It took me almost two weeks to realize what was happening, and even then I didn’t fully grasp the weight of it and what it was doing to me. When I met with my spiritual director a few days after my realization, I told her I was in a season of deep grief like I’d never known. Every morning I woke up feeling sick to my stomach, and my heart hurt – literally.
The hardest part was that I couldn’t make it go away. It’s eased a bit but it’s still there. Waves of grief wash over me and the only thing I can do is brace myself as best I can. I can’t rush the process, but I could probably find a thousand ways to numb it. Numbing would only provide temporary relief and only delay the inevitable. The truth about grief and pain in general, is that they will have their way. They must do what they need to do within us.
The Full Effect
It reminds me of what James wrote centuries ago to the scattered people of God: “Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4
If we want to be mature and complete, and lacking nothing, then grief, pain, or trials – the hard stuff – must have their full effect. They need to be felt all the way through.
When we’re hurting it’s our natural tendency to try to make it stop. Ronald Rolheiser writes profoundly about what he calls carrying the tension. “We are better persons when we carry tension, as opposed to always looking for its easy resolution. To carry tension, especially great tension, is to ponder in the biblical sense.” He reminds us of the way Mary pondered the things in her heart. “Thus to ponder, biblically, is to stand before life’s great mysteries the way Mary stood before the various events of Jesus’ life, including the way she stood under the cross.”
I’ve been here before – in the dark. I lived within deep grief and sadness for a couple of years but couldn’t name it then. My parents were sick, my marriage hurt, and the kids were in their own seasons of pain. I drifted into the dark slowly and without knowing it, got used to it. Thankfully, I found the words and wrote about it in a series of blog posts called, Linger, Gone, and The Dark. These eventually became a story published by Shattered Magazine. The magazine is no longer but I have the story on a page called Darkness Couldn’t Win. The editor titled the story and I think it’s perfect.
It didn’t win then and it won’t win now. I know how the story goes.