What We Can Learn From Grief

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By Betty Streff

“You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.”~Unknown

Grief is always a painful road

We can learn a lot from grief. But, tragedy seems especially cruel when we’re already vulnerable and unsteady. Like now. Our daily patterns are in complete disarray like a puzzle that was knocked to the floor incomplete. Everything feels disconnected. Any comforting reassurance of brighter days ahead is in scarce supply. Nothing is normal right now. And don’t be fooled, there’s really no such thing as a “new normal.” Normal evolves. It takes a long time to establish “normal” because it’s defined as “conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.”

Here’s what really happens. Human beings are amazingly resilient. Our creator wired us to be strong, flexible and adaptable. Our survival as a species has always depended on human creativity and the ability to adjust to changing circumstance. It’s always just us getting used to doing things in a new and different way.

Tragedy Strikes

It’s been a gut-wrenching week for our little community again. We lost a beloved coach who had impacted the lives of countless young boys and girls for years. He had a “never known a stranger” personality that endeared him to all. He beat cancer and looked robust, healthy, and in the best shape of his life. Over the last two years, he had dedicated himself to deepening his faith life, growing closer to God, and to becoming an even better man.

Then on a Wednesday night after helping to serve hot meals to people in need, he had a massive stroke and by Sunday he was gone. He was only 55. The outpouring of love and support for the family has been epic, overwhelming, amazing, heartfelt. The devastated family has felt a river of kindness, prayer, and compassion flowing over them. Our entire town has tenderly wrapped their arms around them all. Over and over they’ve heard how much he mattered. Because we could not gather for his services, hundreds lined up their cars at the ball field. We all stood to honor him as the funeral procession slowly drove through the rows and rows of mourners. There were posters, team photos, jerseys, ball caps and referees dressed in stripes.

That kind of creativity comes from the uniquely special God-place inside of us that finds new ways to do things when we can’t do things normally. Humans will always find a way. You cannot stop love or giving comfort to someone who is hurting.

heart in sand

What can we learn from grief?

The aftermath of a tragedy like this leaves us reeling. How would we respond if it happened to us? We shudder to imagine. Our hugs are tighter and a little longer. We vow we’ll never take each other for granted and encourage greater kindness to all. The fresh grief experience has startled us into becoming better at loving and appreciating every new day.

I always dig deeply for words of healing in my own bookish way. I revisited an incredible commencement speech by Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook. She spoke of the sudden, unexpected death of her husband and what she learned through grieving his loss. I hope you’ll take some time to read it here.  Her powerful wisdom was born in pain.

In Sandberg’s words, “The seeds of resilience are planted in the way we process the negative events in our lives.” She also learned “when life sucks you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again.”

peaceful swan reflections on wateron water

Four things we can learn from grief

We need to be grateful right now. Don’t wait for the shock of a loss to be thankful and appreciative of the people in your life. Realize that every day, every moment, and every person in your life is precious.

Say what you want to say today. Don’t assume you’ll have the chance to tell someone you love them next time you see them, tell them now! The last words I ever said to my dad were “I love you.” I’ve always been thankful for that.

Tomorrow is not a promise. Life can and sometimes does turn on a dime. Don’t take anything for granted. It sounds corny but it’s important to make every day count.

Life does go on and it must. It seems impossible when we lose someone we love. It’s important to know that it’s true life will never be the same, but it should serve as a reminder to make the most of the life we do have. The greatest honor we can give someone we loved and lost is to live our life to the fullest. If we continue our journey to become the best possible version of the person our maker created us to be, we can work through our grief, learn from the grief, and become strong again.

dawn breaks and grief subsides

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” ~Ernest Hemingway

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