Grief is shifty and can be such a thief. Especially in moments where there are squeals of laughter peeling through the air as children chase each other. Or, shrieks of joy as bubbles are blown and chased as they fly through the air. Each of these moments are instances of sheer happiness, and opportunities to revel in the moment.
Forgive me for bursting this proverbial bubble, but life isn’t always filled with happiness, laughter, or sweet memories. When grieving, these happy moments can be tarnished with the sorrow we are carrying within due to loss.
Consider the creation of a new spider’s web, coming into focus at the dawn of a brand new day. Dewdrops sparkle on the silk threads like diamonds in the rising sunrise, sheer beauty and awe in the complexities of the web for all to witness and see. Then, out of nowhere, a cat pounces and breaks apart the fragile web in one single, magnificent second. Life has been threatened and a home destroyed.
It’s inevitable. Hardship and grief happen. These instances often have a way of taking us by complete surprise. Grief can sock us in the gut with the force of a mule kick. Unfortunately, life is wrought with such fateful moments. They have the ability to bring us to our knees in utter anguish. Life has been interrupted and we begrudgingly find ourselves moving through the various stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Allow me to share a minute detail about myself:
I am a recovering pastor’s wife.
My family and I have suffered through what I will forever consider as the great divorce. No, not a marital divorce, but a divorce of the church and their pastor. Their pastor, who is my beloved husband.
I have been grieving and letting the tears fall like healing rain over the past several months. Mind you, I was still grieving the loss of a beloved brother and friend over the Christmas holidays when 2019 opened into the receipt of a gut-wrenching, soccer-punch of colossal force: the complete loss of my place of worship and church community through a devastating church split. Thus, the swift follow-up punch of my husband submitting his resignation was powerful, fierce, and deeply painful. This intense grief left me reeling, as it acutely touched each one of the members of my family, threatening to rip us apart from one another. As life has carried on, like it always does, more grief has been added to the fray in the passing of an endeared family member.
Candidly I share that, in 2019, I have been down on my bruised knees, wracked with sobs, more often than I have been living with hands raised, lifted in praise and adoration. Yes, I have been walking the precarious tight-rope of closing myself off from people, due to immense hurt and pain, while consciously realizing how this inevitably closes myself off to joy.
While we each cannot relate with one another on the hardship of leadership in ministry, we all, unfortunately, can relate to how grief and sorrow deeply affect us. We can agree that grief has a way of introducing significant turning points to our lives.
It’s at this moment that I would like to pause, reflect, and encourage, when grief happens, we take moments to reflect and find quiet in our busy, active, and loud world.
It’s wise to walk through, receive, grieve, and seek professional counsel through that which has been lost or tragically endured. However, it is also necessary to let go, mourn, and, in due time, take notice of all the good around us. When we allow ourselves to be still, we take notice of details. When we take notice of details, we find our heart. The hard portions of our heart have an opportunity to soften.
Furthermore, heartening ourselves to a perspective shift during seasons of grief has a beautiful way of restoring hope. Consider how this season may not be completely focused on endings, but rather a turning point for new beginnings. This subtle perspective shift can be another way to find hopefulness through the dense pain. After all, as we seek to be intentional in our mindset, embracing the grief and therefore living authentically in the day-to-day, the hope of our joy being sustained may be uncovered.
Allow me to be the first to admit how often I fall short in seeking mindful joy. Instead, I find myself battling and succumbing to anxiety, worry, and distress in the continuous grind of ordinary life. However, when we are brave enough to embrace grief, and even braver to find community in which to share our grief, we are met with healing, growth, and renewal of hope. In times of distress and sorrow, leaning on one another, allowing others in, and depending on the community we have built around us is incredibly helpful and life-giving. Being that we are each wired as spiritual beings, just as much as we are physical, emotional, and mental beings, it makes sense to embrace each of these aspects of our humanness, sharing the hurts and growth-pains with one another, as we navigate the windy, bumpy road of grief.
The true fear, however, lies in all the bereft emotion and of being forever cold, never trusting, always sad, and robbed of joy. It often feels as steely as the dead of winter, and the fear of remaining stuck there real. The hope we have in seeking out others, finding community, and embracing the grief is that warmth and sunshine do have a way of letting their light shine into our lives again. With each confession, cleansing tear shed, and moments taken to be still, notice, reflect, and release, we find strength to take that baby-step toward growing stronger. We find the will to yearn for and embrace the warmth of the light. After all, in the sunlight, there is the opportunity to be led into the unearthing of all things new, with their vibrant and color-filled spring hue of new life.
All Things New
It is a tight-wire balancing act to grieve all that has been lost while striving to trust in the turning point that now presents itself. I honestly find myself falling off this precarious line time and time again. After all, I am a middle-aged woman, who finds herself at a turning point of either hanging onto all that once was (and is no more), or letting go in surrender to the hope of all things new that can unfold. I can choose to crush the opportunities for all things new, or I can choose to embrace the new and find the warrior within.
Webster defines warrior as a brave or experienced soldier. Consider how a warrior is a fighter. She is one who perseveres, pushes hard, and trains for the rigors that are undoubtedly up ahead. Taking a closer look at the Warrior Pose in yoga, we see the legs are held apart and arms are stretched outwards. Each pose can symbolize how we can embrace reality, work through it, be present within it, and push onward. A warrior digs deep to seek a mindset of gratitude. She makes time to pause, to notice, and to uncover once again her heart that cares.
Do you enjoy the sensation of being content? Relaxed? Surrounded by all those things that make you happy? If so, then you have experienced the Danish principle of hygge (pronounced “hoo-guh”). Megan Mahlik writes in the May 2019 publication of West Loveland Neighbors that, “the term is derived from the sixteenth-century Norwegian word hugga which means ‘to comfort’. It’s the shared, intimate moments surrounded by the ones you love that is at the heart of hygge. The underlying result of hygge is self-care and an overall happier lifestyle.”
I don’t know about you, but in my current state of grief, the concept of hygge sounds absolutely divine. If we were able to put into practice the art of slowing down, pausing, taking notice, and reflecting, then, no doubt, it would serve us well in both physical and mental health. Imagine what our lives could look like if we resolved to move forward in slowly releasing our grief. Then we could breathe in deeply every moment through deep appreciation and gratefulness. Ultimately, we could find healing.
Recently I had an experience that enabled me to let go of specific burdens. Through the experience, I also found myself rediscovering gratitude and recovering joy. It was a moment of breakthrough for me to move forward in accepting all things new. This is an exercise we can each benefit from as we move through our stages of grief. It can aid in rekindling the hope of finding the warrior within.
First, envision being in a place that brings you complete joy. It should be a place that offers solitude, peace, and serenity. If you are a believer, invite Jesus to come and have a seat with you. Allow His Words from Matthew 11:28 to wash over you:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
If you are not a believer, meditate on that which brings you peace, solace, and serenity. Allowing yourself to become increasingly aware of three stones that have been placed before you. As you focus on the stones, consider burdens you have been carrying. Place one burden on each of the stones set in front of you, and one-by-one, envision picking them up.
Ask yourself, “What are the burdens most pressing on my heart? What am I holding onto so very tightly that I am simply unwilling to let go of (or surrender to Christ)?”
As you continue in this time of meditation, be expectant of your ability to surrender these burdens, one by one. As a believer, experience the freedom that comes with surrendering the burdens over to Him. Watch as He lovingly takes them, holds them, and then looks at you with such sincerity and love that it makes your heart lurch. Even if you have pushed Him away, He is there. Always pursuing, ever ready to wrap His arms around you the moment you invite Him into your heart. Upon being invited, He then graciously extends us a gift—the gift of Himself and His eternal embrace.
As the breeze blows, you notice it has brought with it a foul stench. As a result, it makes your nose crinkle with disgust; and in spite of the foulness of it all, you dig deep to the warrior within, finding the spiritual significance in this moment. However, you continue to hold tightly to the burden-some rocks.
Allow the sudden revelation of the truth and significance of this moment sink in. Realize that, if you continue to hold onto these rocks labeled with your burdens, your attitude will become just as foul as the stench that has wafted through this place of peace and serenity.
Is this the witness you wish to portray to the world? Is this how you wish to live, bound to the weight of the stones? Bound to the burdens in which they symbolize? Or is it freedom and hope that you relish? This freedom and hope can be found in letting go. Consequently, realization may dawn with how, in holding onto these three stones, it will only burden and encourage the sinking into a deeper emotional darkness. In letting go, releasing the stones and surrendering, hope for all the new that lies at the point of release can be discovered. Allow yourself to be guided to a point of truly releasing each burden; one-by-one, giving them over in complete release.
As you release, be encouraged that through letting go, you will find hygge. Consequently, you will also find freedom, hope, new life and restoration. Lean in, embrace the grief, and discover the warrior that lives within.