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Leaning Into Grief

Grief is a wet, weighted blanket being thrown at you full speed. It’s heavy. It knocks you down. It hurts. You can’t breathe, you can’t see, and you can barely move. 

There are times when you have time to prepare for the impending grief. You can anticipate its arrival and steady yourself for its impact. But it still hits you in the face. It’s still heavy. It still hurts. It’s still hell.

Other times grief comes out of nowhere. It blindsides you. It’s like you’re walking confidently down a dark hallway when the wet, weighted blanket hits you from behind, knocking you on your face. It’s torture.

It’s finding out your husband and daughter died in a tragic accident on their way to a basketball game. It’s finding out your son was murdered overnight. It’s finding out your friend who tweeted about having the flu two days ago is no longer alive.

I spend a lot of time trying to make theological sense of the world, and with most things, I can come up with some theological understanding that at least allows me to cope with what’s occurring. But I fail miserably at doing this with death.

Humans have this inexplicable, innate desire to live, to be here, on this earth with all its flaws. They build relationships. They are interdependent. And then one day it’s over. Someone is gone…into the abyss, into a place that no one can be sure of…and there’s no more relationship…ever. Just hurt.

And the hurt is complex and layered. Hurt emerges simply because you miss the person, and you no longer have their presence and/or support. There’s pain of regret, and the woulda, coulda, shouldas that bombard your mind, heart, and spirit. And then there’s the pain that comes from confusion and your inability to understand why this happened. Finally, there’s being angry at a God who is supposed to be good, who’s supposed to be just, who is supposed to be powerful enough to prevent pain, tragedy and loss. 

I’ve been in church most of my entire life. I know all of the cliche explanations. “God doesn’t make mistakes.” “You can’t question God.” “The good ones leave first.” “They’re at peace with God.” “Put your hope in things eternal.” All of this falls flat to me. None of it makes me feel better. None of it gives me comfort. None of it helps subside my grief.

Honestly, most of these statements make me angry. They always come off as patronizing, insufficient, and dismissive to the pain that is overwhelming me. I’d much rather people shut the fuck up be quiet and sit with me in my grief than say anything.

And that’s been the only way that I have been able to process grief: to sit with it, to live through it. There are no words that can provide adequate comfort. There is nothing that can be done to accelerate the process. There is no avoiding grief. 

I treat grief like I treat all pain; I lean into it. I feel whatever it is I feel. Cry whenever and wherever I need to cry. And I’m honest with myself about every emotion. I allow myself to feel all the pain, anger, disappointment, and disgust.

Life, heartbreak, and grief have taught me that the pain won’t always be so tender. Grief always changes you, but I always manage to learn to navigate the world within my new normal.

As I navigate the wave of unexpected death that’s been thrown at me, steady myself for a week of memorial services, and attempt to navigate the residual grief of those long lost that reemerges, I give myself permission to lean into all the pain while simultaneously reaching into whatever gratitude I can find.

I’m exhausted by death, loss, and grief. I have nothing left to give it. But I will continue to lean into the pain knowing that “after the grieving, the gift of life shows up reminding us why we’re still here.”

Missing you, Jonas. Keep watch over us beautiful ones.