I was watching a program the other night and someone on the show was grieving the loss of a loved one. Someone else on the program said something like “I understand that. You’ve lost a loved one. You will grieve that loss for the rest of your life”.
That bothered me. You see I, too have lost loved ones. I have lost grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and had miscarriages. Many years ago we lost our daughter when she was 10 months old following her 8th surgery. She had a lot of suffering, yet her life was full of joy. She touched lives and was a bucket of joy. We, of course, were completely devastated at her loss. Yet we knew to remain stuck in that total abject grief would belie her existence. Her giving and joyous nature brought out joy in others.
We joined a grief group at church. It was a 6-week workshop that taught participants various coping strategies and faith-based strategies. We still needed more support and contact with others after that. We went to counseling and we joined another group that wasn’t at our church. It was at that group that we were scared straight. Everyone there had suffered the death of a child (for some the child had been quite young, for others the child had been an adult in his/her 40s ~ and everywhere in between).
The meeting went the way most support groups went. Most of the people there had been working through their grief of the loss for 5 years, 10 years, or even more. They spoke as if the pain was brand new, and sobbed and cried. It seemed as though some of the people felt close to each other, and no doubt they were, as they had been active participants in this group for years and years. Their pain was excruciating. I do not know how they could keep bearing up under all of that grief.
It scared me straight. You see, I decided after attending these meetings a few times that I would go insane if 10 years from then I was still in that sad, frozen, grief filled state. I literally would not be able to handle that much sorrow for that long. I couldn’t believe that is what my husband and I were called to do. My husband and I knew we did have to work through our grief, but that this wasn’t the group that could help us get there. They were too filled with sorrow and pain to help each other get “unstuck”. The loss of a child is a an incredibly painful thing to go through. When you couple that with the subsequent infertility struggles it can seem insurmountable. But the mountain must be climbed. We climbed it, determined to move toward healing. You see, we knew that we would indeed be reunited with her in eternity. We grew and healed.
The weird thing about going through the stages of grief is that as you gain distance and perspective, and begin to heal, that deep pain goes away. Yet that deep pain was your connection to the loved one. As that wound heals, you are less able to sense or feel the person’s presence. That is a scary feeling, because you lose them in yet another way. You can think “hey I am callous and uncaring if I am not sobbing and crying”; but it isn’t true. The healing is supposed to come. It is o.k. Eventually you have to stop crying non-stop and live. You cry a bit less, and live a bit more. If you have suffered a loss, you know exactly what I mean.
The key to opening the door, moving on from grief, getting stronger and healing after loss begins with deciding to pick up God’s key and putting it in the door to your locked heart.
That reminds me of what Jon Stewart said a few weeks after 9/11. It was on his first show back after 9/11. He said that after 9/11 he didn’t see the point of comedy, writing, or performing. He was in shock, despondent, and didn’t think he could do it anymore. He said that he tried to re-think his life and come up with another job to pursue. Then he added “but frankly there really weren’t ANY jobs available for a man curled up in a fetal position beneath his desk”. Man did that hit home for me. I cried and laughed at the same time when he said it. It put it in perspective. We must get out from under the desk and get to work, even if it is hard and makes us cry.
When we climb out we see that we are not alone after all. We were only alone when we WERE curled up in a fetal position under our desks. You see, there wasn’t room for anyone else under that desk to give us strength for the journey when we were walled off in our grief. In the act of climbing up from that floor of sorrow, we gained enough strength to reach out.
When you reach out, of course you can look around you and look up. When you look around you can see the community God sends you. When you look up, you see Him. When you look up you see that there are monkey bars that will lead you straight across that swamp of sorrow, if you only grab on and keep moving. As C.S. Lewis put it “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward”. ~
The joy, of course can be found when you begin to move forward.