Grieving: Finding Comfort Where There is None

There have been so many losses this year. Whether you are mourning the loss of a family member, a loving relationship, an old friendship, a fulfilling job, or all the opportunities that have fallen by the wayside during the last eight months, the grief is real and profound – and much harder to handle during a time of isolation. Grieving, finding comfort where there is none, is more than a “one day at a time” endeavor. Sometimes it feels like a minute-by-minute challenge.

I have recently lost someone very dear to me, and I am mourning. I would like to get away from myself and escape the questions I have and the longing I feel, but there is no escaping these things – we cannot crawl out of our own skin, no matter how badly we want to. He is a part of me and with me, he remains.

But as hard as it is anyway, grieving in isolation feels worse. I thank God for the friends who have had my back and supported me even when they weren’t sure what to say or how to be with me. Their presence, checking in by text, phone or Zoom, sending me something to make me smile, just telling me that they understand – these small gestures have made all the difference as I navigate this strange new space.

As always, I find comfort in the words of others, too. Here are some quotes that have given me courage:

“Life is full of grief, to exactly the degree we allow ourselves to love other people.” – Orson Scott Card. I am full of grief because I am also full of love. I love the best way that I can.

“Sometimes only one person is missing, and the whole world seems depopulated.” – Alphonse de Lamartine. I am not alone in looking for a beloved face among others, and wanting again to share a smile.

“So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love.” – E.A. Bucchianeri You cannot have love without the grief that comes when it leaves. But in all ways, the love is worth it, and it is this love that eventually gives rise to hope.

“Every one of us is losing something precious to us. Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive.” – Haruki Murakami. And knowing this, I commit to doing the hard work of walking through this grief to the other side, where hope and new opportunities await me.

So I grieve my loss, remember my love, focus on the many, many happy memories, and hope for a new chance, a new beginning someday. I remember that all the pain I feel now, along with the love and happiness I felt before this loss, are all parts of being alive. I have lived and am living… and in his words, “so there’s that.” I wish you peace.

Are You Finding Peace or Avoiding Life?

Virginia Woolf once said, “You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” And of course, she is right. Peace as we generally think of it can be elusive at best, changing with circumstances and mood. But true peace, lasting peace, is earned through the hard work that comes with facing and walking through life’s challenges.

The trouble is “finding peace” can look an awful lot like avoiding life.

We “keep the peace” by avoiding difficult decisions, delicate discussions, and painful circumstances. We “make peace” with something that if we were honest about it, we would admit makes us uncomfortable, angry, or discouraged. We search for “inner peace” by creating a facade of outer peace rather than risking a painful encounter or conflict. We content ourselves with being “at peace” with something, though this “peace at any price” comes at the expense of what our gut is telling us — until finally we “rest in peace” after possibly never really living at all.

Honestly, I am as guilty as anyone of avoiding the messiness of life under the guise of “finding peace”. In fact, I have probably raised avoidance to an art form. But “peace of mind” (and heart and soul and spirit) cannot be found through avoidance. Life has a way of leaking into our facades no matter how carefully we try to contain it.

So what are the choices?

  • Let go entirely. Drop the issue, the relationship, the job, the friendship — just walk away. But this strategy can feel like giving up, and worse, giving up on something or someone worth keeping. It doesn’t result in peace, but in a constant state of wondering, “what if”.
  • Lie to yourself. Hide behind being busy. Tell yourself that really everything is OK, there’s nothing wrong, it’s all good and you are doing all that you can do. A very wise friend tells me often that it is impossible to lie to yourself, but I am not so sure we don’t try. Either way, though, this strategy is nothing more than a band-aid and there will be no peace.
  • Have a plan for dealing with the issue — but at some nebulous time in the future. Think “if this happens, then I’ll do that” or “I’ll give it until (fill in any date or circumstance) and then I’ll decide what to do.” While this strategy can allow you to feel a temporary moment of peace, it doesn’t work in the long-term. The plan will need to be constantly revised, the timeframe pushed back, and the terms re-negotiated with yourself — not a peaceful process, to be sure.
  • Acknowledge the issue and its context before taking steps toward the outcome you want. Recognizing the issue and defining its context is half the battle. Maybe you want a new job, but you are afraid to leave the security of the one you have. Acknowledging the issue of wanting new employment and the context of fear allows for a manageable approach. You can address the fears as they arise and watch them dissipate as you begin to achieve your goal.

Obviously, the last choice is the best choice.

Virginia Woolf was correct that real peace does not come from avoiding the trials of life. It comes from meeting those challenges and growing through them!

Characteristics of a Beautiful Friend

To have a friend is a beautiful thing. To be a friend is as beautiful, if not more so, as it makes the rest of life, no matter how difficult, pretty beautiful, too.

Years ago when I taught second grade, we spent the month of February celebrating friendship. One of my favorite books to read with the class was Judith Viorst’s Rosie and Michael, the story of two friends who take turns narrating what makes their friendship so special.

What they describe are the characteristics of any beautiful relationship, whether it is between two friends, two loves, a parent and a child, or siblings. Here, illustrated by the words of Rosie and Michael, are the characteristics of any beautiful relationship:

* Friends accept each other as they are. “She likes me when I’m dopey and not just when I’m smart.” “I worry a lot about werewolves, and he understands.”

* They rely on each other in times of trouble. “When my parakeet died, I called Rosie.” “When my bike got swiped, I called Michael.”

* Friends are loyal to one another. “It wouldn’t matter if two billion people said she robbed a bank, if Rosie told me she didn’t, I’d believe her.”

* They are trustworthy, too. “If Michael told me a secret and people clonked me and bopped me, I wouldn’t tell what Michael’s secret was.”

* And if necessary, friends are forgiving. “And then if people said ‘Speak up or we’ll throw you in this quicksand,’ Rosie would forgive me for telling her secret.”

* Even if they disagree, friends can still stay friends. “Just because I call him a banana head, doesn’t mean that Michael’s not my friend.”

* Friends support each other, too. “Sometimes I get on the diving board and deicde that I’ve changed my mind. but Rosie wouldn’t laugh. She’s my friend.”

* Friends are honest with each other. “Michael is my friend. When he honest and truly wanted to know if his feet were smelling stinky, I honestly told him.”

* And they always have your back. “She’d hunt for me if kidnappers stole me away. And if I was never found again, she could have my Instamatic. She is my friend.”

* Special friends are the ones we think of first, last and all the times in between. “I’d never move to China without Michael.” ” I’d give her my last piece of chalk.”

To have a friend, to be a friend is one of the best gifts life has to offer. Now is a wonderful time to celebrate and thank those special friends that make our lives beautiful. Thank you…you know who you are.