Occasional sadness is such a normal part of our human experience. We can go through moments of grief when life poses a change we don’t feel ready for or when an expected loss looms. We can encounter whole chapters of grief when losing a dream or, even worse, a loved one. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with sorrowful feelings we cannot escape that seem to leave no productive path.
I remember when my maternal grandmother was dying. I was 18 years old and went to see the pastor available to me at college (who went on to be a significant mentor and friend). I brought to him my desperate feelings of anticipatory bereavement. His words woke me up as he alerted me to the reality that I had the rest of my life to grieve my grandmother after she dies but, for now, I’d be wise to be as present to her as possible in the time we have remaining. I am so grateful he spoke that truth to me as it made a difference in my final visits with her — memories that I will always treasure.
Likewise I recall the day my mother was signed up for hospice. It was such an awful feeling of admitting that cancer would have it’s way with her body. We didn’t know if she’d have weeks or months, but we knew we were in the final stretch of togetherness on earth. I stayed over at the hospital that night. The next morning my mother awoke so sad and afraid about what was to come. Despite my own fears, I took a sober look at the day we had before us and I told her with confidence, “Well, mom, I don’t think you’re going to die today… and I don’t think you’re going to die tomorrow even.” That observation lifted her spirits as she acknowledged that it was true, she wasn’t going to die that day. And this is how we lived going forward, one day at a time, until weeks later when she slipped into a coma and eventually passed.
When confronted with a painful reality that raises a flag, alerting us transition or loss is on it’s way, I think it’s healthy to pause and acknowledge that heartache. It is good to be gentle with ourselves at such a tender time. Yet I also think it’s okay to put a foreboding message on the shelf a bit, so that we can still cherish the day that is before us, as it is. This isn’t to be confused with denial. We can realize the limitations of a situation and, at the same time, give the light it’s rightful place before the sun fully sets. And when that dark night comes, we can then give grief the full attention it deserves… but not a moment sooner. May you be inspired!