Inevitable Grief, Zipping Brain Nuerons, and Empathizing with the World
Sorry guys it has been SO LONG since I’ve blogged. This has been the longest gap ever on the website. I’ve just been pregnant, outdoors, or busy doing anti-trafficking stuff so this has fallen down my priority list. Because I don’t really like writing factual boring posts, I think I am going to start mixing in my more personal ones. We’ll see how that goes for awhile.
Thanks for hanging with!
My Ridiculous Grief
The thing about grief is that everyone will feel it. Maybe not now, but if not now, later.
There are many who just don’t feel much at all. Neither pain nor euphoria. Neither jealously nor giddiness. But then there are those of us who have the annoyingly spectacular superpower-like ability to feel, well, everything. Anything and everything at any point of time.
I don’t need much help. I just need a catalyst. And I don’t even need much of a catalyst. All I need is an impossibly minuscule smidgen of an emotion.
Grief. Last night and tonight it is grief. I can’t sleep because I am weeping , grieving over, well, nothing.
Nothing much, anyway. Nothing serious (Note: serious is usually when people should grieve). Yes, I realize I am with child (i.e., hormones). But trust me, this isn’t unique to my current pregnant status.
It all starts with a tangled thread. A piece of delicious spaghetti in the bowl of my brain. Or heart. Or wherever the seat of emotions lies. Then I have one thought, which leads to another. Which hits another thread and another. Soon I’m zip-zapping within a thousand strings, back-and-forth, neurons exploding in my consciousness. Sometimes I swear, when I’m trying to fall asleep I can literally feel them firing.
Okay, who am I kidding? That was a gross exaggeration. In reality, there are only 5-30 of these firing thoughts happening at a time, not a thousand. I’m such a lair. But yes, men (or box-thinking individuals of any gender) this is manner of thinking quite normal for a portion of our dear earth’s population.
At some point, I chose to zoom in on an intersection between pieces of spaghetti, slowing my scan.
Tonight I was aware of the spiritual state of my family, which lead to an internal discussion about improving on that, which progressed to the fact the time with our children is so very relatively short, how they grow up “in the blink of an eye” and from there, how much I hate that stupid saying. It is so cheesy and trite, but just so freaking annoyingly true. Stupid blink of an eye child growth.
Obviously, the next turn of the spoon would be to zoom in on the intersection marked “babies growing up.”
Grief and joy are found at this loop of spaghetti.
This one I feel obligated to examine as my parental duty, to lament their growth and celebrate it with excessive amounts of awareness at regular life intervals.
Then I can at least claim that I tried to not take these horribly wonderful little kids for granted when they are so “precious.”
But, of course, once I open the spout which allows for a little grief and remorse to set in, here I am exposed to an indefinite possibility of intersections concerning other ways I can experience grief.
Because grief is inevitable, even if most of its sources are still hypothetical for me.
Soon, in my mind, which is resting so nicely in my head on my tear-soaked pillow, is sorting through clothing in my husband’s closet, packing it up, deciding who I’d rent my house to, while I make plans to move the kids and I to Africa from a hiatus from our current life after my husband’s tragic early death.
Oops. I zoomed in on the “husbands tragic death” intersection again. Dang it. Zoom out! Zoom out! I don’t need to be grieving something which isn’t going to happen. Most likely. Well, one of us will die someday, and if it is him first, then I might as well prepare for that grief.
Wait. Shut up Grief! You don’t need to be here now!
Hopefully, your not like me, pre-grieving any random unlikely probability accidentally, or in order to mentally prepare yourself for when you have true grief by experiencing it in advance. This is stupid. But I do it much more often that I want to admit.
Note: I’ve worked a lot on reforming this- how sometimes I can work myself in a tizzy by obsessively focusing on unhealthy things. Maybe this verse of scripture is being used slightly out of context, but the concept of “taking captive my thoughts” still greatly helps me when I am peddling around too much near dangerous intersections of neurons:
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
Blessed Are Those Who Mourn
We all know that grief is inevitable. Today, my grief might be because my daughter started first grade, because my marriage isn’t perfect, or because I felt lonely. Sometimes, when I am already down this road, already feeling the feelings I feel, I try to take that moment to examine that emotion and remember those who are experiencing it on a level infinitely greater scale than I can imagine:
- Like the grief of the Ethiopian mom who has to choose which of her kids she is going to leave by the side of the road to die of extreme malnutrition because she can’t carry both of her kids anymore to the nearest clinic, a three day hike away.
- Of the son whose father was just blown up in a car bomb from the ongoing war between the Palestinians and Israelis.
- Of the parent who found out their child died in a car accident.
- Of the brother whose sister was raped because she wasn’t escorted back home from that day from her new promising job in New Delhi.
- Of the mother, whose son was stolen from home in the middle of the night to be a child soldier.
- Of the child soldier who was forced to kill his father or be killed himself.
- Of the teenager who was taken advantage of by the “boyfriend” she thought loved her but is now selling her for sex in my city.
- Of the little girl who wants to go to school so bad, but can’t afford it.
- Of the little girl who want to go to school so badly, but was married off at age eleven and is now pregnant with her first child.
- Of the children who have seen their mother bruised and beaten so many times by the man who claims to be their father, but who is never around.
- Of the young woman who finds out she is HIV positive because she was raped to “cure” another man of AIDS.
- Of the family who had been saving, hiding their money in a hole underground because they can’t afford the bank fees, only to find it stolen by their village tribesmen who claim it should belong to all (all of their drinking habits).
- Of the daughter who just wants her drunk dad to look at her and listen.
- Of the wife who found out her husband was cheating on her, after he wasted years of her life, controlling her like a puppet master.
- Of the one who, no matter how hard they try, can’t kick that addiction.
- Of the father who works day and night so his children could have better lives, but they are still fifty US dollars in debt, so his family will have to continue working at the brick kiln the rest of their lives.
- Of the countless people who are burned, stoned, beaten, and killed because of their faith, because persecution really happens.
- The grief of billions around the world, whose pain is so much deeper than mine.
Can you imagine being God, hearing that pain, knowing that you alone could comfort if only they knew of you, or would come to you?
My grief isn’t invalidated by these people’s grief. But I know that if I knew someone, or saw someone’s more profound grief, mine would lessen and I would want to show them compassion.
I have no doubt there are others I know right now who are grieving. But I don’t know their story, or I don’t see it. Or maybe I am indifferent.
But I want to be the type of person that can turn my inevitable grief into empathy as a catalyst to love others.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
“Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15
“If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?” 1 John 3:17
“Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.” 1 Peter 3:8
Ideas For Action:
Look for someone around you who has gone through life change- child moving off to college, having a baby, family member dying, trouble in marriage. Bring them flowers, balloons, or a card to encourage them.
Write someone who has been in a war, seeing death first-hand to encourage them.
Specifically think of someone from the above list that really tugs at you. Find a way to donate to a cause that will help people like them. For examples:
- A family who can’t save? Do a micro-loan with Kiva.org or www.umama.org.
- Mother who can’t feed kids? Donation to a relief agency like FeedMyStarvingChildren.org
- Family in bonded labor? Become a freedom partner to IJM
- Child who can’t go to school? Pay for a child’s education with the SchoolFund.org
- Woman who was raped with AIDS? Learn more about HIV and its treatment globally at One.org
- Help the refugees of the Syrian Crisis? Look at one of these Global Giving projects to help.
I know I barely gave you any ideas, so please comment below with grief that tugs on your heart and what you are going to do, or we can come up with ways together to “empathize.” Or, if you are grieving (small or big grief) please let me know! I want to walk with you through your grief, even if it just by giving you a virtual hug.
We all have of plenty of labels. For example, I am a wife, a mom, work for a church, I like to adventure and am creative (out of which flows this blog). The other people who write on this blog have their own labels to define them, too. But the one thing we all have in common might not so much be what we do, but who we are: people trying to love. So, I ask, who are you? And maybe even more important, who are we all becoming?