Grief and the Uncertain Life
Today I want to honor the power and beauty of grief. I know, well enough, that it’s not fun, but I want to give permission for all the grief that is part of your heart and mine.
There is a lot to grieve. We are not in each other’s physical presence and loneliness is real. The certainly of this year—classes, graduation celebrations, travel plans, job hunt security, traditional ways of learning, even our assumptions about good health for us and others—up in the air or gone. (We may also be angry and more on that later!) Grief, uncertainty, and even anxiety can get so mixed together that they become indistinguishable and overwhelming. The losses stack up.
There is a lot of misunderstanding about grief. Like having a clear beginning and end, with exact steps to follow. Primarily, we seem to be discouraged from admitting or feeling it, as if somehow grief is shameful, weak, or useless. There are those who mistrust any feelings.
On the other hand, grief is instructive and illuminating, worthy, and even holy. If we didn’t love and become attached to people, places, ideas, and dreams we would not grieve when they were slipping away. Grief is the product of love and care. We miss those who are away from us; we long for places and rituals that are meaningful to us. Love is something to celebrate! Grief is love with nowhere to go.
Some things to remember as we grieve. It takes time; give yourself moments in the day to feel. Look inside and ask yourself—what am I feeling? Stay with that longer than one second. Give yourself permission to feel for a while. Cry if you want; a good cry is underrated. These are ways of loving yourself while in grief.
Acknowledging grief may lessen anxiety, or at least the tangle with it.
Know that grief is a holy time because it is born of love. It is a revelation of love, however difficult to bear. See it for what it is and embrace it as such.
Be patient with yourself. Every bit of this is new.
It helps to talk about grief, to sort out what’s really lost and what is simply uncertain. That uncertainty has a cost of its own, granted. Let a chaplain or a friend listen to you and your heart. Ask for comfort. Do that for yourself. We are available to listen.
Good grief eventually leads us to gratitude. This might a good time to list your gratitudes at the end of the day. I do this for my own spiritual well-being. I write three words every night, representing what my gratitude for the day. Sometimes, the next day I can’t even read my writing, but that doesn’t matter! It’s the action that helps me sleep better, that puts into perspective loss, challenge, love, and hope. Don’t force it, but now might be a good time to try.
In the meantime, blessings on your grief and uncertainty, on your experience of love, and on you as you navigate the way today.
Jan Fuller has been the University Chaplain at Elon since 2011. She is an Episcopal priest and deeply invested in helping students to find their own spiritual paths while interacting with others in differing paths with appreciation and respect. Raised in Beirut Lebanon for the first half of her life, Jan is the daughter of Southern Baptist missionaries to the Arab peoples of the Middle East. Jan’s education includes a Doctor of Ministry from Wesley Theological Seminary, a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, and a B.A. in English and French from Hollins University. Jan describes herself as a “war-zone survivor,” who retains a sense of humor and love of gentleness. She loves Arab art and food, and all kinds of music. She intends to find the gift in every day and to live her life as a way of giving thanks.