hugs and grief

hugs and grief

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Sometime during the early swirling days when we were learning how to conduct ourselves whenever we braved the world beyond our walls, Caleb and I happened to walk across a parking lot and heard his name called.

Suddenly I saw a blur of swinging hair and as I swiveled my head to get a better view, Caleb and a childhood friend advanced towards each other with arms outstretched.  At that moment, I smiled because of my recognition of two long time friends but I also heard from behind me, a voice say “Don’t touch each other!” As if I had been dazed, I snapped back into reality, this newfound reality, and watched as the duo stopped quickly enough to achieve an air hug. From a distance, two moms stood wearing the same facial expressions of joy tangled up with sadness because, despite affection, touching can be dangerous.  I won’t soon forget the image of two friends grasping at the space around them to attempt an embrace.

*****

Two Sundays ago, we did a family check-in. We talked about how we each were doing and how we could be praying for one another. Some of us had a lot to say and some did not.

Since we all process and cope in different ways, it is perfectly fine to not have words to adequately describe our emotions. 

I think it is important to keep asking (and asking in different ways, without nagging) allowing for pauses, to give opportunities for fuller answers.  Last week, one of the house dwellers stated, “I’m tired.” Had I rushed to relate or offer a “solution” instead of waiting, I would have missed the fuller response a few breaths later of “I’m tired of this.” Two very different statements spaced apart, a tiny megaphone revealed their current status. 

Another aspect of our checking in with each other has been naming our grief. For example, last weekend, Caleb and a friend were to be away for outdoor school counselor training. It’s disappointing this won’t happen. We are endeavoring to not ignore the crossed off items on the calendar, we are speaking them out loud and honoring the loss. It’s a personal loss but it also extends to countless six graders who are missing this experience. Speaking aloud the canceled event helped loosen his tongue to express a fear of his school year not resuming. Saying the words doesn’t lessen the pain but it does allow the hidden fear to escape from hiding among our deepest thoughts which tend to bore a hole for anxiety to fill. 

We are embarking on a time frame when the activities we have been holding out hope for will be laid aside, postponed or canceled. There has been bad news and the possibility of more news to be received in the future.  Each of our points of grief are important and never meant to be a contest to determine whose is the biggest or the hardest. It can feel this way at times when we hear of so many different ways others are feeling the effects of this solitary time mingled with losses.

The worst grief is always yours.

This is a quote from David Kessler, a grief expert and a recent guest on Unlocking Us podcast hosted by Brené  Brown. If you are not listening to her podcast, I would highly recommend it. I listen to many podcasts in my normal life but there have been very few I feel drawn to now. She has such a soothing voice and perhaps the science related to our emotions feels essential right now.

This quote has allowed me to have compassion for myself alongside empathy for others. 

It is not a comparison game, we feel what we feel. Allow yourself to feel your sadness and if you are able, express it to others. If nothing else, take a deep breath, exhale and wrap your arms around yourself. We all need to keep breathing and feel a hug, even if it is our own. 

*****

What has been helping me:

Being vigilant about what I watch, listen to or read.

Deciding to stop apologizing about sleeping longer in the morning.

Listening to this podcast and this one.

Using this app.

My end of day journal- I read my first entry a few days ago, the day began with my wondering about my jury duty service and ended with our governor limiting gatherings to ten people. In case you are wondering, I will serve in December. In case you are also wondering, I am not perfect in this practice. My mind is easily scattered and I haven’t written in it in several days. But I am glad when I have written in it.

A new mantra-The days are both slow and fast.
I am extending myself grace when I don’t feel productive. 

Good mood songs. I put this song and this one on my Spotify playlist twice to increase the probability of hearing them.

I am praying for more lovely days and dream of summer breezes for all of us.

May God fill the spaces within our lives which suddenly feel vacant and less occupied in the days to come. May He pour out His presence and banish loneliness and emptiness. May He extend His mercy and comfort to bridge the gap from our inability to embrace each other the way we want and are accustomed.

Lord have mercy.

 

elevator grace

elevator grace

elevator button

 

I confess when I am alone in an elevator, I push the button to close the doors

as quickly as possible.

Elevators can be awkward.

Usually when I need an elevator, I seem to be in a hurry.

I definitely do not want to linger before arriving at my destination.

Last Thursday, I had an appointment with a specialist

as I have some blood levels which are being quite rebellious.

The consultation I thought would last 30 minutes spanned close

to 2 hours leaving me a bit sore from all the poking and prodding

and offering up more blood.

I raced to the elevator and was the only one waiting for that

familiar ding and lit up arrow to draw me closer to my car

in the parking garage below.

Of the four door options, I found the one with the gaping hole

and stepped inside.

I pressed the number button and perhaps assuming I was “safe”,

I didn’t push the close door arrows.

The doors were closing and I was exhaling as

a man straddled the threshold and stumbled inside,

joining me.

He was white-haired and quite striking.

I quickly determined

if his floor choice needed to be pushed.

With a grin he told me we were going

the same direction and asked how I was.

I told him I was doing alright.

I reciprocated by asking him the identical question.

Without his smile leaving his face, he paused.

He glanced his eyes to the heavens which in this case,

was a cold metal ceiling and didn’t utter a word.

His pause was long enough that even

without our elevator encasing it would have felt awkward.

Silence reigned and I wanted to reach out

to touch his arm or even give him a hug.

But we were in an elevator and surely this gesture

would have broken protocol or etiquette.

It was a pause saturated with meaning.

When what felt like the final grain of sand had joined a

heaping mountain in the bottom of an hourglass,

he volunteered,

“You know, just sitting in those rooms makes

my blood pressure go up.”

As the doors begin to slide apart and

this dear man strides to exit,

I nod and say,

“Yeah, they don’t give us lollipops or stickers

when we have been brave anymore.”

He turns and faces me as we are now

among the cars in the cool, dark dampness

of the underground garage.

He says,

“Oh yeah.”

“Man, that’s a good line.”

He is still wearing the smile.

The smile we have learned to assign ourselves

in our public lives.

The smile meant to shield the world from the inner

life residing in the dark, damp underground

place we park our fears and concerns.

I could see behind his smile and he knew I was not

just feeding him a line.

We parted as people in cars visually pleaded with us

to vacate our parking spots.

We separated by telling one another to take care.

I sat in my car and prayed for a man I will most

likely never see again.

I prayed he has people in his life who will wait with him

in the pause, even when it feels awkward and long.

I prayed they would remain after the words are uttered.

I prayed that he has comforting places where he can

wear whatever face he deems appropriate.

I prayed that he would be steadied when his pulse races.

An elevator,

a check-out line,

a cross walk,

a classroom,

a bus

or any other everyday place can be an opportunity

to gaze into someone’s eyes and offer them grace.

Each day we have the privilege to give others  stickers

and lollipops of our affection and concern as they bravely

walk through a life filled with landmines.

Perhaps we all need to pause before we push

the doors closed.