Wednesday, February 24, 2016


I've been struggling to come up with words to share today on the tail end of our hope discussion. The reason I think more people are content to dream rather than drawn to hope is that we've forgotten how to grieve. But I'm not one of those people, so I understand the limitations of my own words when trying to talk about our failure to grieve.

I think one of the problems is that we've thought perhaps that grief is an emotion, and we don't do well with our emotions. It's just sadness. It's not really fundamentally different from a funk, bordering maybe even on depression. This could not be further from the truth. Our emotions are reactions that we have to our lives, responses to the world around us. If life goes well, we're happy. If it doesn't, we're sad. If something is troublesome, we get angry. Grief is not like this. We don't grieve in mere response to our world.

We grieve in engagement with it.

That's what makes grief so different than sadness or depression or "the blues." We can have any of those reactions by being in touch only with ourselves. To grieve, we must be in touch also with our world. We must have this intimate connection with it that is so much more than just how we "feel." It's how we're affected. It's how we're woven in. There's a good image for it - woven in. Sadness is what happens when you pull a bandaid off and expose a wound. Grief is what happens when you pull a thread out of a tapestry and make a hole. It's entirely different. It requires the intimate connection of our self and our world in order to grieve.

Most of us just can't be bothered with that.

Neither is grief something you simply do. We talk about it this way - take time to grieve. Go ahead and grieve. Everyone needs to grieve. We talk about it the same way we talk about going shopping, making breakfast, or putting on socks. It's just something we do. It's the natural next thing we do. But grief is not something you do. Mourning is something you do. It's an action. Mourning is what makes men tear their clothes, cover themselves in ashes, sit in the dust, and cry. Mourning certainly is something you do.

Grief, on the other hand, is something you can't not do. You grieve because your heart won't let go of you, because this emptiness that you're suddenly feeling starts swirling and just sort of sucks you down into it with a gravitational force you can't quite explain. It's the way you scrunch your eyes when the sun comes out, the way you turn to the side when the winds blow, the way you extend your arm when you start to fall. Grief is a gut reaction; you don't do grief. You can't not do grief.

It's so hard to talk about grief because it is this deep, intimate experience. It truly comes from the depth of our beings, and most of us just don't live at our depths. We're happy somewhere in the middle, content to live a level life - a life on the plains instead of the mountains, a life on the shore instead of the sea. We're happy with happiness and content with sadness because they don't require much of us. Our lives are not woven together; they're stacked like Legos. Take one out and it's hard, sure, and maybe it hurts a little, but it doesn't destroy the structural integrity of the life we've built. It doesn't leave a hole; it leaves a window. 

The problem is that when we live this way, we never deal with the pieces of our lives that go missing. We've convinced ourselves they're not really missing at all, that nothing has fundamentally changed about our lives. Then we wake up in the dark of night and stumble around our lives and inevitably step, barefoot, on all the little Legos we've left lying around because we never knew how to grieve over them. We let them make us only sad. We had only a response to them, never an engagement. Never an experience. And we may be content with that, but life isn't. Life demands that we live it. 

To live it means sometimes to grieve. It means to let things get woven into us, to become a part of the tapestry of our own lives. It means that we know that sometimes, threads get pulled out, sometimes from the very middle, sometimes from the heart of the design. It means that sometimes, this world leaves holes in us that we just can't ignore. It means sometimes...we have to grieve. Because we can't not grieve. And it means we're okay with that. We're okay with grieving because to grieve is to live, to really live. 

We must learn to grieve again.

So that we may also learn to hope. 

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