Imagine sitting on the beach, in a soft oversized cozy chair reading the world’s best love story. It is the best book of a lifetime, the one that everyone is talking about. It’s the only copy and there will never be another. It’s the book that everyone wants to be about. It is literally the best book you've ever read and you can't wait to see what happens next. Flipping pages, you can't get enough. You are engaged in every step of the adventure, page by page. You feel like one of the characters as you wondrously anticipate your fate.
Suddenly, with a deafening boom, the sky turns black. Thunder roars as if it is yelling directly at you. Cowering inwardly, wrapping yourself in your own arms, you try to avoid the strikes of lightning all around you. The rain feels violent and hurts your skin. Through the wind and rain, you look out at the ocean only to watch your precious book fade into the abyss. You watch it crash with the tides, knowing you will never get it back. How did this happen? Who could do such a thing? Why? Why you, why your book? An unexpected ending to a love story, followed by a dark and frightening storm. You wait out the storm, in shock and disbelief, frozen in time. Frozen in fear.
Then the wind begins to slow, and the rain slowly ceases. The tides go from crashing to rolling. The sky is a few shades lighter than black, but still a dark grey. You look around and there are people all along the shoreline. They seem to be staring at you, and their sadness for you is obvious. No one says a word. It is obvious that they all saw the storm, but not one of them lived it as you did. The book. You turn sharply back toward the ocean to see your love story far off in the distance. It’s over. An abrupt ending to a beautiful love story. No one will ever know how it ended.
Losing a loved one feels a lot like that. Only a billion times worse.
In our culture, we often want to cover people’s pain. We think we are trying to shield them, to protect them. But the truth is, we are shielding ourselves. We think it is because we are trying to help them, to ease their pain. The truth is, we are trying to protect ourselves. We fear sitting in someone’s loss because it forces us to acknowledge that we too could experience this level of loss. Out of fear of loss and pain, we unknowingly stand on the shoreline, trying to stay in control.
Let’s stop trying to write the end of other people’s stories. Let’s move in from the shoreline and offer the one thing that we all need.
Let’s be present. Let’s sit in each other’s stories, smack dab in the hardest parts, the darkness, the storm, all of it. Let’s be not only a part of the shoreline but a part of the actual storyline that offers hope and peace. We know we cannot fix a loss, but we can sit in the pain of it, knowing we can’t and don’t have to fix it.
Let’s offer each other abundant love. Here is what I offer to those who are newly navigating a season of grief.
"Allow yourself to feel and do whatever you need to in the moment. Only you will ever know what that is and those moments change rapidly. Give yourself permission to go THROUGH this process. Resist any and all guilt and shame for how you feel. Be good to you. Breath deep............"
As for the rest of us, let's move closer to those who are grieving.