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Entering Eastertide: Loss

We lose a lot of stuff around the house. There is a basket full of cars, but we can’t find the one car we really really need before we can do anything else. Our sixteen-month-old has figured out how to open the toy drawer and the trash can, so we lose pacis left and right. Although there seems to be an abundance of them, there is only one that will offer comfort she needs to drift off to sleep.

As we move throughout the day, I find myself saying when we confront one of these missing items: “It will show up. Things always show up.” This has provided time and space to let us look for things now or later without frustration and tears.

Losing items around the house or forgetting where you put something down is not uncommon, especially in the midst of consistent change.  My congregation jokes with me because during high, holy seasons at church I always lose my keys.  They have learned to laugh and help me look. My mind and my heart are in a different place during these seasons and so the every day remembering gets put on the back burner.

When things that we have been looking for do show up, we all get excited. We share the funny place we found the item and we share in the show of recovering the sought after item.

Collectively, we haven’t lost something that will show up eventually. We have lost over 100,000 people. Human souls connected and invested in families and communities. We can’t forget. We remember every day when we wake up and as we try to get a little bit of sleep at night. As we reached this devastating milestone, we hold onto being the country that has the most deaths and most cases of COVID-19. In seventeen states around the country, those numbers are not decreasing, they are increasing.

Loss surrounds us. Grief engulfs us.

And as we grieve for many of us, we are still alone at home trying to do our part to help those numbers stop increasing so drastically. Loss has always been a part of inhabiting this dusty bodies, but that doesn’t mean that loss doesn’t bring us back to remembering we have but one life to live. One chance to care for others. One chance to offer hope. One chance to offer love.

I know that there are many states that are opening up. I know that there are many states without mask laws. I know that there are other people and other families traveling and getting together. I know that it can all be confusing and overwhelming because there is so much information out there. I know that you are tired and weary and just want a change of pace. I also know that bearing this amount of loss is sometimes just too much to carry.

The loss and grief won’t go away. These will be the things that change us. My hope is that it changes us not to be people who hold onto to our lives and our desires so desperately that more loss comes. My hope is that by remembering this loss, again and again, every day, 100,000 minutes every day, we will transform into more caring and compassionate people.

Eastertide Grief

I can remember when it was finally time to share that our Eastertide secret pregnancy wasn’t going to be one filled with hope and new life, but grief. I can remember the gasp of joy as I shared with my congregation that we were pregnant and the gasps of grief as I shared that we miscarried.

Since that season, Eastertide will always have a tinge of grief in it. It seems strange for this season (the one where we know that death has been overcome) should be clouded by grief. And yet, maybe this year we know this more truly and more deeply than we ever have before.

We hope and then we see the reminder of the number of people who have lost their lives and hear predictions that those numbers will be even higher.

We find courage and then we see the rate of employment reach records we haven’t seen since the Great Depression.

We find calling and then we see food banks with lines that are two to three hours long and people waiting only to find out that there is not enough food.

Maybe this Eastertide, we lament and grieve together. Maybe our voices can join in crying out “Why, God, why?”

Life and death side by side all through Eastertide.

Maybe life becomes clearer when death is close by.

Maybe life and death residing together draw us closer to the One who has experienced both.

 

 

 

Saving Celebrations

As the morning dawned, the women who had prepared spices two days earlier, the day that Jesus died hurried to the tomb. They had saved this act of remembering the life of the one they loved to observe the sabbath. In my mind, they spent that day in exhausted rest. The kind that can only come when hope is dashed and miracles don’t prevent death from taking someone we love.

As they near the tomb, they find the stone rolled away, but they don’t understand what has happened until a Divine messenger asked them to remember the words Jesus uttered when he was with them. The words they didn’t understand at the time. The words they didn’t want to hear at the time. The words, “I will die and rise again.”

I keep mulling over this call to remember because it’s the remembering that causes the women to see that resurrection is possible. It’s the remembering that ignites their imaginations to dream of new life.

Last week, I celebrated a birthday. We sang, ate cookies, and enjoyed deliveries from family members while connecting via Facetime or Marco Polo. So many people responded saying, “When you get to really celebrate after this is all over…” or something along those lines.

I’m not saving celebrations for “when this is all over.” The death of our old life has been a tremendous loss and will continue to be. Grief never really leaves us, but without the death of the old life, we can’t remember the words of promise of new life.

I’m not saving celebrations for a different time and a different place because my birthday occurred here in the midst of the chaos. Our daughter took her first steps here in the midst of the turmoil. These are major events, markers in how this pandemic impacts everything.

I’m not saving celebrations because I need to celebrate in the here and now not with disappointment that I can’t celebrate a certain way or in a certain place but instead imagining how we can celebrate in this new life.

Leaning Into Lent: Exhaustion

The first post I wrote called “Leaning Into Lent” wasn’t supposed to start a series of reflections. It was supposed to be an invocation and an invitation to be present in the season of Lent. It was supposed to be a challenge for me, someone who loves Lent, to lean even further into understanding more deeply what it means to lament and confess and run away from the one you have pledged to follow even unto death.

By Wednesday of this week, all of the leaning and reflecting caught up to me. After we put the kids to bed, I sat down to listen to make sure they settled and fell asleep. My leaning muscles were exhausted. My heart was heavy for all of the people hurting. My soul missed communion and community.

When I awoke it was already dark out. I ventured to the back deck where my partner and I sat looking at the supermoon finding constellations remembering we are simply stardust in a vast universe.

It is dark on this Good Friday night. I imagine the women and the disciples who were watching and waiting all day as Jesus suffered and then took his last breath fell in the same kind of exhausted sleep. They keep hoping for a miracle and they kept seeing suffering, hour after hour.

Beloved, it is ok if you are exhausted, if your leaning muscles and waiting heart just need to rest. Tomorrow it will be silent. We will wake up with puffy eyes from restless sleep or the number of tears we have shed. Tomorrow we will be silent and still as our bodies and souls recuperate from all of the leaning and waiting and hoping while being in the presence of suffering, hour after hour, day after day.

Give in. Let go. Rest now in the dark night.

Leaning Into Lent: Holy Monday

This week. This is the week we have been waiting for over the long, dark forty days. This is the week.

This week. This is the week that will be the deadliest that we have experienced in the US because of COVID-19. This is the week we have been dreading.

This is our dual reality.

Again and again, we have heard that medical professionals and state officials can’t let up, can’t stop, can’t rest because if they don’t keep working and keeping going then the number of casualties might be even more.

Again and again, we have walked this Holy Week road, remembering Jesus with his face set for Jerusalem and the suffering that is yet to come.

But this week feels different. The dual realities are intertwining and crashing into each other. We are seeking meaning. We are seeking healing. We are seeking hope. We are seeking light.

And so we walk into this week, with hearts breaking and eyes open. Watching and waiting.

Leaning Into Lent: Learning to Wait

This extraordinary time is asking us all to reduce our movement. To be sure our work has not slowed; our stress has not slowed, but our physical movement has changed. In the midst of all these changes, I am learning that I am not good at waiting. Actually, I am reminded that I am not good at waiting.

I move quickly from one thing to another. I move to process ideas and thoughts. I move to reflect and meditate.

So when things aren’t moving, I get frustrated easily. I analyze how things could be more efficient or effective. I simply don’t wait well.

And here we are in the season of Lent being asked to wait. Not wait for a certain period of time, but to wait for an uncertain period of time. We are waiting to go to the grocery store and go less. We are waiting to shop at the grocery store until after the 1st and 2nd days of the month so that those who are on a fixed income will be able to shop. We are waiting to be told how long to shelter-in-place. We are waiting for this all to be over.

This waiting is a spiritual practice. Waiting asks us to consider other people, other avenues, and other ways to help others. Waiting asks us to reflect on why we are moving so much and whether that movement is essential or nonessential. Waiting asks us to examine our desires, our instincts, our hopes, and our fears.

Waiting is not easy.

And so we wait and hope and pray.

Leaning Into Lent: Not Knowing

Last week about this time, I began to understand that our lives were going to be drastically different. Although I had followed the news and the developments in China, it all still felt so far away. Last week about this time, things began to be canceled in large numbers. It wasn’t just the schools that were closing, but everything was beginning to shut down.

Last week about this time, I began to lament how I didn’t know it was the last time we would go to the park. I hadn’t even considered the possibility of parks all across the city being closed. Last week about this time, I began to lament how I didn’t know it was the last time we would go to storytime at the library or browse the shelves or play with the Duplo table. I hadn’t even considered the possibility of library branches across the city being closed. Last week about this time, I began to lament how I didn’t know it was the last time we would gather around the table at a restaurant with our family and friends or gathered outside in the fresh air and sunshine at one of the local breweries. I hadn’t considered the possibility of restaurant dining rooms being closed in order to limit the number of people who were gathered in one place.

Last week about this time, I began to lament again and again, “But I didn’t know it was going to be the last time. I didn’t know. I didn’t know.”

My heart and mind needed closure and there simply wasn’t any. It all happened so quickly. There’s something about this lament that is in the heartbeat of the Lenten season. If there is ever a season in the church calendar, this is it. We lament that we leave things left undone that could help bring about the kingdom of God here on earth. We lament the ways we contribute to the oppression and injustice that exists in our world. We lament that we are dust and to dust we shall return.

And the lamenting brings us to our knees, prostrate before our Creator asking for help and guidance.

Last week about this time. I didn’t know.

This week, I find myself a bit more comfortable on my knees lamenting and asking God for help for those in our medical profession who are on the frontlines; for those awaiting test results; for those separated and isolated from family; for all of us not knowing if we are carrying a virus that is very powerful.

Lord in your mercies, hear our laments.

Leaning Into Lent: Sitting in Darkness

The last few days have been overwhelming to say the least. There is a darkness and uncertainty that is surrounding and engulfing us. I don’t know how many times I have heard and uttered the phrase, “We’ve never experienced anything like this before.”

If you are feeling overwhelmed. That is ok. If you are feeling disappointed. That is ok. If you are feeling lost and confused. That is ok. If you are feeling grief that you have lost your previous way of life. That is ok.

These feelings are coming fast and furious in the midst of the darkness. They are demanding our attention and space in our hearts and minds even as we are trying to stay calm and hold onto our energy for the long journey that lies ahead.

And so when the sun sets and the darkness of begins to creep in, let all those feelings come. Let them wash over you in the darkness. Let the tears fall and the anger out because darkness is difficult. Darkness that we know will lead to light. Darkness that seems to never lead to light. Darkness always asks us to be vulnerable and needy.

Darkness always reminds us that we cannot do this alone. May God grant you the courage you need in the midst of this darkness that reveals our vulnerability, our grief, and our needs.

Hope and Death Side by Side

This weekend, the kids helped me repot our window plants. I have two window plants that live on the window over the kitchen sink looking out to our backyard. One is a Christmas Cactus and one is a budding African Violet. The Christmas Cactus started blooming right on time as the Advent season began. Most of the year, this plant rests dormant with very little to show until these vibrant blooms start to appear.

After we repotted the Christmas cactus and I returned it to its place on the window sill, I noticed that through the window our Bradford Pear tree’s leaves were flashing the last brilliant colors of life before it rested in the dark and cold of winter. This picture of hope blooming even as death waited behind was the perfect picture of this Advent season.

Hope and death rest together during this season. The short days and dark nights remind us of the short time we have here on earth. The changing leaves remind us that death does indeed bring new life. The blooms of this Christmas Cactus remind of the hope of the Divine incarnate, something we have been waiting all year to remember and something we still hope will come again.

Hope and death. Light and dark. Cold and warmth. All pressing against each other during this season of waiting for the Christ Child. May our eyes and hearts be open on this journey.

On Birthdays and Celebrations

This past week was one filled with the joys of birthdays and the grief of services of remembrance. For us, that fell on the same day, our four-year-old’s actual birthday. The beauty and the grief of life and death juxtaposed in one twenty-four hour period. And this is how it is. Life and death live within us all the time. That divine breath and our dustiness residing together in our physical beings. We walk through our days holding both hope and grief. At times they fight within us as we wrestle to find space for both and sanctuary to let them sit together never sure which one will come out on top.

The more I talk to people, the more I realize how much grief people are holding sometimes trying to fit into a box to put away for another time sometimes trying to send it away so that it doesn’t linger or pop up. The more I talk to people, the more I say grief doesn’t go away. You don’t go through grief. You don’t come out of grief. You become grief and then grief becomes you.

You and grief can’t get away from each other. You integrate into one being with a deeper love and appreciation for moments and relationships, for safety and belonging. This loss and hurt of grief make us deeper and fuller people.

People who love and live with gratitude and intention for we always hold both life and death within us.