to us, so we are in the early stages of grief. Most of us are still in shock. My hope is that I can unpack the stages of grief in real time, so that we can avoid the bottled up effects of not grieving properly later.
You see, we need to experience these feelings now or they will come out sideways later.
For now, just take my word for it.
Last week I wrote about the importance of grieving. I’ve written extensively about my story (Transplant) and what grief has looked like in my life (start with Denial). I’m going to take some of those thoughts and reframe them in a way that can hopefully help us make sense of the emotions we are experiencing as a result of the Coronavirus.
But before we dive right in, I want to share a few basic thoughts I have around grief.
It’s beautiful. I love talking about grief. It is universal. Every human experiences it, whether they realize it or not. It’s completely predictable and unpredictable. God created it. He created it as a pathway to healing – a pathway to wholeness. Because God created it, he will meet us there. Grief gives us a glimpse of clarity in the midst of chaos.
You can trust Jesus and still grieve. After my transplant (Transplant) I believed I couldn’t be upset about what happened. I felt like grieving meant I wasn’t grateful. My world was black and white. When I felt sad, I felt like I was betraying God, Cheri (my donor) and her family. I was alive and someone literally had to die so I could live. What did I have to be sad about? I experienced an incredible breakthrough when I realized that I can be sad and grateful at the same time; it does not have to be one or the other.
Someone dying isn’t the only cause of grief. Grief comes after loss. You need to grieve loss. Again, I didn’t give myself permission to grieve early on because I didn’t die. In fact, it was the opposite, I felt I had risen from the dead! But I lost so much that day. I lost my life as I knew it. I lost my health. I lost my innocence. I lost my memories. I lost my body. I lost my world that felt safe and made sense. We also have all experienced a lot of loss in a short amount of time. Like I mentioned earlier, we have lost the world that felt safe from super viruses, rationing and quarantining. We have lost our jobs. We have lost our savings. We have lost our freedom to be out and about. We have lost control. And it is just the beginning.
After encountering loss, you will experience grief whether you realize it or not. That is the reason I want to start the conversation about grief now, so that as much as possible, we can navigate our feelings together in real time. Denial is the first phase of grief. It is our initial reaction to loss. It’s a defense mechanism. It’s also God’s protection. It can cause us to go into shock. It’s the adrenaline that allows us to plan funerals and give inspiring tributes in front of hundreds of people. Like I said, grief is beautiful and I strongly believe God designed denial as a protection. It allows us to get through those first few moments, few days or even months. But the problem is, a lot of people stay there. People may acknowledge their loss, but in their heart they can’t let go. They refuse to redecorate. They will not change routine. In my case, when I entered into denial – I didn’t take care of myself like I should have. I wanted to believe I still had a healthy 18 year old body. I didn’t care that I was more susceptible to skin cancer, I wanted a tan. I didn’t care that I needed more sleep, I didn’t want to miss out. Denial is designed as a defense mechanism, not a way of life. And unfortunately many of us live there, although exhausting, it feels safe. As I have mentioned, the problem with unresolved grief is that it will come out sideways later.
Unresolved grief will quickly surface in the presence of another person’s grief. There is an appropriate sadness that occurs when we hear of another’s loss. Then there is the unresolved grief response. Have you ever heard a story of someone else’s grief and all of a sudden you have been overwhelmed with deep sadness? Have past painful experiences quickly risen to the forefront of your mind as you listen to someone else’s story? It’s happened to me, more than once. The person that is sharing doesn’t even have to have a similar experience that I have had. I have tried to ignore those feelings, push them aside; I’m just being empathetic, right? Nope, these feelings are deeper. They rise up within you from a deep, dark place. Sit there, don’t ignore those feelings. Something doesn’t belong, that past experience hasn’t been processed and put in its proper place. Don’t be surprised that if in this season past pain resurfaces. I don’t know all the psychology behind it, but I do know that grief begets grief.
We are in uncertain times. We don’t have a playbook on how to navigate this. But we have been given a path, a path that brings clarity into the chaos and creates a pathway to healing and it’s called grief. God never promised that our journey would be easy, just that he would be with us on our travels. God created grief and will meet you there. You will see me there too, we are all in this together.
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