It’s been a tough year. Trust me when I make that proclamation; I know that there are people out there who have had much tougher years than I. That’s kind of the point, actually. While I’ve dealt with some grief myself over the last months, I have watched, both near and far, friends walk through some serious heart-wrenching situations. Stuff that makes you want to just ball up in a corner and hide until the bad things go away. Problem is that the bad things don’t always go away.
This year I’ve seen those around me lose wives, children, friends, jobs, dreams and a plethora of other things people hold dear to their hearts. I’ve even been in the middle of some of it myself. It hasn’t been easy. There have been some times that I’ve really wanted to be Adam Sandler in the movie Click. Just press the fast forward button on my life and get through this section. No muss. No fuss. Life apparently doesn’t work that way. What I have gotten to do, willing or not, is learn something about grief and how to deal with it from the outside looking in… and sometimes from the inside looking out.
First, grief will make you want to do and say things that would normally never even be an option. Sometimes it will hit you when you’re weak and you’ll give in and do or say those things. My first instinct was to write “grief will make you do stupid stuff” but that isn’t true. It isn’t stupid. It’s just logic from the perspective of overwhelming pain. People who live there aren’t looking at the lasting consequences. They don’t care about objective realities (if such a thing exists). They care about relief. From that perspective, lots of things start to make perfect sense. What I’ve learned is that all I can offer is grace. I can’t relieve their pain, I can’t change their circumstances and I shouldn’t judge something that I don’t have the perspective to understand. I need grace. Often. So do my friends who are suffering. I can give them that.
The process of grief is strange. As I work through my own, I keep thinking I’m past a certain point only to find that the issue comes around again and surprises me. The other day I was driving down the road and the song, “Like and Avalanche”, came up on my CD. Instantly I’m taken forcibly by memories of my friend singing this song during worship. It was her song. A unique melody to the Lord that I’ll never hear again. Suddenly I’m fighting tears. Wasn’t I past this? Hadn’t I cried all my tears? Sure. But I’ve learned that just because I’m past it doesn’t mean it isn’t going to circle back around and hit me again at some point. My friends who are dealing with their grief seem to have the same kind of experiences. I’ve learned that I can’t push. Patience is the fruit of the Spirit that I have to cultivate here. The process isn’t linear. You don’t check off a box and then forget about it because it is over. If Corinthians is right and “Love is patient”, then declaring that someone should be over it by now, that 6 months or a year is long enough, isn’t love. It’s the opposite of love. It’s impatient. Even when directed at myself. I will be patient, with others and with me.
People deal with this thing called grief differently. One person I know threw themselves into activities with their friends, as if frantically trying to connect to life in the middle of death. Others sealed themselves away in their home. Some sing. Some are silent. Some laugh. Some cry. Sometimes the same person will do a bunch of these at different times. It’s okay. Everybody is different and everyone gets through it their own way. I can’t make them be like me. On the other side, I can’t really make them understand either. I can try but there is understanding born in the mind and then there is understanding born in experience. You can’t give anyone the second type and that’s what they need in order to “get it”. For my friends I make peace with the fact that I don’t get it and I’m not likely to do so. They don’t get it when it is me either. I don’t have to understand someone in order to be there. I just have to show up.
There’s a lot more to say. Frankly, I’m no expert. This is just the rambling of a guy trying to collect all the little pieces and make them fit somehow. I know they might not ever fit but there is often something to be gained in the trying. So I try. I try for my sake. I try for the sake of those who depend on me to be strong. In the end, God meets me in my trying and that’s the important thing.