I went to another funeral this morning.
This time, it was the matriarch of a family I got to know through one of my schools. I’ve now worked with 4 of their 6 kids, and they’ve become good friends. The matriarch of this family was a strong, funny, kind, warm hearted woman. I didn’t know her well, and I wish I had known her better.
And so, I went to her funeral. It was a catholic mass funeral. It was my first catholic funeral, although I’ve been to mass several times before. (I was raised protestant and I am currently attending a methodist church.)
If you’ve never been to a catholic funeral, I found the experience lovely. Truth be told, it isn’t that much different from a heavily religious protestant funeral, but, as with many things about the catholic church, with a little more formality and ritual. There were some scripture readings, some hymns, a short homily, and the sacrament of the Eucharist (communion). It was a lovely ceremony, and I understand completely why people throughout history have found solace and healing in the familiarity of the heavily scripted service.
Because it was clear, the people around me did find comfort in it. There were a lot of tears shed this morning. It’s painful, when we lose someone we love. But the crowd that milled in front of the church after the service was a very different one than the tense, hard, sad group of people before the service began. Afterwards, though there were wet eyes in every direction, people smiled, and even laughed. The healing process has begun for those who are grieving this death.
I’ve been thinking this afternoon about finding comfort in the familiar, and in ritual. How can we relate to those ideals? How many of us, on finding out we’ve lost something or someone, have found comfort in doing something repetitive? Walking, cooking, or writing? Something else? I’ve said before that a hard workout soothes all wounds for me, but I think a great part of that is the repetitive motion of the hard work. Winston Churchill once said “When you’re going through Hell, keep going.” When you’re hurting, you’ve got to keep living. You’ve got to find a way to keep going forward.
In the last year, I’ve known my fair share of grief. I’ve been to two other funerals, one for my beloved grandfather, and one for a cousin that I loved. I’ve lost jobs, friendships, and relationships. I’ve given up on a few dreams, and birthed new ones. Think about your past year- I imagine you’ve had at least one of these experiences.
I’m not saying this so you’ll think about what a bad year I’ve had, because it has been far from all bad. I’ve had some incredible highs, too. But I have known pain. Grief. Some of these things still make me hurt. That loss, it can redefine our world. It changes us. But hopefully, we can learn from it.
And here’s what I know about pain and grief. It will fade. But only if you let it. In some cases, only if you force it to lay down and be quiet. There are some things that will never be right again. There are some pains that it seems impossible to recover from. And there are things that happen that we can’t live through and be the same, ever again.
And when we’re in the throes of that pain, of that grief, it is easy, so, so easy to believe it will never end. Isn’t that strange? We long for it to end, pray for it to be over, dread waking up the next morning and starting all over in the mess and thick of it, but it seems so much easier to just let the pain drown us.
But you, my superhero, you can’t do that.
Instead, you have to get up. Yes, every day. You have to find a way to dig deep and find a place within yourself where you can keep going. You have to use that pain, that grief as a way to fuel you, to make you better. Just be sure it makes you better, not bitter. Don’t let it crush you into the kind of person who hurts others because of your own pain. You have to exorcise that pain.
And in order to get up and do that? You have to face the grief head on. You have to acknowledge it. You have to face it, head on, and say ‘hello’ to it. You have to sit in the room with it and learn it. And then, slowly, carefully, you can start to cut it out. You can start to remove it from your life.
When we face our grief, it starts to lose its power over us. It begins to fade. Just a little bit. It won’t happen all at once. It will take many, many sessions of acknowledging it and letting it go, especially for those really deep, dark or old wounds. But you can do it.
Sometimes, when we’re done cutting out the grief, we may not recognize ourselves anymore. We may have cut away so many parts of ourselves that we’ve left holes. We can fill those holes with new things though. Things that bring us joy. Things that light us up. Things that make us strong, that make us shine.
Things that make us thrive.
Superhero action of the day: take 10 minutes today and sit with something that is hurting you. Just let it hurt. You don’t have to do anything about it except feel it. Do the same thing tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, until you can start to do something about it.