Let the broken be
Last week I was part of a virtual conference for University Chaplains and Spiritual Life Professionals. Instead of our annual in-person meeting where we spend a lot of time sharing, laughing, lamenting, and learning from each other, we spent two days together on an electronic platform of webinars and workshops. I nearly pulled my hair out facilitating a workshop, sharing slides, trying to hear voices and see faces as we attempted to share our struggles and learning. At the end of the first day, I felt defeated and laid on the couch. On the second day, speakers froze, I got cut off from several important presentations, and by the time it was all over, I was just plain mad!
I sat at my desk fuming. 16 hours with colleagues and all I felt was isolated. Then, suddenly, sadness welled over me; I felt grief stricken at all that I missed in my closest colleague group. I cried at my desk at being absent from friends.
You’ve heard this a lot: we have lost so much. And yet, I haven’t until last week, really felt this particular loss so closely and personally. I focused on the good, to a fault, knowing there was grief, loss, sorrow, but not letting it settle in me. It’s been a year since I’ve been in a grocery story, out with friends, in a restaurant. I’ve had my head down, making progress, toughing it out. But now I am grateful to have raised my head, to have seen the landscape of loss in another way. I’ve seen and attempted to comprehend it for our country, but not yet so personally. It took me long enough.
Maybe you are more tuned in. Maybe you felt the losses sooner. Or maybe you have been soldiering on like me. But when the loss washes over, let it come. Pay attention.
Maybe the Covid year will better teach us to honor grief. I have long maintained that we are a culture that wants to avoid all evidences of grief—tears, sorrow, longing, sadness—in preference of glad victorious optimism. This is especially true for campuses where we spend our time planning for and focusing on the future and all the good it will yield us. And my own life corroborates my conclusion. But not giving grief its due, its focus and time, will also invite it to bite us later. We all need our moments of being sad, mad, teary, or lost. This is the truth of our world, our campus, our situation. And I can’t help but think that we will be better for acknowledging all that is happening in our hearts.
Ironically, the science of grief teaches that to think on what we have lost, creates endorphins in the body and makes us feel better, more whole, and less lost. It is funny, but true, that harboring memories of what and who is lost to us, heals our hearts and minds.
Let’s choose to admit when we are grieving, worrying, yearning for what we have lost. Reach out to someone who will listen and let you be alright in grief. Acknowledging brokenness is the path to wholeness. And isn’t that goal of education, the mission of Elon, and the hope we have for each other? Let it be then, a reminder that we are who we are, that we feel what we feel, and that every moment is in service of the wholeness of our humanity.
The Rev. Dr. Jan Fuller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org