I was honored to give a talk on Friday to a Christian networking group. I spoke about finding hope in grief, and I used my personal experiences to illustrate strategies that I have found helpful in the midst of great pain.
My first point was to LET YOURSELF FEEL THE PAIN/LET YOURSELF GRIEVE.
One of my greatest hopes in writing so much about grief for the past 5 years, is that I can help grievers and those people who are trying to support/understand them navigate grief in healthy ways. And truly, this kind of understanding is needed for ALL of us, for we will all grieve in this lifetime.
I bring this up today because there are many people in our country grieving what feels like a sudden and unexpected loss, and there are many others saying, "Move on!" "Get over it!" "Let it go!"
Yes, one of the ways in which we do find hope amidst great pain is in letting go of things eventually, --primarily an expectation for the way we thought things would/should be. This is something that often comes with time, but it is never effective if INFLICTED on someone else.
If we do not let ourselves feel or acknowledge grief, it festers, it rots, it grows. Acknowledging pain and brokenness does the opposite.
I have friends who were not able to be around my pain in losing Jack. It spoke to their deepest fears of losing a child of their own. And perhaps the messiness of my grief made them uncomfortable. I became "other". They wanted me to get better, fast, and maybe not talk/write about it so much. But if I had stuffed my grief, shoved it away, and MOVED ON, not only would I likely be in a much darker place now, I also would not have used my hard-earned (yet unsought) wisdom in service to others.
You see, pain that is tamped down or stifled says, "I've been hurt. This isn't fair! I want to hurt others so they will feel as miserable as I do!" Pain that is let out into the light, into the world, says, "I'm hurting. I will not calm down, sit down, shut up, or pretend that everything's okay. My grief is not on someone else's timetable. I may not get the time machine I long for, but I will look ahead right now to see how I can help someone else."
That is what is going to happen. Pain that is let out in the air, not tamped down, will effect positive change.
Sure, the "losers" will eventually "let go" of their expectation of victory for their candidate. I don't believe that's the crux of what's going on anyway. But, if given the opportunity and RESPECT to feel their feelings, just as every griever deserves, they will be able to channel this disappointment into not pretending everything is okay, but rather into continuing to work for/fight for what they believe is right in a world that feels upside down to them right now.
That's what I'm thinking today.
But first I need to say I am sorry.
I am sorry for any role I may have had in not understanding pain that has gone unacknowledged or festered for many years and that may have led to an election outcome that I didn't expect.
I am sorry for oversimplifying here when I share my heart with you, and if for any reason you feel carelessly lumped into one category/one motivation/one issue when I write about the election, I am sorry for that, too.
I am sorry if linking election grief to the grief of losing a loved one causes any of you more pain than you are already experiencing. I promise that's not what I'm trying to do.
And I'm sorry if saying I will not pretend everything is okay in our country right now causes anyone to think that I am someone who wants to stir up trouble, or that I am a whiner.
For something is already stirred up in this country we love, that is for sure, and I won't be quiet and I won't calm down if there is ANYTHING I can do to help make it better, whether that makes people uncomfortable or not. My biggest fear is that we will stop paying attention to what's going on, and before we know it, what felt outrageous a year ago, or a month ago, or a day ago, will start to feel normalized. That's one of the greatest risks of calming down.
My trust is in God alone, not in any man/woman or office.
Yet I believe that God calls me to look beyond my own comfort/privilege/security to the needs of others, to not numb myself, to stay engaged with eyes wide open, and to call out prejudice, hatred, and injustice when I see it.
Calmly or otherwise.