|Photo credit: Martin via Wylio|
So I should probably start by saying this is not a post about death or dying (although I have just come back from a Vicar School weekend looking at this theme). It’s more some (slightly rambling) thoughts about grief and our emotions, and how we experience them through our lives, and not just when dealing with bereavement.
I learned a lot this weekend about grief and dealing with it, but what has really surprised me is that I realised I am experiencing grief for things other than death, in my life. We looked at stages of grief and it was in that I recognised some of the emotions in my life.
We are naturally beings with emotions and feelings, and yet so often we don’t really pay attention to those feelings. It’s only when they overwhelm us and make us incapable of going about our daily lives that we really address them. The danger though is that feelings we haven’t dealt with suddenly appear and surprise us when we are least expecting it, a bit like a bird pooping on your head from a great height in the middle of the High Street when you are happily minding your own business. Which by the way, according to superstition (which I don’t really do) is lucky. Hmm seems to me like a bird crapping on your head would be distinctly unlucky, but there you go. This morning I found myself quite amazed when preparing to share something quite positive from my life and from the weekend that I was engulfed by snot and sobs. Thankfully my Vicar School mates have seen the snot thing before so it wasn’t too awkward. However I really couldn’t get a grip on myself, even having shared what I wanted, so I took some time out in the salubrious surrounding of the ladies lavs in the King Charles Hotel. I stared in the mirror, asking God in bewilderment: ‘what on earth is this about? because you’re going to a have to help me out here, I haven’t got a flippin’ clue!’
Well, turns out God does actually listen and I became aware of some deep rooted pain from a situation I thought was dealt with, emotionally dealt with that is. Turns out it’s also something that isn’t just going to go away and I think in acknowledging that pain this morning God gave me a bit of freedom to feel hurt, and angry, and let down, and to recognise the injustice of the situation. There was, and is, great freedom in that, to think, actually yes, this is all a bit pants and that’s ok.
We don’t really do emotion in this country do we? We’re all stiff upper lip, jolly good, carry on. Total stereotype I know, and things are improving, but think about it, we feel awkward with PDA (public displays of affection) don’t we? we’re all: ‘get a room’…. People who are overly emotional and can’t move on, we get fed up with, think they should be ‘over this by now’. And it’s because we don’t know what to do with it, we don’t know what box to put it in, we can’t just solve it with a ‘nice cup of tea’.
I wonder how many people with long term depression or mental health issues could actually be helped by being allowed a public outlet for their emotion, rather than feeling they need to keep it in. I’ve written before about the stigma of mental illness and I think it’s part of the same thing, public emotion makes us feel awkward, we just can’t deal with it. When actually if you think about it, if you’ve been through something terrible, on whatever level, it’s quite right that you should want to scream and shout about it. In my case I tend to come home and rant at my husband about anything that has affected me, he’s the one person who hears me swear (ok someone else heard me today so almost the only person!) and I think that’s actually quite healthy – letting the emotion out that is not the swearing. It’s not big and it’s not clever… You know what it’s like when you try to cram too much into a suitcase, eventually the zip is going to burst open and all your dirty laundry will be on display and it will be when you are least prepared for it. But like that, with our past emotions & memories, better to give them a good look at every now and then and put away the ones we have done with.
Some very good friends of ours moved house a while back, moving about half an hour drive away. We went from seeing them almost every day to once every few months. I have to admit it took me some time to get used to this because I missed them terribly, we all did, kids too. I realised this weekend I had actually grieved the loss of that relationship. Of course the relationship is still there but it’s so different, vastly in fact. Of course when we get together it’s like we haven’t been apart but the being apart has been quite challenging. If only I had realised sooner that it’s actually pretty normal to grieve over loss and change. And I’m someone who actually thrives on change and new things, but this was different.
So I guess I’ve come away from this weekend realising how important it is to think things through, to recognise emotions when they come and to allow them to be worked through when and where necessary. Some things we continue to carry with us, and we learn through them, others we can put to one side once dealt with or when the time is right. But that remembering to do that is the key…
AnonymousMarch 2, 2015 at 6:27 pm
Really great post. It is so important to acknowledge grief for what we have lost, but also for what might have been, the future we believed in but which never came to pass.
UKViewerMarch 3, 2015 at 4:34 pm
A beautiful post, which resonates loudly with me I went through major trauma 30+ years ago, which caused deep depression. But I self medicated and got some support and thought that I was over it.
But the discernment process really unlocked the whole rotten bundle and Ii had to face it head on. Thankfully with my spiritual director, so I was able to express the power emotions that it unleashed in relative privacy.
But having to retell your life story and to recognise grief for what it is and to unburden it with someone who is amply qualified to deal with it is something of a gift that God gives us. I was than able to share some stuff with my spouse, which I'd never talked to her about, and this unleashed stuff from her and we now understand each other in much greater depth than we already did.
Part of my army training was to attend a Bereavement and Loss course over a week at the Chaplains Centre – that really opened my eyes to grief per se, and how it can hit at any time. A word, a picture, something said can spark it and it recycles itself though you all over again So, I should have been prepared for my own baggage to overflow, but successfully contained it for so long, that the allegorical over full suitcase, when it burst, was like a flood.
Now, I deal with my emotions when they occur – I don't sit and wonder, I pray, I talk to my spouse, Vicar or SD. I journal it, knowing that prayer and reflection are important tools in our armoury to lay it aside and to move forward.
If I had to carry all of that baggage with me, I'd probably need a 10 ton truck to transport it 🙁
Thanks for your post – timely and appropriate.
JulesMarch 3, 2015 at 5:19 pm
thank you Anonymous and Ernie 🙂
Ernie thanks for your honesty too, so good for people to express their own experiences as it not only helps them but can help others too.
UKViewerApril 22, 2015 at 6:33 am
Just as a follow up, I had to write quite a personal Essay as part of the Mission and Ministry module of my #LLM training. It had to be reflective of the good and bad features of my life and how I'd over come them.
As you can imagine, the story of the discernment process and it's impact of me was part of that. And the outcome was some very good comments and for me, quite high marks for it.
So, the experience of reflective practice and is actually one that can help. Revisiting it in writing was painful, but in some way, being open about it breaks down the walls a little more to allow healing grace to flow into the life. Perhaps life, replacing the grief and death represented in our baggage.
There are so many aspects to grief that I believe that I've perhaps only touched the tip of it – but as we move on further with training, I'm quite sure we'll be dealing with it again.
Our new term is dealing with Worship and Spirituality – and no doubt being partly based on MBTI will need some more internal examination and reflective practice if we're to get the most from the learning, I wonder if those who design the courses actually take into account the emotional impact of some of the topics being taught, might be having on those they're teaching. I can rely on my Vicar, SD and Spouse to talk through these things, but some on the course are not so privileged 🙁
JulesApril 22, 2015 at 3:19 pm
Thanks for your openness Ernie.
Yes I think thats a really good point about whether they consider the emotional impact on us. I've had a few conversations with other students about this and even just opening and closing tough sessions with prayer would be a start! It can b a real emotional roller coaster!