Amid all the devastation and panic leveled on our city recently, there is much to grieve. Much has been lost. Many dreams and hopes have vanished.
In the natural disaster that shocked our city, some unnatural things happened. People not only lost their homes and belongings, but their vision of seeing their children grow up in the home and neighborhood they painstakingly searched for, saved for, and chose. Their finances to pay for the trip, the ring, or the business they were building were stolen. The paths of life they personally crafted over years were bulldozed—uprooted in seconds and piled onto the laps of mercy and generosity of others.
And then, in the quiet after the storm, as if the storm wasn’t enough, an invisible enemy has appeared yet again in the form of a national crisis. With the shut-down of our country, many more people are losing valuables. It’s more than their conveniences, weekly incomes, and jobs. They are losing their final collegiate races or championships—their chances to prove or redeem. They are losing their long-awaited wedding days. They are losing the anticipated moments of birth surrounded by their families. They are losing their thoughtful endings—to classes, to relationships, to careers, to cities. Many moments we’ve been building up to are daily being swept from underneath us abruptly, leaving us dazed, sucking for air, limping. And worst of all, some are losing their lives.
And, so, we must grieve.
And, so, we must grieve.
Grief looks different for everyone, but it travels a well-worn path. Anger may dominate your journey, or, for others, it may be denial, bargaining, or depression. All of it will be felt along the road towards acceptance. It may take weeks, it may take years. But to name our pain, our loss, our dream, allows us to see our passions and longings and bring them with us into whatever is next.
I like to think of grief as a storybook. We can’t fully understand the depth and meaning of our pain until we take the time to engage the story of what was lost. Until we read it, we just carry it with us. An extra two pounds doesn’t make much of a difference, until more books are added and soon your arms can carry no more.
Grief looks different for everyone, but it travels a well-worn path.
Grieving does more for us than helping us endure the pain. It takes us through it to a better place, a place that allows us to re-use our passions and longings in new ways.
I think grieving often looks like Harry Potter’s Monster Book of Monsters. A wealth of useful information is inside, but it is difficult to access due to the ferocious aggression of the book itself. If you open it carelessly and try to rush through it, you will surely be bitten. Many students just lock it away. The key is to approach the book kindly, gently stroke its spine, and then it will open itself and all it offers to you. We must have compassion for ourselves in our grief. Another’s loss doesn’t invalidate ours, and our grief doesn’t invalidate our strength.
We must have compassion for ourselves in our grief. Another’s loss doesn’t invalidate ours, and our grief doesn’t invalidate our strength.
We love books because they add to our lives, broaden our horizons, help us dream and think differently. It’s the same with our own stories, even the ones that didn’t get to happen. We need to read them.
And when you’re done, the weight of the book will be borne by its shelf, where it will remain as a memento of the journey you walked and a reminder of how it shaped you. From time to time you may shuffle through its pages, remembering the most impactful quotes and the most pinnacle of scenes.
What we can take away from the story of our losses are the passions and longings underlying it. Those may be manifested differently now, but they can, and should, still be honored.