Have you ever ended up someplace and it just wasn’t what you thought it would be?
The four Jordan’s took a trip recently to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. It was an amazing trip and on the flight home I jotted notes for many blog posts. I challenged myself on the trip home with whether or not I could come up with a blog post for each day of the trip. I was easily able to and was excited to write the blogs on a variety of topics—from being pickpocketed in the pick pocket capital of the world (Barcelona), to finding beautiful wildflowers on Mt Vesuvius, to a very holy visit to St. Marks in Venice. And at some point, those blogs will come.
The blog that seems most true to where I am right now is our visit to the beach in Nice, France. Anna and Stephen decided to have a beach day while John and I did some museums. However, John and I still wanted to see the beach, even if we didn’t hang out there, and we got there soon after the kids arrived. We cracked up as we saw the kids take in the beach that wasn’t what they expected. It was rocks. Yes, rocks. Smooth stones, but no sand in sight. It was an uncomfortable place to stay.
That is kind of where I am right now. Life on some levels is really good. I love my husband of 30 years (our anniversary is Sept. 3!). I am excited about the stages of life of our kids. I am incredibly happy with my call as a pastor. But there is a rockiness under it all. A hardness, reminding me that all isn’t as expected. Grief pops up unexpectedly…kind of like a sharp rock as we tried to make our way barefooted to the water. It is hard to sit down and get comfortable, because underneath it all is the discomfort and pain of the grief.
We know, intellectually, that with time, that the rockiness will subside. We will be on the boardwalk next to the beach instead of on the beach, and will laugh at the antics of a dog chasing bubbles. Eventually we will be on a boat in the water. But right now we are on the rocky beach of grief.
Something else struck me about the beach.
Some people came with chairs and sunscreen and hats and floats for the water and water shoes for their feet. There were also several older women who were just on a blanket, who had apparently spent A LOT of time in the sun with little or no sunscreen.
As I reflect on that memory, in light of my current grief journey, and the grief journeys of many people I love, I am reminded of the importance of self-care in the grief process. I was told years ago that grief is a mountain and we have to get over it to get to the other side. There is no waiting for it to shrink, or a way to avoid it. Grief is a process and if we ignore it, or stuff it, it will come back out and burn us. We can end up with a great deal of permanent damage, much like the sun-damaged people on the beach.
However, if we take the time to grieve and do so with good self care: to remember the lost loved one and acknowledge our sadness at their death, to expect a variety of triggers and responses, to get good sleep (naps are good, grief is hard work!), eat healthy food, talk to people who knew and remember our loved one, as well as those who didn’t, but can care for us in our grief, we can make it to the other side of the grief. These steps and others allow us to process the grief, and allow us to make the journey across the rocky beach in safety. Everyone has a different journey across the rocky beach of grief. Even six weeks out, when we think we have it under control, we stumble on a new trigger, or a friend asks us how we are doing and we cry. Underestimating the power of grief is like underestimating the sun on a cloudy day. Just because it doesn’t seem too bad on a given day, doesn’t mean it isn’t capable of burning us if we aren’t careful.
As I mulled over how I have experienced God’s role in this process, I see God all over it. God is what allows the grief process to be remotely bearable. God is the sunscreen and the umbrella and the water shoes and the hat. God is the person that sits beside you as you watch the waves lap on the rocky beach. God is what protects you and cares for you and loves you while you are on the grief journey.
Grief is rocky. It can also be a place where we can experience the hope and peace of Christ in a way that we can’t anywhere else. For that I am thankful.
The Lord is near to the broken hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. (Ps. 34:18, NRSV)
He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds. (Ps. 147:3 NRSV)
Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.’ Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel: ‘Be strong and bold, for you are the one who will go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their ancestors to give them; and you will put them in possession of it. It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.’ (Dt. 31:6-8 NRSV)
Rev. Shannon Jordan is the pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Decatur, AL To receive notifications when there is a new post click on the menu (three horizontal lines) at the top right, scroll down and enter your email where indicated. If you want to see the previous blog, click on the arrow under the menu, or if you want to see more blogs, click on the grid under the arrow. On the main page, if you hover over a photo, you will be given an option to read the blog. On that page the arrow will take you to another page of blog photos. Enjoy!