Teachers I now call friends and I enjoyed an unrushed conversation while waiting for the class to begin. We laughed, a laughter that soothed the vulnerable parts of my heart still recovering from an eventful move and unexpected change of life. We smiled and I felt the deeper parts of my being wanting to reach for more goodness like a seed longing for the warmth of the sun’s radiance. Then the instructions began.
A video teaching us how to perform CPR began. Unprepared for the scenario portrayed in our training video my entire being halted. Collapsed from a heart attack a man’s body sank into the floor. People in the video called for help and began CPR while awaiting the medics’ arrival. One full inhale into my lungs wasn’t enough ground my soul. I continued deliberate breathing and coached myself: You can get through this.
But I couldn’t.
I couldn’t shake the memory of the day my dad died. I couldn’t shrug away how my mom found his body, how she screamed for help and the brave neighbor who performed CPR- because it requires greater courage to rise up in a crisis, strength beyond ourselves to act, hope and believe our skills are acceptable.
My colleagues and I sat in a high school library where I sought refuge between words and spines and isles of words provided camouflage to my tear streaked face. Why is this such a big deal? Why can’t I get a grip? But it’s senseless trying to stuff inside what’s longing and grasping to get out. So I let it out and as the training progressed the wave of grief stilled.
Grief isn’t present for death alone.
Nobody warns you when the pangs of grief will strike or that in a single moment you can go from elated to melancholy. When I went through my divorce waves of freedom and fear, wonder and remorse subsided significantly after a year. Before that an edge of fear would surface unexpectedly like a small splinter in the finger that flashes pain when brushed just right. I would drive around town grateful for my freedom, yet fearful of my safety.
Losing everything in an economic downturn.
When a friend or loved one no longer calls.
When a church faces division.
When health fails.
Grief’s talons sink deep when life’s expectations are unmet or destroyed. During those times spectators suggest it’s a choice: Happiness or sadness. Those experienced with grief understand it’s a process not an experience that will fit into a box filed on a shelf. What few understand is the ironic relationship between grief and hope, why and how. Grief is a process with the potential of leading us into the arms of our Lord’s hope.
Follow this link if you’d like to read more about The Wrong Side of Grief.