The Importance of Agency in Grief

For those of you who follow the blog on a regular basis you’ll know that I managed to disable my laptop keyboard yesterday by spilling my coffee.

Well, I’m up and running again thanks to the marvels of technology and bluetooth.

And while that might be a tiny blip on the radar for some folks, it’s HUGE for me!

Here’s why: when my son was killed in a random, unpredictable, unanticipated accident nearly eight years ago, I was stripped of any illusion of control. My world-which up to that moment had been fairly predictable-was suddenly chaotic and very, very frightening.

I learned early on this journey that if I was going to survive, I’d have to exercise what psychologists call “agency” even if it was in something as simple as choosing for myself what I’d have for breakfast or finding a workaround for a broken keyboard.

Years ago in my undergraduate studies we read about a famous experiment in which fish were placed in tanks with invisible dividers. At first the fish would try to cross over to the other side of the tank.

But hitting the divider over and over, they soon learned to stop trying.

When the researchers removed the barrier they found the fish still stopped where it used to be and didn’t even try to reach the other side any more.

Traumatic loss can make a heart give up on everything-not just the one or two things that are truly outside our control.

It’s why so many of us bereaved parents find ourselves staring off into space, sitting in a chair, unable to move and do even the simplest tasks.

We aren’t crazy.

We are just conditioned to believe that no matter what we do, it won’t make any difference.

But I’m here to tell you-don’t give up and give in!

It’s absolutely true that we have so. much. less. control than we think we have. Seat belts, good health habits, careful living can’t protect against random.

But there are many ways we can still craft a world where love and light reign.

So today I’m celebrating the fact that while I can’t make the sun come up or protect my loved ones from every unpredictable horror I can choose to DO what I can to shape my sphere of influence and exercise control over some parts of my little world.

If you can’t do it all, do something.

And celebrate.

We Always Have a Choice. I Choose Hope.

One of the most devastating aspects of child loss is the idea that we’ve lost agency-the ability to choose anything or impact the outcome of anything.

God invites us through Christ to reclaim that.

No, we cannot control every aspect of our lives. But we absolutely can control where we point our hearts.

I choose hope.

It’s hard and it isn’t always immediately helpful. Even still, it has meant the difference between giving up and going on. Jesus is here. He has conquered death and hell.

I may have to walk by faith for the rest of my days but I know that the One in whom I place my trust will not fail. ❤

Here’s a little manifesto I wrote regarding Christmas and the Lusko family. I encourage you to borrow the idea the next time you are scared. “We will celebrate the birth of the One who came to destroy death and bring life and immortality to light through the gospel. We will sing until our voices won’t let us. We will preach and celebrate seeing people come to know Jesus, just as we did days after Lenya died in my arms. We will party if we can muster the courage, cry when we miss her, and collapse if we have to. Even though He slays us, we will bless His name. We always have a choice, and we choose to rejoice.

Levi Lusko, Through the Eyes of a Lion, p. 165
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