This time last year the world was just beginning to comprehend that life as we knew it might not be within reach anytime soon.
Quarantines, lockdowns, facemasks and remote learning were forcing most folks to face the fact that they were not in control.
And that’s a very, very scary reality.
This year things are different but not necessarily better.
So how DO you walk in a world when you’re not sure anything you do or don’t do makes a difference? How do you hold onto hope when the news and social media and personal experience scream, “All hope is lost!!”?
The bereaved can be trusted guides. Listen to them.
For the first time I feel there’s a wider audience longing for the secret recipe to life after loss.
I know not every heart is suffering from physical loss of a loved one but I think there are some general principles I’ve learned that can help anyone who’s struggling to find a path through this difficult season.
If you haven’t watched the body of someone you love lowered into the ground while holding your breath and praying, praying, praying that somehow, some way this isn’t real then maybe you can’t imagine what it feels like not to be spared.
Me? It doesn’t take but a single breath to go from “everything is alright” to “my world is shattered”. I feel every. single. death. added to the tally coronavirus or mass shooting or tornado destruction leaves behind.
So what do we do if we aren’t rescued? What do we cling to if our family isn’t spared?
What if all the prayers lifted on behalf of ones I love don’t stop death from claiming them?
When Jesus entered Jerusalem He was hailed as a hero. But when He didn’t perform as expected He was cast aside.
Will I choose to believe even when it’s hard?
So what if I’m not rescued?
What if my family isn’t spared?
What if all the faithful prayers lifted on behalf of ones I love don’t stop death from claiming them?
Will I still believe?
Will I still trust that God is a loving Father who is in control and working all things together for His glory and my good?
Yesterday I finished a short video for a bereaved parents event that should have been completed a week (or two!) ago.
I just kept putting it off and putting it off for no good reason other than I didn’t want to do it.
It wasn’t hard, didn’t cover ground I haven’t already explored dozens of times and really only took about thirty minutes to complete including set up and recording.
But I just wasn’t feeling it.
I’ve been more than a little undermotivated these past few months and as I enter what I call my “season of sorrow” marking Dominic’s departure for Heaven, it’s gotten worse.
There have been a lot of changes and adjustments in the past twelve months-some associated with the larger pandemic story and impact and some peculiar to my family. All of those in addition to the usual ebb and flow of grief (yes, even after nearly seven years!) have contributed to a (not laudable) attitude of, “What difference does it make?”.
It’s kind of the emotional equivalent of stretchy pants. It’s easy to ignore a few extra pounds or inches as long as you can still fit in your clothes.
I’m weary of death.
Weary of daily social media posts pitting one “side” against the other as if there could possibly be any “winners” in this awful scenario where the virus is claiming lives and the attempt to limit death is claiming businesses, young folks’ college years and individuals’ mental health as they face isolation and devastation.
I’ve been weepy the past few days thinking of the parents who have had to bury children (whatever age) and spouses burying lifetime partners. I don’t have an answer for any of this except that I wish we would all be more compassionate and less territorial or political.
There is a very happy and exciting visit on the horizon that is lighting a fire under my backside. I hope I can overcome my lack of motivation and choose to lean in and work hard to get ready for it.
I want to, with all my heart.
I hope to, with as much energy as I can muster.
My default (in the past) has always been running wide open.
If we haven’t already we will soon surpass the total number of Americans killed in WW II (in four years) with the number of Americans killed by (or whose deaths were hastened by) COVID19 (in less than a year).
In addition to those grieving the death of a loved one are those grieving the death of financial security, jobs, dreams and freedom.
May I just tell you this?
You are not invisible. Your struggle matters. Your everyday bravery in opening eyes to an unchanged and devastating reality is laudable and noted.
Child loss is not the only devastating life circumstance that can make a person want to hide in bed.
Every single day, broken hearts, broken bodies and limping spirits open their eyes to the dawn and choose to get up and get going.
I know these days so many of us are spending more time at home, more time alone.
For introverts or wounded hearts not having to turn down invitations can seem like a gift.
But it’s easy to slide from solitude (healthy, restorative alone time) into isolation (unhealthy, depleting separation). So I ask myself a few questions to help sort it out.
If you are feeling increasingly alone and forgotten, full of despair and abandoned, you might want to use this checklist too.
Even in this era of social (physical) distancing a heart can and absolutely should seek out community.
It’s what we were made for.
I’ve always loved my alone time.
As an introvert (who can, if pressed pretend not to be!) my energy is restored when I interact with one or two folks or no one at all. A dream afternoon is writing while listening to nothing louder than the wind chimes outside my door.
I treasure solitude.
Since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, I find I need even more alone time than before.
That quiet place is where I do my most effective grief work, undisturbed by interruptions and distractions.
But I need to be careful that solitude doesn’t shift into isolation.
This year has been challenging in ways I could never have imagined nor anticipated. It’s been that way for most of us I think.
Communal grief, pain and loss have wrapped themselves around the unique grief, pain and loss of hearts everywhere.
Definitely plenty to give a person pause.
And while I do believe it’s a good thing to reflect every so often I’m not certain it has to be on the same date every year.
But since the world seems to agree on this one, I’ll join in:
Turning a calendar page doesn’t guarantee a fresh start. Resolutions, affirmations, hopeful aspirations can’t erase the marks we bear from previous life experiences. I’m all for declaring boldly that tomorrow may be better but I’ve learned the hard way it might be worse. So I hold my hands open either way and adjust my stance to accept whichever it may be.
Attitude makes a difference.I despise silly little mantras that claim I can will my way out of every dark and desperate situation.Bad things happen. Sorrow and sadness are appropriate and reasonable reactions to hard times. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but feel the feelings, let the tears fall and allow my heart to experience the pain. But I can choose to turn my attention to whatever may still be beautiful in my world. I can lift my eyes to tiny flickers of light on the horizon. I can embrace joy along with sorrow.
My worth is not tied to external accomplishments or society’s arbitrary markers of success. I refuse to listen to the enemy’s lies whispered in my ear, “You are less than. You are a failure. You only count if your ‘wins’ outweigh your ‘losses'”. A new year may feel like a new beginning but it can also be a stark reminder of last year’s list of resolutions that may or may not have yielded measurable progress. Striving for improvement is healthy. Beating myself up for not meeting every goal is not.
Things can be replaced, people can’t. I’m not making light of the very real and very painful loss so many people have suffered this year as businesses failed, income dwindled and hopes for financial progress dashed. It’s no small thing to come back to ashes where your home once stood. Standing in line at a community food bank for a box when you used to stand in line at the grocery store is humbling. But if my family is alive and (relatively) well at the end of the year, we can work the rest out together.
The only investment with a guaranteed return is love. Sure I try to plan for the future. I eat right, exercise, save money and maintain my home and car all in the hope that investing time, energy and effort today will pay off tomorrow. But truth is (as we’ve all learned this year!) outside and unseen forces can undo the best laid plans and preparation. But love is never wasted or destroyed. All the love I pour into others lasts forever.
This time last year I was hope-filled and looking forward to a less stressful, amazing twelve months.
That’s not how it turned out.
I’ve learned some things though.
So I’ll carry that wisdom into 2021-no lofty resolutions or proclamations-and settle for survival. ❤