In early December I was driving down the freeway and even though I was paying attention to traffic, I was fully aware that my mind was going in what seemed like a thousand different directions –holiday preparations, a trip before Christmas, year-end business, and on and on. Although I seldom listen to the radio in the car – I cherish the quiet to think and regroup – on that day it was on, probably because I wanted to hear the news or weather.
Before the hourly update there was an interview with a woman who’d been in the thick of the so-called “Black Friday” shopping melee. From what she said she was clearly torn between the secular and the spiritual. In response to the interviewer’s question about how she would celebrate the holidays she said, “I’m stuck in the middle of my wants”. Wow, that caught my attention.
And though the holidays are behind us for another year, I’ve spent some time thinking about being stuck in the middle of our wants and how it feels to be on the other side of the season when we’re grieving. For some of us (most of us, really) there’s that indescribable moment when we realize we’re still upright – we’ve survived the merriment, the painful remembrance moments and, for some, the stress of family togetherness.
For others there’s a kind of emotional hangover that lingers for a few days or weeks – we can’t quite put our finger on it, but we feel off balance. We’re reeling from all we’ve experienced and said and done to be present to the season and honor our grief. We may be hurt that those around us could not – or would not – appreciate the depth of our pain. Our head and heart may throb – literally or figuratively - especially if we feel isolated, alone, or estranged from others because of our grief.
When we take a moment to assess where we are in our spirit, for some it may seem as though we’ve experienced a major setback in our grief. We thought we’d made some progress, but may feel that we’re back at the beginning of our grief. Perhaps we thought we were doing better, but found that during the holidays our grief could only be expressed in the language of tears. Sound familiar? The good news is that this is normal - it’s not a setback only a painful pause, a slight detour on our journey through grief.
In truth some of us may feel more stuck than setback. If we’re experiencing a kind of mental, emotional, or spiritual inertia, we may be temporarily stuck in our grief. Our momentary perspective suggests that this is how life will always be. We wonder if the ache of our emotional void is what we’ll always be feeling because we’re stuck in the middle of our wants.
- We want life to be as it once was, when our loved one was alive and well and there was love and great joy.
- We want to feel better and reconnect with life in all its fullness.
- We want to know what’s ahead in life, what the future holds.
- We want to know when our grief will be at an end.
What we really want is to get unstuck, to climb out of our emotional hole and look ahead. We want to find a positive, life-affirming forward dynamic for our life. So how do we make this happen? It’s about living in and living into the gifts God gives us so freely – peace, joy, love, hope - even amid the darkness of our grief.
The real desire of our heart is to move from the emotional ambivalence of being stuck in the middle of our wants toward the spiritual fulfillment that takes us beyond our grief. We do this patiently, persistently and prayerfully. We live in faith with the unshakeable expectation that the steadfast love and faithfulness of God will guide us forward into the unimaginable joys of our future.
Our soul waits for the Lord; for he is our help and our shield.
Psalm 33:20 NRSV
Keep me this day, O God, in the fulfillment of new life. Amen.