On grief, a lament

“Even in laughter, the heart may ache, and joy may end in grief.”
Proverbs 14:13

I have been overtaken by seasons of grief, and the present is no exception. Though I’m also in a season of healing, of developing resiliency, of learning, of overcoming, still grief abides.

I have tried to understand grief, to wrap my mind around it. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross studied grief and classified five stages: shock, denial, bargaining, anger, acceptance. The stages aren’t linear; they may be cyclical, they may be an avalanche, they may be long seasons.

“It’s not the news we were hoping for.”

My attempts to make sense out of grief are also efforts to sterilize it, to keep it at arm’s length. But as is said, “the heart won’t be denied.”

Grief rages.
Grief aches.
Grief wounds.
Grief consumes.

Over the years, grief has filled my dance card and I’ve never been one for dancing. Grief doesn’t wait for an invitation; it is no respecter of persons.

A dear friend received devastating news that cancer has returned and spread. That news reverberates to all who are part of his community. The grief is palpable.

This news throws into sharp relief this tension we live in, we are alive, we will one day die. Now in these shadowlands, we straddle the time we have and the time we don’t.

Some use past tense, perhaps subconsciously, perhaps fully aware, and I think, no, he is not past tense.

He and his family now dwell in this tension, this muddling of tenses, past, present, future, absent. How can we possibly reconcile these?

My soul echoes the refrain of poet Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night,” crying out “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” My denial weighs heavy on my heart; my anger beats in my chest as though it could burst.

Ever before me is a path that leads to depression, a path I have stumbled down many times. Grief and its manifestations could lead me there again and probably will. But not today.

I could seek solace in the oblivion of disordered eating, replacing the utter discomfort and rending of grief with the so familiar strains of guilt and shame over food. But not today.

I could bottle up my emotions and try to convince myself I feel nothing. I could fill my time with busy-ness to distract me from how awful the reality is. I could press play from one episode to the next to escape the feelings that I would rather not face. But not today.

I am not new to grief, and yet grief is new each time it strikes. Grief is a DJ, spinning all its past iterations in with this newest; all the grieving of the past is remixed into this new song of grief.

Today, I feel. Today, I grieve.

I grieve for my friend, for his wife, his son, his grandchildren, for community.

I grieve the past griefs anew.

Today, I am searching for those nail-scarred hands and feet, that broken body. Today, I am resting on promises that I’m not always certain of. Today, I am railing against cancer.

I am double-minded, many-minded, a doubter struggling, a child lost, a daughter forlorn. I lament, but I am not hopeless. Not today. “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope…”

Lamentations 3:19-26 (translation: The Voice)”Grievous thoughts of affliction and wandering plagued my mind—great bitterness and gall. Grieving, my soul thinks back; these thoughts cripple, and I sink down. Gaining hope, I remember and wait for this thought: How enduring is God’s loyal love; the Eternal has inexhaustible compassion. Here they are, every morning, new! Your faithfulness, God, is as broad as the day. Have courage, for the Eternal is all that I will need. My soul boasts, “Hope in God; just wait.” It is good. The Eternal One is good to those who expect Him, to those who seek Him wholeheartedly. It is good to wait quietly for the Eternal to make things right again.”

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