Grieving Cannot Be Denied – Or Rushed

Every loss requires grieving.  It may be brief.  I had to give away 3,000 books when I moved from Phoenix to Shreveport.  I love books, and I especially love MY books, each of which was selected or given to me for a purpose. Spending a lot of time grieving the loss of things, even precious things, cuts into my potential for joy, though, so I let it go fairly quickly.

Too often, well-meaning family and friends say things like, “It’s time you got on with your life.”  Or, “Stop moping around and get out and do something.”  Or the truly awful twin condolences of, “s/he is in a better place,” and “it really was a blessing.”  Sympathy over a death, like memorials and funerals, are not for the dead but for the living.  When I grieved the death of my mother, I knew what she believed about eternity, but it did not make me miss her one tiny bit less.

Far wiser heads than mine have suggested there is one necessary and sufficient thing to say:  “I’m sorry for your loss.”  It is recognition of loss, and a true expression of our feelings.  Stop there.

I keep returning to the loss of vision in my right eye because I am still grieving.  I’ve been told to be grateful that I still have vision in my left eye.  I am.  That’s not much comfort when I have to stop driving at night, begging rides to the symphony, the opera, meetings.   That’s not any comfort when I pick up a beloved book and find that I can’t read it without the laborious process of using some kind of magnification, buying it again on Kindle, or ordering it on Audible where, 99% of the time, the reading is mediated by whether the narrator does a good job.

No fan of extended pity parties, I am most comfortable when someone says, as my ophthalmologist did recently, “I’m so sorry about what happened to your eye.”  That’s it. We are sorry.  Enough said.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not allowed to grieve any loss. You decide what it will take to complete your grief process, if that’s possible.  That also means, don’t let anyone rush your grief, including yourself.  No phrases like, “it’s been two years since you lost your husband; it’s time to….”   It will be time when it is time.

If you are weeping and wailing and bitching and moaning to other people, that’s not your grieving, that’s your attention-seeking.  Check your motives, as we say in AA.  Work with a counselor or therapist, if that’s helpful, to determine what form your grieving can take that would be, in the end, most comforting to you.

Male or female, child or adult, loss calls for grief.  Don’t put it off.  Don’t rush it.  eventually, joy does indeed come in the morning, usually in the form of dreams and memories. Cherish them.

 

 

 

 

 

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Everything Doesn’t Happen For A Reason

To say that everything happens for a reason is to say that God created a wind-up toy, populated it with toy people who can only move and act in certain ways, designed the environment, then wound it up and set it loose.  Every created being could only think, act or be according to the plan, until the toy world wound down and stopped forever.

No.

I’m a cradle Presbyterian but this is NOT what is meant by predestination.  That’s a whole different blog!

To say, with the certainty that I say it, that everything does not have a reason, is to say that life is random.  And randomness scares us because it means that at any given time, no one is in control.  Yet in the midst of randomness is the only time we know how much we need God.

Once, we believed in certain immutable laws of nature.  Over the centuries, many of those crumbled as scientists found more and more causes, exceptions, and ways to change the “immutable.”  Climate change is teaching us, in a  dramatic manner, that nature can be changed intentionally and inadvertently by the actions of people.  So much for immutable laws.

It would be comforting to think that there is a reason for everything and so we could explain to a mother in Bangladesh who watches her child starve to death because ISIS raids have cut off food supplies, “It’s all right.  There’s a reason for this.”  Or I could explain to a man who has lost everything he worked hard to build up because the economy tanked and he hasn’t been able to find a job in over two years.  Or I could pat myself on the head and say, “I’m sure there’s a reason God wanted you to lose most of the vision in your right eye and severely limit your ability to do what you love best:  read.”

No.

Randomness in life means that when someone loses a loved one, all you can is, “I’m sorry for your loss.”  And stop right there without going on about your beliefs in streets paved with gold, or whatever your belief is.  Please, please don’t say, “She’s in a better place.”  Or, “what a blessing.”  If the bereaved person wants to say that, fine.  Don’t diminish their grief by trying to lessen it somehow.  Let people grieve, no matter how hard it is to watch.  This isn’t about you.

When you’re grieving, if you want to find meaning and purpose in your loss, by all means do so.  But there isn’t a reason for everything except the universal reason that life is, life is largely random.  It is God, however you understand God, that gives it meaning and purpose and God also gave us completely free will so that we could partake of the randomness of creation.  It doesn’t matter why.  It matters who we love and how we love and that we love.

Everything doesn’t happen for a reason.  That doesn’t matter because, as Blaise Pascal said so long ago: “The heart has reasons reason cannot know.”

 

 

 

The Big One

The big loss, the one that I’m still struggling with, arrived on August 10, 2014.  I woke up and the cataract lens in my right eye had slipped so my vision in that eye was blurred.  No panic. All the women in the maternal line of my family have issues with vision and soft tissue weakness so I’ve had some surgeries and many laser treatments.  No big deal to put the cataract lens back in place.

I went to church as usual, probably taught an adult class, maybe ushered.  On my drive home, my right front tire blew out.  I called a friend and was laughing about my truly horrible day, then I called AAA and got towed to a tire place, bought a new tire and was on my way.

Meanwhile, I had called the emergency service at my ophthalmologist’s office.  The doctor on call said that if it really was a slipping of the lens, there would be no rush so to call first thing in the morning and come in to see my doctor.  When I called in the morning, my doctor was in Spain.  Another skilled ophthalmologist saw me, and scheduled surgery, attended also by a retina specialist because of the delicate nature of my eye structure.

Things intervened and I didn’t have the surgery until mid-September.  The surgery seemed to go well:  the old lens was removed and a new intraocular lens implanted.  However, the next day, I had no vision in the right eye.  I was given lots of drops and other medications, and went in for a check-up daily.  Two weeks later, I had a second surgery.  Still no vision.  We would wait.

On the morning of January 2, 2015, I learned that the pressure in my right eye had spiked so dramatically that the optic nerve was permanently damaged and I would have virtually no vision in that eye, ever.  On the evening of January 2, 2015, my beloved brother-in-law died in the arms of his wife.  It was a hell of a day.

The vision in my right eye was gone, blurred beyond use.  My left eye was never great, but at least I had vision and could still drive, for now.  I did not “go gently into that good night,” but rather “rage[d] against the dying of the light.”  To be more precise, I withdrew. Every morning when I woke up, I felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach.  The pastime I love more than any other, and have since I was 5 years old, is reading. The world was turned upside down.  I wasn’t very courageous; I was grumpy and irritable.  For most of eighteen months.

Meanwhile, my sister was grieving the loss of her husband and best friend for 39 years.  We couldn’t exactly comfort one another.

Losing my vision was something I always feared, because of the genetic problems in my family, but something that I thought of as later, later when I was in my 70s maybe.  Later, after I’d read all the books I wanted to read.  Later, later, maybe, with the miracles of modern eye surgery, maybe I would never lose my vision entirely.  Maybe when I was in my 80s, I would have diminished vision….   But not at 64.

Then came my 65th birthday and a visit to the Motor Vehicle Division for a new driver’s license…..

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Taking this slow and easy

I don’t often take things slow and easy, but I’m determined to do that with this blog.  Here’s why I started it:  Like most people, I’ve experienced a good bit of loss and grief.  I’m 65 years old, so perhaps I’ve experienced more than some younger people – or maybe not. My counselors always suggest that I journal, which I hate, so I don’t.  Recently, though, I’ve been so overwhelmed with the sense of losses not grieved that I began writing an essay (more acceptable to me, apparently, than journaling) called, “It Hurts.”

I have a B.A. and M.A. in political science, and a J.D. I’m going back to school to earn an M.S. in counseling and I hope to focus on the areas of loss and grief.  So, it occurs to me that while I may have experiences, I don’t know anything, which is why I’m going to school.  I also think that having a blog and sharing experiences with others can be a teaching and learning experience for both of us.

“It Hurts” went back to the first authentic memory I have of loss.  Perhaps I lost things as a toddler or small child, but I have no recollection of these losses and I don’t believe they left lasting impressions. My big hurt, the one I never grieved and thus never got over, was when I was 15.  When was yours?

First blog post

This is my very first post on iambrokenforjoy.com.  I chose to set up a blog because I have found in my own life that it is only through my brokenness that I can dig deeply enough to excavate joy.  Happiness is pretty fleeting, but “joy comes in the morning,”  morning after morning after morning.

Please check out my blog and see if it speaks to you in any way in the days following. If so, you are welcome to read and comment. If not, there are many others out there, or you may start your own and God will go with you.

The God of my understanding is inclusive and unconditional in love.  God has no gender and neither do God’s children. I am a follower of Jesus and Jesus as Christ, but again, this is inclusive, not exclusive.  Sisters and brothers on the margin, my LGBTQ family, beloved friends with disabilities, people of color – whatever. There are no boundary lines in God’s love and it is my hope that this blog will reflect that to the best of my broken human ability. Welcome!