It’s a weird thing. Everyone’s grief process is different. Even when people experience what seems like “the same exact loss,” how they each walk through that grief changes (as it should!) from person to person. However, whether the loss is big or small, I feel like there is something that happens almost every time at some point along the way. Sometimes this moment happens immediately, other times it takes weeks or months, sometimes it happens again and again and again.
You’re going along in your grief, doing this hard thing. Maybe the grief is completely overwhelming you and the loss of the person or dream or job or house or life you thought would be is all you can focus on. But then, suddenly, unexpectedly, you find yourself laughing or enjoying something. And THEN, in a split second, you wonder: “Is this okay?”
In seasons of grief, there’s something about a moment feeling “normal” or even dare we say “good” that feels somehow “wrong”. It seems we’re discounting the impact of that loss, especially if the loss involved a person. We feel a pull to stay in the grief as a way to hold on to what is no more. We fear that if we enjoy the here and now we somehow have to let go of what was.
I experienced one of these awkward moments today. I was at work. Laughing with my teammates…. hard… at one point laughing so hard I was crying. It seemed everywhere we turned today there was something to laugh about. But, I didn’t know what to do with that in the midst of the loss of leaving Buffalo, and missing my incredible teammates there, and being so far from my friends and family who have become so dear.
But then, I stumbled into the answer… an unexpected grace. As I let myself, in that split second, just feel all the things… the joy and the sadness, the good and the hard, I suddenly found myself overwhelmed with gratitude.
I am thankful for nine amazing years in Buffalo AND new beginnings in Nebraska. I’m thankful for not just one but TWO teams that love to laugh (some people don’t ever get that in their whole careers!!!). I’m thankful for friends back “home” in Buffalo who still care for me well even while I start to try (not there yet) to call this place “home”. I’m just insanely grateful.
I don’t have to choose between all the feelings as if one would betray the other. Instead, I let them all lead me into a graceful space of gratitude. And that’s what we do with these awkward moments of grief… we give thanks. We give thanks for what was… and is… and will be. We give thanks for a God who walks with us through it all. We give thanks IN the circumstances not necessarily always FOR them. We give thanks because gratitude reorients our focus on the One who gives all good things.
And suddenly I’m reminded of how this whole year started for me… with a call to gratitude, back on January 1, with these words from Ann Voskamp on page 1 of my journal:
“Joy is the realest reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped. God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: Joy.
Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world.
When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, LIFE GROWS! The clouds open when we mouth thanks.”
And so I pick up my pen and I continue the list started 6.5 months ago… counting the gifts of this year one by one…
1237. A beautiful sunrise while out on an early morning run
1238. Teammates who love to laugh
1239. Seeing VBS pictures from Buffalo
1240. Being able to “be real” with teammates, sharing the joys and challenges, even only a few weeks in to the new job
1241. Memories shared of college days
1242. Becoming a NE resident
1243. Multiple Buffalo friends texting to check in today
1244. A hilarious video of my precious godsons
1245. A courageous 10-year old girl smiling with friends and singing praise to Jesus at VBS only weeks after brain surgery
1249. New mercies
1250. Grace to grieve with gratitude