“As long as I kept moving, my grief streamed out behind me like a swimmer’s long hair in water. I knew the weight was there but it didn’t touch me. Only when I stopped did the slick, dark stuff of it come float in around my face, catching my arms and throat till I began to drown. So I just didn’t stop.”
This is from The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and is spoken by Orleanna, the mother, after the death of her youngest, Ruth May.
Can’t you picture her grief?
Only when I stopped.
That right there is worth pausing over. Only when I stopped did it catch up with me. So I just didn’t stop.
We are a culture of non-stoppers. Just keep moving, no matter what.
All of us (individuals, marriages, families, organizations) need to start a mini revolution of creating space to slow down so that the grief and can catch up to us. Grief over changes in our families, end of summer programs, influence in the workplace, preparing a child to go off to college, grief over the thousands of small deaths woven into normal life. Our lives demand so much motion. But our souls demand stillness. And how scary stillness can be because then grief can catch us.
Recently I went rafting with friends and was excited to be on the water. I grew up rafting with my family and my dad loved to raft. Standing in line for the bathroom I just started to tear up. As long as I was moving, filling out forms and getting the gear ready, I wasn’t even thinking (or aware) of Dad. But darn a full bladder … and just standing there with nothing to do in the immediate. And the grief caught up with me.
Motion isn’t the problem. Movement is good. The problem is when we self-medicate by filling our lives to the brim and don’t allow grief to catch up with us.
I asked a friend to list all of her losses and nearly 40 filled the page front and back; she could have gone on, there was no paper left. She said it was depressing at first, but by the end she felt validated in her sadness and a bit lighter.
I’ll admit, part of me hasn’t decided whether to hit publish or not on this post. It’s more fun to talk about books, Zumba, or (and this shocks me that I mean it) women’s soccer. If I talk about grief will I become know as “the grief girl?” I do not want to be her. But I also know that Brene Brown is right when she says we can’t numb the hard emotions without numbing the good ones.
Niece #1 found out a dear friend is transferring schools. The summer interns I work with have only one week left in the program. A project comes to an end. A child will leave for college. Another mother prepares to go back to work after maternity leave. The better we grieve, the better we live.
So I slow down and let grief (not just of my dad, the last five years have been a season of loss after loss) catch me. Some days nothing sticks, some days I’m surprised what’s there.
Grief is messy, isn’t it? But the truth is so is joy and patience and goodness, I just prefer their mess.
As you’ve read there, feeling any nudge to slow down and let grief catch you? Where have you slowed down this week? What happened when you did? It’s not only grief that catches us :)!