Saturday, May 4, 2013

An open letter

To those who who have had friends and family die, or you lost your home or livelihood, in the Texas factory explosion . . .

To those whose lives have been rocked forever by Boston Marathon bombing . . .

To my friend Dionne, whose amazing boyfriend unexpectedly died in his sleep . . .

To all my readers who have recently lost a baby, and there is no headline news, no outpouring of support -- but you've suffered a death just the same . . .

To YOU who may have suffered a death or a loss, and you are new to this thing called grief . . .

I am so very, very sorry.

You need to know that people care. So very much.

But they won't always know the right words or the right way to show you how much they love you, and how much they hurt with you.

Their grief is real. It's just not the same as yours. It's not all-consuming. It's not their new normal.

And so people will tell try to encourage you in ways that you might not always find encouraging.

People are going to tell you to stay strong. They will promise you God's peace and His comfort. They will tell you you will heal. They show you a crazy amount of support for a few days -- maybe even a few weeks. One day you will wake up, and wonder where everyone has gone.

Before you have even wrapped your brain around your loss . . . Before you even can get through a day without the constant heartache of your loved one lost . . . Before you start eating, breathing and sleeping without MAKING yourself take one more breathe, prepare one more meal, or face one more day . . .

They will talk about moving on.

They will ask you when you plan to start dating again. Or when you will get pregnant again. They will remind you of all the things you should still be thankful for. They might suggest that something is wrong with you, because you still hurt so much. They will try to fix things -- fix you.

They just won't understand.

And they can't. Not unless they've been there. And none of us would wish that anyone else would ever have to be "there." 

And it's not that they are trying to be callous. Or uncaring.

The truth is they care so much, they just want to see you happy again. They want some sort of sign that through this storm, you will eventually be OK again.

So I want to tell you a few things I've learned in my journey of grief, in hopes that it may help.

"Staying strong" is a farce. That assumes you are strong right now -- and you aren't. Grief -- loss -- has changed all that.

Embrace your weakness. Let other people care for you, prepare meals, do your laundry and clean your bathroom. This is as much a service for those around you who want to help as it is a service to you.

Let your tears come as often and intense as you need. Do not judge your tears -- wondering if you are crying to much or too little.

Do not judge your grief at all, for that matter. Just let it be.

As for peace, one day, you may feel at peace again. But not now. And maybe not for a long, long time. And that's OK.

A person whom you love so very much has been forever taken from your world.
There's no peace in that.

An existence you always took for granted is simply gone -- and you can not reclaim it.
There's no peace in that.

A world that once felt safe is now unpredictable, tragic and scary.
There's no peace in that.

When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, I doubt any of us would have had the guts to recite back to him  "Peace I give to you, my peace I leave with you." He was so overcome with grief that that He was literally sweating blood. I doubt very much He was "claiming God's peace" right then.

And I think that's OK. He was about to bear every single sin of the world on His shoulders, while facing a tortuous death, and He was doing it without the presence of His Father.

I think we (Christians especially) want all of God's blessings, and the wonderful support He promises -- and we want it, NOW.

But even as God promises us His presence, His comfort, His peace . . it's not always immediately there. Sometimes we have to go on a journey before we realize God's blessing.

Sometimes, we aren't OK with grief being a process. A journey. We forget that peace and comfort are not the appropriate feelings for every occasion. We think peace has to be present ALL of the time in order for it to be real.

And that's just not the case.

God is clearly OK with process. He took 7 days to make the universe when He could have done it with the snap of His fingers. He had the Israelites wander in the desert for 40 years to meet His purpose, instead of letting them experience the Promised Land right away. God asked Jesus to wait for 30 years before officially launching His ministry -- and only had Him minister for 3.

If God doesn't need an instant fix -- instant peace, instant comfort, instant hope . . . . If God is OK with a process . . . I think then it's ridiculous for us Christians to expect you to have an instant fix too.

As for hope, it is still there. Even if you can't feel it. Even if you don't want to feel it.

But hope does not take away or ease the pain of what you are going through.

 "For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, a
nd sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
-- Hebrews 12:2

When Jesus hung from the cross, sure He knew that God was in control.

But He still ENDURED the cross. His hope for joy did not numb the very real pain of the nails holding His body to a cross. That did not exempt Him from feeling completely abandoned by God in His hour of greatest need.

If Jesus still felt pain, and grief, and abandonment . . . then it only makes sense that we would feel it too. And that's OK.

And as for moving on . . .

You won't. You can't.

The person you are grieving is forever woven into your existence, into the very fabric of your heart. You will never leave them behind.

Will you learn to put one foot in front of the other? Yes. Will you go forward, even if it feels like it will kill you? Yes. Will you go from moment to moment, hour to hour, and day to day? Yes.

But you will never move on.

For all of you who have been wounded by loss, my thoughts and prayers are with you.