When you cry every single day for 100 days, it’s definitely hard on the soul, especially when you look toward the next 100 days and realize that it’s just the way life is going to be now. We’re learning how to live with it. We are getting more used to going from crying to laughing to working to sleeping to crying to sobbing to talking to crying to walking to walking AND crying over and over again each day.
Last week, on the day after the three-month anniversary of losing our beautiful boy, my husband, Jose and I were sitting in our living room in the place I go every morning to drink my coffee and catch up on a few things to start the day, talking (and yes, crying). It was our oldest son’s 28th birthday and we were reflecting how the day before–on such a hard sad day realizing 3 months has felt like 3 years and how desperately we miss Jared–we also had celebrated the arrival in the mail of my copies of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, got the approval of our 501c3 for #communityheals—Making Spaces for Transformation Accessible for All in our mailbox, and landed on a title for a new project coming with Westminster John Knox Press for Advent called A Weary World: Blue Christmas Reflections. Yes, all in one day. OMG! We sat there celebrating our oldest son, remembering that moment of becoming parents for the first time and all the mothering over so many years. We talked about how our new life—grieving this hard and deep—along with all the things that were already happening is really, really rough. Our conclusion that morning before we left for work: “This much freaking paradox is definitely hard on a soul.”
All this grieving.
All this living.
At the same time.
It makes me think of what grief advocate Frances Weller says—”the work….is to hold grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and be stretched large by them.”
I don’t want to be stretched this large, but we are.
I am also reminded of my very favorite quotes from Megan Devine, whose work at Refuge in Grief has been a healing balm for each day the past several months–“Some things cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.”
This past weekend in Denver we had a 70-degree Sunday—in February. It was awesome. Then the next day, I officiated a memorial service at The Refuge for a dear long-time friend and single mom of 4 who lost her battle with cancer at 43, and it was 25 degrees and snowy, icy, gray, and down-right cold. The juxtaposition of it all really struck me in the deepest part of my soul because that, my friends, is the reality of life.
Summer and Winter right next to each other, all tangled up, in so many different ways.
At her gathering I shared what we have been saying to ourselves–that our best hope over the long story “is learning how to grieve and live at the same time.”
All the grief.
All the life.
At the same time.
They aren’t separate. It’s not either/or. They aren’t “Oh, when we’re done grieving, we’ll move on to living.” Yes, grief takes a front burner and we just.can’t.do what we used to do. But we also want to keep living, especially for our 4 young adult kids who need us.
We are finding, for us, that our way forward is the practice grieving and living at the same time.
That doesn’t mean we don’t have days where we can barely breathe. Or we don’t cry all day. Or we aren’t stumbling around in a fog. That we still cannot believe this alternate reality we feel like we’re in.
It just means that those days are mixed in with days where we do celebrate so much good in our lives, in the lives of our kids, in the lives of our community and work. That we do get out of bed, take a shower, and go do what we love to do—and just cry whenever we need to. That we eat frosting out of the can for dinner and watch Cheer on Netflix and are amazed by what humans can do.
At the same time.
And there are so many other practices all tangled up in there, too. Practicing has 10 of them—Healing, Listening, Loving, Including, Equalizing, Advocating, Mourning, Failing, Resting, Celebrating. As I was thinking through them this morning preparing to facilitate a retreat in Santa Fe, I recognize that they are all weaving through our lives right now, and that’s how it’s supposed to be.
Some get illuminated more for different seasons, but they are all part of living out some of our dreams for ourselves, our families, our communities, the world.
They’re all hard.
They’re all good.
They’re all not masterable.
They’re all possible.
Preaching is way easier than practicing, but I know in every part of my soul that this wild and beautiful paradoxical life God gave us is mean to be practiced. Jared had a lot of sayings, and one of them was “be comfortable being uncomfortable.” Easy to say, hard to do, and in this season I am definitely having to practice things I don’t want to. I am quite certain so many of you are in the same boat.
You’re also grieving big losses.
Trying to get unstuck.
Struggling with the state of the world.
Feeling so vulnerable.
Life is hard.
The world is hard.
The divisions are brutal.
The hope of what could be sometimes feels so far away.
Yet here we all are in different ways,
Holding it all in the same space at the same time as best we can.
It’s God’s image embedded in humans. The ways of Jesus reflected brightly–and subtly.
I see it every day in so many lives around me.
I see it in you and the stories you share with me.
All the mess, all the beauty.
All the hope, all the despair.
At the same time.
Love from cold and snowy Colorado today. I looked, and tomorrow it’s sunny.