You may have noticed I have been missing in action as of late. I have learned, from doing it wrong so many times in my life, that grief takes an enormous amount of energy. When I am in a season of grieving, I have to give it space. That means giving up other things, so sorrow can have some room to breathe its work into my life. Surely tears flow, and my mind certainly runs in circles, but the deeper work is a work of the heart. That kind of work takes time and fully giving myself to grief, instead of numbing it.
And there are so many things to grieve at this moment. So. Many. Things. If it were only one thing, say the death of my father-in-law, for whom we have been caring for years, I might know better how to sit with the pain of it. The long suddenness of his death has created a hole of time and emotion. The ripples felt from that event alone have spread outward and created their own sort of turbulence, which has required some off the grid time for me to help my husband grapple with how to move forward.
In addition, I spent yesterday moving my son to a new place, which is its own kind of stress. The positive kind. (Except for the physical effort in the heat of July in Georgia, and emotional feels because I will miss his nearness.) In the middle of the move, I got a call from my sister that my mother was in the ER with abdominal pain. One thing caring for the elderly teaches you is how to shift gears with lightning speed. You never know what is coming or when, and when something pops up you drop everything and go.
Only this time, because of Covid, none of us were allowed to go in with her. My mother, who cannot tell you her name, her birthday, what is wrong with her, or any other information, was lying in the hallway of an overcrowded ER for hours. Alone. It was a special kind of torment for us, as we waited for hours, turning a nearby restaurant into a waiting room, for word of her condition. Eventually, we learned her digestive system was impacted and she would have to have some uncomfortable procedures to fix the problem. Again, we waited, imagining her confusion and fear of what was happening to her, without one of us there to hold her hand and explain.
Fortunately, this time, she had a nurse who listened to us and understood what we were telling her over the phone. She stepped in to be one of us as much as she could, hand holding and comforting. After 7 hours, they released Mom with a clean bill of health. Despite some vomiting in the car, she made it back home and Dad was overjoyed to see her. The good news is she didn’t even remember going to the hospital at all. At this point, her dementia is more torture for us than it is for her. Now, after her ER visit, she and Dad will be in lock down for 14 days, so we will be unable to see them.
Add to all of this my job loss and subsequent search, which has proved to this point, unsuccessful and it is a lot on my plate. Grief is surrounding me but I am sitting down with it. Holding some space for it to delve deep. Sorrow is riding just behind my eyes and often times overflowing. I am listening. Processing. Talking to my therapist. Sleeping hard sometimes. Staying awake others. I think right now, this is my job. To hang out with my mourning, knowing that joy will eventually follow.
I haven’t even mentioned grief of a global pandemic and what it is doing to our country. I watch and talk to my friends around the world, and I shake my head and shrug at our petty fighting here in the US. It is embarrassing. It is childish at best. My heart is aching for those starving and dying in the countries I have been to, and how blind we are in my own.
In the midst of all of this, I am guarding the soft place repentance has brought to my heart concerning racism. God has plowed up the hard ground and planted seeds there. He is watering them and nurturing them. The more I dig, the more complex things become. The more I learn and unlearn, the more I realize how much I don’t know and cannot see. It is a delicate process to open blind eyes. One which I am tenderly shielding from the comments of my friends as I go deeper into the very roots of my belief system. It is humbling to realize the foundations of the world as I know it are built on such blatant inequity. I recognize, not only do I not have any answers, it will take me years to figure out the questions.
To say I have a lot of grief is an understatement. We ALL do right now. Navigating it takes effort and energy. It requires me to be gentle with myself and to pull away from harsh things, words, behaviors, and actions. At the beginning of the shelter in place months ago, I felt God was telling me to get on my face and keep my head down. To listen only to his voice. To humble myself and to wait on him. He hasn’t released me from those directives, yet.
While the chaos is swirling around and the world is coming unglued, I am allowing grief to do its work. It is teaching me to appreciate life, to have compassion, to consider others, to throw out toxins, to give and receive grace, to take care of my health, to purge my emotions, to open my eyes, to evaluate my thoughts, to guard my heart, to have courage, to use my voice, and to celebrate the little things. What is grief teaching you?