“We’re in trouble,” I whispered to the blank expression staring back numbly in the airplane bathroom mirror. Ten months with a vibrant, enthusiastic team had just come to an end. We’d shared life, work, meals, prayer, fun together. We’d hugged goodbye and promised to write.
And I felt… nothing.
No sadness. No tears. No sorrow. Not even relief. Nothing.
Too many heart wrenching goodbyes on this side of the ocean and on the other. Too many relational changes stacked up on top of each other. Too many transitions with no time to catch my breath in between. And way too many “small” losses barely given a nod in the busyness of this life of serving and giving.
It all added up to the sum total of numb.
Numbness seems safer than the pain of accumulative loss. But along with the moratorium on sadness, joy and compassion and a host of other feelings go on lock down as well.
And emotions unfelt become suffocating loads to bear.
So, yes, grief is hard. The sadness can be excruciating. It blindsides you with its intensity and rawness. It confuses you with its dormancy. It surprises you by bringing along its companions of anger, rage, guilt, doubt, fear. But experiencing the ache of grief is a gift.
Grief is a herald, proclaiming someone or something mattered to you. You experienced fullness and life. You invested, you dreamed, you loved.
Grief is an anchor, rooting you into an understanding of and centering on what you value.
Grief is a pathway, guiding you to a new normal and new invitations to invest, dream, love.
My way out of numbness was dependent on a willingness to be led down this unfamiliar path of grief. A willingness to make room for messy emotions I don’t like and would rather shove into the ditch than let join me on the journey, spilling out unfiltered and uncertain.
But I clung to this vow, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do. I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16) And it was true.
Today on my morning walk a feeling of dread slowly washed over me as I saw only three ducklings waddling with their mama. Yesterday there were eight. I wondered how that mama duck was experiencing life this morning, weaving through the grass with those who were left.
And then a little smile, “I am sad about the loss of five little ducklings and feeling compassion for a duck.” This is a very good thing.
What’s been your experience with grieving? What has grief taught you?
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