The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me … to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion — to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit … They shall build up the ancient ruins … they shall repair the ruined cities.
Isaiah 61:1-4 (NRSV)
This is a scripture I lean on a lot. I find comfort in knowing that God notices our grief. He even speaks through prophets like Isaiah to provide comfort. It took me a long time to grasp that grief is a biological response to loss. God programmed it into us. Grief is what we experience when our mind, body and spirit are trying to get on the same page, to comprehend all the changes that come with loss. Grief is not something to run away from. It is natural. When I sit still and allow it to wash over me, it washes away again. When the grief washes away, I find I am ready to pick up the oil of gladness and begin the work of rebuilding. I learned the hard way that trying to run away from grief or ignore it only means it will get bigger and bigger and bigger until it has my attention. It is far easier to recover from a simple spring rain than it is to rebuild after a flood!
It’s been more than a month now that we have all been living in a changed world. Thanks to COVID-19 all of us are experiencing some form of loss. For some, there is the loss of a loved one due to the virus. For others, it may be struggles with health. For some it’s the loss of a job while others may have lost a paycheck or two. Some of us mourn the lack of physical connection with relatives and friends. We miss hugs! Still others are missing the rituals that go with significant life events like graduations. My grandson is completing 5th grade this year. He won’t get to parade with his class down the hallway at the end of the school year while the younger students clap and cheer. It’s a loss.
I am in my 60s now. I have survived the loss of friends and family members due to car accidents, alcohol and drugs, homicide, and the quiet peaceful passing of my father. I’ve also experienced grief when I finally graduated from school and began my career. The sadness confused me since I was finally working in the career I had studied so hard for. It was a minister who pointed out I was grieving the loss of my identity as a student. As difficult as graduate school was, at least I had figured out how to survive in that world. As a new counselor, I faced new challenges every day. That transition was a rough one for me.
In spite of all those experiences I am not an expert in grief. I have, however, learned over the years how to sit quietly and listen to others tell their stories of grief and loss. Thanks to Dr. Alan Wolfelt who wrote “Understanding Your Grief,” I understand that each of us is an expert at our own grief journey. I have learned to share with others how important it is to sit still and allow grief to wash over you. It is natural. Once your mind, body and spirit have aligned, the grief will wash away again, and you will find yourself ready to rebuild.
Over the next few weeks, I will continue to share tips I have learned as I journeyed through grief myself as well as tips I have learned from others brave enough to share their journey. For now, my message is two-fold. Grief is a natural process. If you are grieving it means something is right with you, not that something is wrong with you.
The second thought I’d like to share in this post is that pain is pain. Just because you are grieving the lack of a graduation ceremony in May does not mean your pain is any less real than the grief of someone who has lost a loved one. There is no need to feel guilty for feeling sad. Sit still. Allow your sadness to wash over you. As you do, you will discover a new kind of compassion that may allow you to sit with the person who has lost a loved one with a new and more profound understanding of their pain.
If you are interested in resources I would suggest www.centerforloss.com. This is Dr. Alan Wolfelt’s website. He has posted a few articles specific to the pandemic and loss. Also, Doug Manning at www.insightbooks.com is a wonderful author.
You are also welcome to join our “Navigating Grief Virtual Workshops” on Wednesday evenings April 29 through May 20, from 6:00 to 7:00 pm. Contact me at [email protected] to sign up.
Until next time, may you find comfort in knowing that God is aware of your loss. Be still. Allow your grief to wash over you. Trust God to walk with you through it. When you are ready, He will be there to help you rebuild, whatever that looks like.