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Grief and Joy, Together in Each of Us
“Grief is one of the things our culture tries to fix. It doesn’t need to be fixed and it can’t be fixed. It just is and we learn to live in it and amongst it … We live in all kinds of griefs like we live in all kinds of joys.” ~ Victoria Chang from “The Climate of Grief” interview
Greetings lovely one,
Why do we run away from grief? Why do we heavily celebrate the “made it” and the “got through it” but try our hardest to skip past the waiting periods, the “still holding on,” the barely clinging to that little bit of hope inside of our bones? Aren’t the hard times, the tough times, the feel-like-giving-up times when we need support the most? Aren’t the times of lament when we need friendship and community to hold space for our numbness or accumulation of varying degrees of feelings of powerlessness? When we’re wondering if God is still with us in the midst of suffering just as much as God is claimed in the overflow and abundance?
I kept thinking about those questions during this past season of Advent. How much have I contributed to a culture where “silencing of our grief is the problem”?
Within myself? My expectations of others?
Recently-passed author bell hooks once said that “To be loving is to be open to grief, to be touched by sorrow, even sorrow that is unending.” That feels really heavy, and yet, what is love if not also patient and kind in times of sorrow? I’ve held those thoughts and questions in conjunction with the waiting, anticipation, and preparation for what is to come in the New Year.
For me, the month of December, and in particular the 24th through the 31st, has typically been a joyous time of the year. I know that is not the case for many others. But overall, this year has held many seasons of emotions. I can’t in good conscience gush on and on about holiday yummies and fun times without being mindful of the pervasive pain and anger, disappointment and frustration, and sadness and depression within myself and in the world this year. I won’t deny the emotional paradox of holding all of these feelings in and witnessing them fall in drip drops, in splashes, and in floods.
I continue to relearn how to deepen into my full personhood as I acknowledge and love the person who teeters back and forth between feeling fragmented and whole. I continue to unlock doors and discover new places of rootedness when I thought I’d be lost in a sea of foggy abyss. I am reminded of the fullness of my being when I gather to cry, laugh, and pray together with the fullness of others in their being. In-person or virtually. I’m grateful for the options. I'm even more grateful for those who show up ‘to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God’ even though it’s draining to have our hearts broken, and broken open time and time again.
And I think we are so beautiful. Our complicatedness, our quirks, our tears, our smiles, our intentions to head in one direction and then our sudden, seemingly spontaneous, pivots that create big cultural change. Our pondering, our curiosity, our capacity for growth, for transformation, for love. All beautiful to me. We’re beautiful in our silent waiting, our “Silent Night” off-tune singing to The Temptations, our silent prayerful retreats that we sometimes need.
We’re beautiful when we first start the journey, when we challenge ourselves to see how far we can go, and when we stumble. Beautiful in our scars, our stitches, our decision to step aside to avoid causing harm. Beautiful when we realize that our effort, our one step, our wheel roll, our finally-feel-well-enough to just get out of the bed and take a shower, our “have a good day”, “be safe,” “I’ll be here for you” would have been enough. And yes, still beautiful when we say our hellos and goodbyes, and those see you again soons at the various finish lines we cross in life.
There is much beauty in our precious moments of delight, and those tender moments of grief. Let us remember to hold space for all of our complexities.
Peace, Love, and Wellness,
And now, a gift as promised: a poem from my class portfolio
"Gathering" by: Lynette Davis
nobody and I mean no one can burn
like our mothers do
sun up to sun down
great aunties gather
and pass down
in hushed whispers
what we now call
skillet corn bread
rice and fish
oh! what a treat
you take home
what you can’t eat
black eyed peas
chitterlings and pig feet
scrunched little faces
at what looks like cranberries
but really is beets
ah! and the candied sweets
other families prize the turkey meat
but as for me
it’s the mac n cheese
that savory baked dish
sealed with mommy’s kiss
we fill our plates
and say the grace
how God is good
and God is great
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Community Member Kudos Congrats to Friend and Fellow Love Agent, Emily Guy Birken who recently co-authored Stacked: Your Super Serious Guide to Modern Money Management, a humorous guide to money. Money stuff usually goes over my head, but Emily does a great job at making the personal finance world accessible to me. The book is officially available for purchase on December 28, 2021. Grab a copy today!
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