One of my favorite words is “fun” followed closely by “come on!” and “adventure”. These roll off my tongue like so many gumballs off a conveyor belt. “That sounds fun” or “It’ll be fun” or simply ” Oh, fun!” are phrases I’ve become aware of as having inherent merit and investment value — if something’s gonna be fun then it’s almost automatically worth the effort involved.
You know what’s not fun?
These things suck, plain and simple. Talking about them feels like a bummer, something inherently NOT fun and thereby something to avoid. Even though that’s my first reaction, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about them. It’s just that it’s hard. It can make a person feel sad (shocker, right?).
Don’t mis-hear me though. These things also have merit and value, if only because they have to because, you know, life.
Life happens and people get sick, people lose their jobs, things fall apart, and everything does absolutely NOT go according to plan, despite all our best efforts.
I’m starting to realize (reluctantly) that grief is a natural part of life.
Sorry. I wish it wasn’t that way.
This is probably something everybody else already knew that I didn’t.
I don’t think things are this way because we screwed up God’s plan, even though that’s what I was taught way back when and what’s still being taught in many churches today. The line of thinking goes: If only that evil snake hadn’t fooled that ambitious Eve and that dimwitted Adam hadn’t just gone along with it, everything would be different.
I’ve started to think of grief as part of the full range of human experience, as much as that’s bad news all around. Most of the time I think it would feel nicer if this wasn’t the case.
Do a little brain exercise with me, and let’s test that theory.
Pretend that everything had gone according to God’s plan (as some people think we know it (sorry to be contrary but I can’t just agree with everyone, even if I do like people to get along, and I’m just not so sure anymore about this anymore — another result of the process of grief for me.)) and everything was perfect. There was no sickness, there was no sadness, there were no tears for God to wipe away or store in some bottle.
Pretty awesome, right? I mean, how can you find fault with sunshine, rainbows and hugs all day long? You just can’t…right?
There was a time when I would have agreed. There would be nothing better than to be perfectly happy at all times, with no sadness or loss of any kind. Sounds like a super-sweet gig. (Also sounds like what I’ve seen of people when they’re doped up, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Anyway, it sounds like a sweet gig…
Until you realize that what you’re talking about is a one-sided experience, however blissful that may be for a while. What you’re imagining as perfection is a charicature, a cardboard cut-out, and it lacks the depth of full experience that magnifies the happiness of happiness, that cultivates an appreciation for the joy it claims to understand.
You’ll never get the power of the resolution without the tension.
As hard as it is, various forms of grief are a natural part of the way things just are, and it doesn’t help (meaning it doesn’t change anything) to rage against it, although that’s part of a natural response to grief. Friends are going to decide they don’t want to hang around with you anymore, significant others are going to decide they no longer wasn’t to be significant to you, offers on a perfect house are going to fall through, job promotions will be given to someone else, people you love — or even you — are going to have a health issue that can’t be undone with as many prayers and juice diets you might perform.
Nobody tells us this as kids, unless it’s already a part of your childhood experience. but even then, most parents wouldn’t go into great detail about any specific hardship facing the child or the family. I don’t say to my child with a chronic health condition, “Here, honey, here’s a list of all the things you’re going to have to handle that other people won’t even think to think about.” Nobody does that.
What good would that do anyone?
Talking about grief bums me out. Being a participant in grief is not easy. It’s draining and hard. And it is sneaky, showing up in ways that are impossible to prepare for.
Talking about grief, however, allows others to comfort us. It allows others to show their care for us. And it may allow others to be less isolated in their own journey of grief.
My dad died three and a half years ago. It doesn’t feel like it could possibly have been that long. How can we still be functioning? How can we as a family ever see each other and not talk about it? How can he have missed so many moments and events and birthdays and milestones and phone calls and questions and the national crisis that is presidency of 45? How can he keep not being here?
but he is gone. that’s just the way it is. and no amount of missing him can change that.
This fall, my 36-year-old cousin suddenly passed away. No car accident, no serious underlying health issue. She just suddenly passed away and we don’t know a reason why. How do you wrap your mind around that?
Just when you think you’ve navigated the most difficult waters, another storm blows in and a rogue wave threatens to capsize your boat.
Talking about grief is good for us to do together. I talked to my friend at Retreat House Podcast about grief and I barely even cried. Okay, I might have cried a little in the car on the way to meeting up with her, a little during our conversation, and maybe some more in the car after I left. But don’t rub it in.
If you want to listen to our conversation, you can click this link and shoot right over to that episode of her podcast. She’s doing a whole series on grief, and as weird as it might sound to say it, hearing other people’s stories about grief is good. Maybe it’s because we hear things we can relate to, whatever type of loss it might be. Maybe it’s because it makes us realize we’re not alone. Maybe it challenges us to think about how we respond to people around us who are walking in the middle of grief. As much as it’s hard and there’s residual sadness that comes from talking about grief (who knew? Talking about sorrow can make you sad!), I hope you’ll find it weirdly encouraging.
If you are willing, I’d welcome your stories of walking though grief in your own life, if that’s not too hard for you right now. If it is, I hope you find the comfort and support you need today.