Good Grief

Grief is messy.

I know, novel revelation. But I think it still surprises me sometimes, just how inconvenient it is. The ideal, aka healthiest, way to deal with loss is to feel it and let yourself naturally move through the stages.

I’m not a fan.

Because I’m so uncomfortable with the vulnerability of grief and loss, it’s hard for me to sit with friend who are struggling. It reminds me how close I am to living this experience. Because bad stuff happens all the time, and no matter what we do, there is no way to control so many of the things we fear.

Fun blog so far, right?

Grief challenges so many of our implicit assumptions about how the way the world works, and that’s a hard pill to swallow. So much so that I think most people just choose not to feel the hard things, which turns into anger, which solidifies into bitterness. And the longer we live in bitterness the harder it is to shake loose.

I know, it’s only getting more cheerful. Stick with me, though, it’s about to get good.

In 2 Corinthians 1:4-6, Paul writes, “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” This passage is a little dense, classic Paul. What I want to draw your attention to, however, is his use of the first person plural, we for you non-grammar nerds out there. (Was that condescending? If so, sorry.)

Maybe you’re like me and you internalize certain emotions and it makes you isolate. There is a time to be by yourself and process what is happening in your life. But it can get unhealthy.

You might remember from a couple weeks ago that I went on an eleven month missions trip, and almost everything I know about community and friendship happened during that time. Each of us five to seven team members went through some really rough moments. Not just the temper tantrums, but real, soul-level sucker punches. We didn’t have the luxury of hiding. It was all out there for each of our teammates to witness.

It was a nightmare for my introverted self. But it was also good for me. I had to let my friends, my family for the year, grieve with me. And they did. And I grieved with them. We were together in all of it. There was such a comfort in their steadfast presence, through the highest highs and the lowest lows. We cried together, and I don’t cry in front of… well, pretty much anyone.

The word “sage” means wisdom, but more specifically, it’s the wisdom that comes with age. I like to think of it more like wisdom that comes from seeing a lot of shirt. Intimacy comes from seeing a lot of shirt together.

But I think the real intimacy comes from sharing in each other’s grief. When we really take ownership of it, when we don’t just throw a classic “everything happens for a reason” at each other, when we really sit with it, feel it, and let ourselves be overwhelmed by it, that’s when the magic happens.

**For an amazing discussion of grief, check out Kate Bowler’s Everything Happens for a Reason, And Other Lies I’ve Loved.