What do you do when pain charges through your system so savagely that you lose control? Convulsions from the shock rip through you worse than an epileptic episode, and you find yourself biting your tongue or your lip and don’t even notice the bloody damage. There’s nothing to do but ride the waves as they crash over you, until they gradually subside. And you lay there, listless while your breath returns, and with it, the realization that this was no nightmare. In the daylight, it’s still there, but oh the nights. The nights are much worse. definitely, the nights are worse.
At night, shadows of old fears and newborn angst come out of hiding with whispers of despair and doom that make complete sense in the darkness. You tense up, you turn on the light, you yell at the shadows, you cry, you pray, you beat your pillow …. Sometimes you manage to curl into Jesus and drift off again in His comfort, though you may not know it’s Him. Many times, your pounding head counts the hours and minutes till morning returns, and it hurts.
But time has a gentle touch. Eventually, every tragedy becomes a new normal. Eventually, “normal” becomes its own repose, and you come up for air more regularly. Somehow, a new rhythm moves though your days, and somehow, in precious, fragile sprouts, life pokes through the armor of sheer survival. You’re alive.
Looking around, assessing what is still standing and who else is still alive, be prepared to be surprised by joy. Like waking up from a coma, you realize that someone was watching closely for any sign of recovery in you. When you were too absorbed by agony to fully appreciate it, someone held your hand while sobbing on your behalf. Yes, some pulled away, and yes, there were losses on top of the Big Loss, but there was love, my friend. There is always love. You are not the exception.
So what do you do now?
1 Access the loss. Most likely, it’s bittersweet. There are memories your soul reaches for like secret chocolates to be tasted over and over again. Allow them to wash over your senses, but not to replace your presence in the present. Others are so bitter you recoil at the periphery of them, but do take a sober look at them, one last time, before you pack them away. You may need to return there later, but for now, just know where you store them.
2 Appreciate your people. Who has been your faithful friend through this? Actively, celebrate and appreciate them. Do not allow the grief to overshadow the good. By the time you’re able to read this, grief has already stolen enough. Not just from you; your close ones have suffered with you, but rather than dismissing or deriving guilt from that, simply find fellowship in the suffering. You’re in it together.
3 Approach others. All around you, people are hurting and alone, and you now have an empathy that may break their isolation. I know this is counter-intuitive, and we all want to curl up under a blanket with Netflix instead, but self-pity is not your friend! It is a deceptive imposter, and your best weapon against it is compassion. When you want most to sink into the mire of your own misery, that when you absolutely must reach out. In fighting for others, you free yourself.
Though these principles make some sense in any scenario, they really only breathe life when their Source is the heart of God. Only He, who is outside of time, can take your scattered pieces and make them more whole than before you broke. We can offer the duct tape and glue gun of the material realm, but that will never plant living giving trees in the soul garden the storm ripped through.
His deep is calling to yours, and under the rubble, your heart is throbbing in response.
“Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.
By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.”
“God, your God, will restore everything you lost; he’ll have compassion on you; he’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered. No matter how far away you end up, God, your God, will get you out of there and bring you back to the land your ancestors once possessed. It will be yours again. He will give you a good life and make you more numerous than your ancestors. God, your God, will cut away the thick calluses on your heart and your children’s hearts, freeing you to love God, your God, with your whole heart and soul and live, really live.” (Deuteronomy 30:3-6)
To whelp you worship from your gut:
To help you process initial grief: