Wondering Wednesdays – grieving as we need to

Sundial, time doesn’t stand still, we cannot pause it, those things we fear sometimes do happen and we face loss and grieve.

One of the things I am finding challenging at the moment is snarky comments, mainly on social media about how people are grieving over the death of the Queen.

Many of us may have experienced inappropriate comments about our own grief and losses over time. No-one knows what lies underneath a particular loss, it can be cumulative and one loss can trigger so many memories and thoughts.

I appreciate this from Bonnie Thurston:

Do not allow words to be imposed on you, platitudes of hope dispensed like spiritual aspirin by those who have not been there.

And if you are not grieving over the loss of the Queen that’s fine too as the monarchy is complex and can symbolise something very different to people with different experiences to me.

Grief is complex and best let out amd we sometimes never expect to be triggered in the way we are by big or even tiny losses.

Wondering Wednesdays – learning from loss

A wonderful friend sent me Susan Cain’s book Bittersweet to help me through my broken shoulder journey. There are lots of fascinating insights for me, particularly around the music we listen to but there is much on loss which has been a theme for a while for me, way before I broke my shoulder.

She writes: What are you separated from, what or whom have you lost? And also ask: Where is your particular pain of separation pointing you? What matters most deeply to you? And how can you bring that into being? (p96)

I am separated from autonomy, which as a fiercely independent person (I am not saying that is good!) has been the most challenging separation in the loss of an element of my physical health. Six weeks on I am still not driving, still not able to do all the meal preparation I would normally, still not able to carry very heavy loads, but I can dress myself!

The pain of separation is pointing me towards living the reality of the interdependence I say I value but am not always good at doing. I am so grateful to those who have willingly picked up the slack, given me lifts and generally helped me to live as I have hoped to.

I am also learning what matters most deeply to me work and ministry wise and will be able to make more informed choices as I go forward.

I know that as I have been experiencing my loss others have experienced much bigger losses but our reactions to incidents impact us and what may seem like a trivial loss to some, can wound deeply for others. I have had to come to terms with growing older in a way I had not probably yet done and am aware that there are likely to be more health losses like this as time goes on and that I need to set in place healthy attitudes and patterns that mean I can suffer loss but be mindful of the choices I make to process, embrace and live with it.

Wondering Wednesdays – mourning

I have a pile of random books, ones I have bought second hand because someone, somewhere has recommended it or quoted from it. Today’s blog is from one such book and I have no idea of the original inspiration for buying it!

So often what is quite a simple insight hits me when I see it on a page. Mary Gordon writes about the profundity of the sentence: Blessed are those who mourn. She talks of herself as a ‘perpetual mourner’, in part through having lost her father aged 7. At this time of year losses can be exacerbated and we can feel more like we want to mourn than be full of Christmas spirit. She challenges the idea that a person of faith should not be a person of mourning because of the hope they have in life eternal and believing that the dead are with God. Even worse, are those who imply or outrightly say it was God’s will they died. Paul works in a Children’s Hospital, he could no do that if he believed in a God who chose a particular baby to die for some unfathomable reason.

It is important to resist the impulse to gloss over losses or not engage with mourning. In the end that stores up problems for us.

She finishes her chapter on Blessed are those who mourn by saying this:

To bless the act, the practice, the vocation of mourning suggests an amplitude of understanding, a richness of humanity, of human imagination, that creates in me the impulse I can only name as worship. To say yes: for this I will try to change my life. And more: without this I would not know who I am.

How will you embrace the idea of Blessed are those who mourn this season?

Mary Gordon, Reading Jesus, New York: Pantheon Books, 2009, pp86.7

Wondering Wednesdays – turbulent waters

River Tavy

Seeing what is inside me represented on the outside provides solace.

On Sunday we sat eating lunch, watching and listening to the pounding waters of the Tavy. Crystal clear, but an unusual colour from some sort of environmental conditions. It was mesmerising watching the water flow.

First anniversaries of loss are the hardest I think and I have been aware of some inner turbulence this week as I think back to the enormity of the pain I experienced this time last year.

So inside I am experiencing some turbulence as I recall the devastation of decisions made about my role by others which left me facing unexpected and unwanted change. This week is the first anniversary of an email that in essence meant I had just over two weeks left in a job I had done and loved for 20+ years and my employment would not transfer as initially planned.

I teach about loss and now perhaps teach with more depth out of personal experience of something which comes just behind Dad dying out of the blue when I was in my 20s.

This Charlie Mackesy picture is one I am edging towards and I know how hard it has been and am grateful for the strength to be brave, in part because of the support of others and as always my faith in a redemptive God.

This is a very hard post to write and I have debated whether or not to say anything but I believe in ritual and marking significant events and the importance of acknowledging those things which are life çhanging for us.

This post is part of an ongoing processing of the pain and part of being honest and vulnerable about where I am in my relationship with myself and what happened.

However, it needs to be read in the context of my other posts, particularly where I talk about doing what brings me life, I am still living out my vocation and seeking to follow a path I started out on as a teenager.

As Viktor Frankl wrote:. When we are no longer able to change a situation…we are challenged to change ourselves.


Friday photo – but what is waiting?

My favourite part of the television programme Criminal Minds were the quotations at the end of each episode. That is where I came across this quote. I am still in a letting go phase as work took an unexpected and unwanted turn. As I am just past midway in my study leave I am wondering what my week will look like come December having been in a similar pattern for over 20 years. I am doing some writing and thinking about reflecting to move on and hope to turn that into a course of some sort and it is an added bonus that I can do the exercises for myself. I am looking forward to a different tomorrow…

Covid_19 Musing Aloud: Better types of lament?

It has felt there has been so much to get upset about about during the past 5 months. In recent days, exam results, holiday changes, have been added to inconvenience of restriction of movement, illness, loss of life, employment, security etc. To lament has been a much used word to express our experiences, so let’s explore the spectrum of the word and concept. To lament can be to express sorrow or grief, it can also mean to complain, express regret or disappointment.

If these are the meanings to lament, then to express lament, sadness as well as complaint, and to protest, seems an appropriate spectrum of responses to all the difficulties these days have thrown us. I confess I am more sympathetic to expressions of pain in loss than complaints, but this has been challenged in the light of previous days. To complain can be perceived as a negative response, a bit whiny. To complain in the light of injustice is a positive, empowering response that we need courage and wisdom to do on behalf of ourselves and others.

Friday photo – things aren’t what they seem

I took this picture yesterday. As you can imagine, our car wasn’t actually parked on water, something had gone wrong with the technology and it just looked like it was.

I spent a sad, frustrating and angry day yesterday listening to and reading stories of young people who had been downgraded. That should be an incorrect sentence as what it should say is stories of exam results that has been downgraded but that is not how it feels to many of them let alone their teachers, both are victims of the computer said no policy of the government. I can write lots of things I genuinely believe about what our worth should be built upon, what things are important in life etc but that can sound very hollow in the face of what seems like random injustice, particularly to those from less advantaged schools where some grades seem to have been downgraded particularly harshly and reading that private school grades seem unaffected seems even more unjust. As to the statement made by Gavin Williamson about the danger of people being promoted beyond their competence, words fail me and I have (largely privately) shared a good number of ironic comments about that. There have been so many irreplaceable losses for this cohort of students and what has happened to so many today has compounded that. I grieve, I am sad but sadder that I am not surprised at yet further ineptitude.

Friday photo – did it hurt?

We were given a dozen eggs by the lovely people who are caring for the chicks in the chapel that hatched at the hospital at Easter. I know very little about eggs apart from the ones I buy are always very smooth and unmarred.  Thus my question, did it hurt?  What caused the scars, the marks, the irregularities?  I am beginning to ponder what the scars will be as I or we emerge from lockdown, will they even be scars? Perhaps wounds are more likely which may turn to scars sometime down the line.  Clearly lockdown is hurting many of  us individually and corporately and we will need to find ways to process that hurt and find healing, again individually and together, and realise that some things are lost forever.  Grieving is a process that goes on for a long time often, I grieve now for some of the losses bit realize it may take a while and hit me in unexpected ways at random times.

Friday photo – evening of the day

I was zooming in our back room and looked out of the window to see this view. All at once a lyric from a Jagger Richards song came into my mind:

It is the evening of the day, I sit and watch the children play… I sit and watch as tears go by.

It struck me that there are so many things I can’t sit and watch at the moment and I am missing that. No sitting by the sea, no sitting in cafes, no sitting with family and friends. There have been tears at different stages of this strange season and sometimes they come upon me unexpectedly as I reminisce and feel overwhelmed in the moment. I am trying to be real about loss as then I can grieve.

As we commemorate VE day today it also seems like an apt song. I can imagine there were many tears as well as joy as this news was announced and people looked back to what once was and the changes, challenges and losses they had experienced.

https://youtu.be/fIl_XGIVJvM for Marianne Faithful’s version of the song

Wondering Wednesdays – broken limbs

Paul and I were on a walk when we saw this tree with a branch or limb broken off. It is a metaphor which feels very real to me at the moment when I feel cut off from some of the people and things which would usually be part of my experience at Easter. My sense of loss is quite real and some of what I am reflecting on at the moment feels quite repetitive and I am always tempted to qualify what I write by acknowledging that there are so many people worse off then me. But that doesn’t minimize the losses I am experiencing. Unlike the tree, my limbs will hopefully be rejoined when the restrictions are lifted but there is always the thought that there may be some I will never see again whether they are part of our church family or wider life.

I am engaging online, a little more than usual and that does help with the sense of connectivity but I have a strong sense of place and am recharged by particular places, people and activities that feel more real in person or when embodied rather than imagined. I am grateful for the way God speaks to me through nature and very happy for God to say the same thing to me as I seek to dwell in the experience before moving on too quickly.