If you’re human, and I suspect most of you are, you have had at least one rough day this month, and the month isn’t even over yet. Some of you have had a rough year, and if that’s you, this post is for you. Today is the day that we figure out what’s at the core of that rough year, peel back those battered layers, and trash them — giving way to the good that’s left behind but has been overshadowed by what’s at the core.
The issue I see most often that stops most of us in our tracks is loss — loss of a family member, one’s livelihood, your health, your home, or your marriage. Because of the devastation associated with losing someone or something so important, you lose sight of your blessings. Your grief consumes you, and it is all you ever think about and talk about. It even takes a toll on those you encounter daily. They, too, will find themselves in a similar funk if they’re not careful.
You can’t lead someone where you have not gone. ~John Maxwell
I’ve had my share of loss over the past two decades: aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, and dear friends. Taking time to grieve each loss is essential to your emotional well-being. Without a conscious dedication to unearthing the core issue, you will never fully deal with the emotions and behaviors that result from the loss.
When my cousin Stephen died from AIDS in 1994, I was devastated. I was angry, confused, sad, and depressed for a time. I was angry because I could tell from watching him slowly wither away that his time was short, and the gossips were talking about him. They were dying too; they just didn’t know it. I was confused because I thought the medicines he had been taking could preserve his life. I was sad because my best friend was gone. We were more like siblings — only five years apart, and we were raised in the same house. I was depressed because he was asleep in death, and I wasn’t sure that he had made his peace with God before he succumbed to that dreadful disease.
I responded poorly. I cut everyone off. I moved to another state, didn’t call home anymore, didn’t visit anymore, changed my phone number, stopped going to church, and started going out a lot. All I did was work and wait for the weekend so I could go out. I was really a homebody, but I just needed to get out in a place where no one knew my story. It was my way of forgetting my story for a few hours. Thankfully, I knew the Lord back then, but I didn’t know him well, and that’s when he really started using me — revealing things in dreams and telling me how to pick up the pieces. I went back to church, but that didn’t pull me from the depths. I had to figure out what was at the core before I could come out of that pit.
The Heart of the Matter
- This was the first significant loss in my life.
- My routine, visits home, and holiday plans would change
- Our family dynamic would change drastically; we would miss him terribly.
- It seemed unfair. He was only 30 years old.
- Though he had served his purpose, we would never see him do all those great things we expected him to do.
Those issues were at the core. Once I was able to identify what was causing me such distress, I was then able to put each core issue into one category — Things I Can’t Control. Ultimately, God is in control and has numbered our days before we were even conceived. He knew that Stephen’s passing would leave a void in our lives, but he allowed us to focus on so many wonderful memories. His laugh, his sense of style, his love of cooking, his love of music, and his ability to draw anything were things that stood out. As a family, we could now focus on the joys associated with his life. My aunts and uncles told stories of his childhood (before I was born) over and over again. We laughed each time they retold those stories as if it had been told for the first time.
I helped his mother sort through his clothes and other possessions. We gave most of his things away but kept a few items for ourselves. I didn’t find any of his drawings. I wanted one from his teenage years — a caricature of our little cousin Allie Cat. Maybe one day I’ll find it. I listened to his albums — singing “My world is empty without you babe” and whistling the theme song from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly — smiling all the while and crying a little too. I wanted to pull those old speakers onto the porch like he did most weekends and blast “Bedrock” or “Push the Button” in his memory, but it was too soon for that.
Weeping may last for the night, but there is a song of joy in the morning. ~Psalm 30:5
A couple months later, we lost my grandmother and my uncle. Again, we grieved, but we focused on what they brought to our lives while they were here. In order to insure our survival after these devastating losses (and there were more right after that), God changed our mindset — allowing us to focus on our blessings rather than our losses. There is no straight path between a devastating loss and emotional healing. The route is circuitous, but there’s hope along the way. Each day doesn’t have to be shrouded in darkness, but it’s ok if a few of them are. You’re human; we established that in the first sentence of this post, so you’re allowed to fall apart. Cry, scream, roll around on the floor if you want to, but get back up, dry your tears, and pray to God to continue to reveal the blessings in your life. If he doesn’t do anything more for you, he’s done enough.
May blessings abound! <3