There have been a lot of negative things going on lately: friends losing loved ones, families being torn apart, friends being hurt. I’d been feeling down about all of it and tried to stuff those feelings away until I found out that a patient of mine passed away last week. It was very sudden and unexpected. I remember smiling at him, telling him how great he looked and how awesome it was to see him up and moving around. I waved goodbye and went on with the rest of my day.
He passed away the next night.
I kept thinking in my head, “He was just here. He was fine. How does this happen?”
It takes me a while to process feelings. When something unpleasant happens, I freeze. Or maybe I detach? Physically my body reacts, but it can take awhile (hours, days…) to express it outwardly.
For example, as I was saying good bye to my sister during my last trip to Atlanta, she starts sobbing. We hadn’t seen each other in about 4 years and hadn’t spoke for about a year. It was a great trip, with lots of healing and restoring of relationships. She’s sobbing, telling me how much she loves me, doesn’t want me to go and I am in the front seat like:
Now internally, this is the conversation I am having:
” This is really sad. I don’t want to leave either. I’ve really missed my family. Oh, she’s really crying. Hard. Why the heck aren’t you crying? Why won’t you just cry? Are you a robot? Don’t you feel sad? Didn’t you miss her, too? What’s wrong with you? CRY YOU ROBOT!!!”
Despite my inner “coach”, the tears don’t come. We say our goodbyes, our I love yous, and I head back to CA the next day.
As I am sitting on the tram back to my car, the tears decide to make their appearance. In front of complete strangers. A day later.
“Ma’am are you okay?”
“Yep, something in my eye.”
When the kiddo died, same thing happened. Same freeze up. But when I got home, I felt pretty crappy. There were a mix of emotions: anger, shock, confusion, sadness. These were all things that I did not want to feel and I wanted these feelings gone immediately.
So I prayed.
Me: “God give me something, anything so I don’t feel like this.”
God: “Read Lamentations.”
Me: “What? Why? Isn’t that entire book about a guy lamenting over the destruction of Jerusalem? Wheres the happy in that?”
God: “Read Lamentations.”
Me: “It’s going to be depressing. I already feel sad. I want to feel un-sad.”
God: “Trust me. Read it. Take a look at Jeremiah 52 first, then read Lamentations.”
So I finally stop being hardheaded and start reading. So for those of you who don’t know the story, the last chapter in Jeremiah details the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon. Lamentations is basically the authors response to seeing his city destroyed. It’s pretty bad. Mothers eating their children, people dying from disease and starvation, homes being burned to the ground, everything being reduced to rubble, nasty stuff.
As I was going over the history of Lamentations in my commentary, God leads me to one simple sentence:
“The best way to survive grief is to express it.”
That is exactly what the author of Lamentations does throughout the book. He doesn’t hold back. He lets God know about his pain, the horror he’s experienced, the suffering, the sadness, the anger, all of it. He’s not afraid to put it all out there. He’s being so real and raw about how much it sucks to see his city, his people, his home experience so much death and destruction. I mean, how could you not say anything? How could you hold all of that in? It’s not healthy. It would kill you.
Yet I hold stuff in it all the time.
Now I do have to mention that this book isn’t all anger and despair, there’s hope. Midway through Chapter 3, the writers lamenting switches to hope:
“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because of His compassion fail not. They are new every morning; Great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, Therefore I hope in Him.” Lamentations 3:22-24
I love Hope. It’s listed as one of the three great things to have in 1 Corinthians 13. Hope keeps you moving forward when you want to give up. Hope brings peace when your world is filled with turmoil. Hope is expecting something good to come out of the darkness. Hope is knowing that everything will be okay in the end. That’s why I cling to it.
In the same token, I tend to try to shove out anger, sadness, despair, confusion and skip right to the Hope. That’s the happy place. That’s where the light is. There’s pretty flowers there, butterflies, unicorns, (in my world anyway).
I bury the bad, pretending it’s not there and just jump right to the happy. That’s not realistic. Or healthy. I don’t give myself the chance to grieve the loss, or address the anger. Some part of me feels like I am not trusting God when I let him how much I think it sucks that this kid died, or my friend lost her husband, or that my friend was injured. That people are being terrorized and murdered. That I don’t understand why there has to be so much loss, sickness and pain along with the joy. That I hate suffering and sometimes feel so powerless in this fallen world. That sometimes, it just plain sucks.
I have to see that God can handle all of mine, all of our emotions good or bad. That He can take our honest feelings, in fact, that’s exactly what He wants. He isn’t offended by our questions, our anger and He doesn’t see it as a judgement of Him or who He is. He’ll still love us. He’ll still be faithful. He’s still God and in control.
It’s okay to say, “this sucks.” God will listen, open His arms, and ultimately it will be okay.