Editor’s Note: Over the past two years many who were serving in China have had to leave or have been unable to return to China. Some were impacted by visa issues others by Covid-19 restrictions. All have had to deal with disappointment, uncertainty, and grief. We’ve discussed this in several blog series including:
Here Lisa reminds us that grieving isn’t a one-and-done thing and encourages those who are still grieving.
As we got ready to celebrate Easter I found myself struggling emotionally. I felt frustrated and irritable and couldn’t quite put my finger on what was bothering me, until it dawned on me that this was something deeper. It was not about toys being spread all over the house or not finding a parking spot outside the shop. No this was something deeper. This was real pain. But what was the pain about?
As the shops got ready for Easter and social media was full of various Lenten observances, a vague and persistent sense of sadness came over me. No, it was not sadness due to Easter, but it was triggered by Easter. I suddenly felt a deep sadness over the fact that this would be our second Easter “at home.” Well, home is an exaggeration. We still don’t have our own place. Even that was not what my sadness was about. It took me a long time, including time with someone when I could come with my ball of sadness and muddled emotions and talk until I got the answer to my question. Why did I feel this way?
As I started sharing about this heaviness that I felt hovering over me day and night, it was as if we found the end of a string in a tangled ball of yarn. Slowly and carefully, bit by bit, we untangled it. Sometimes the knot was too difficult to unwind, and it took several tries. My friend asked, “What do you think this is all about?” As she asked, I realized I knew the answer. But it didn’t really make sense. I answered her.
“Grief. It feels like grief. But I don’t understand. It is our second Easter away from China. The second! By now we have crossed the transition bridge and I should have moved forward. What is wrong with me? Why am I still hurting?”
The above is the story of a lady on my computer screen. I was privileged to listen to her and be entrusted with her tangled ball of emotions. As I listened to her words I slowly and carefully pulled different strings a tiny bit at a time.
The answer to her question, “why am I still hurting,” is because that’s how grief works. It is not just a once in a lifetime thing, it comes back at unexpected moments.
As we sat talking, she said, “There is a big mush of emotions. I feel sad that I still feel sad and—I feel guilty. I really have so much to be thankful for and there is so much suffering in the world; there are those who have lost a loved one in COVID and I sit here feeling sad for myself because we can’t live in China. How pathetic is that?”
I looked at her and took my time to answer her until I finally said. “Not pathetic at all.”
Pain cannot be compared. Your pain is your pain and is legitimate. Every person’s pain is their own pain.
I told her the story of my pastor back at home. He had lost his son in a sad and unnecessary accident. Losing one’s child has got to be every parent’s nightmare. One time when we were back home and I spoke with him about the frustration and grief I felt over the losses I was facing, I suddenly looked up at him and stopped. I said: “Oh, I am so sorry. Who am I to complain? I am so sorry”.
He is a very wise shepherd and he looked at me with love and compassion and said something I have carried with me ever since. He said, “You know that pain cannot be compared. No one has the right to belittle someone else’s pain. Nor should you or anyone need to feel guilty for your emotions and pain. Who can compare? The pain you feel is yours and it is as real as the war in Afghanistan or the loss of a dear one. Never feel guilty for hurting”
Maybe as you read this, you realize that “those could have been my words. I am still hurting after such a long time.” So those are my words for you who are hurting today: The pain you feel is your pain; let it visit you. Befriend it. Don’t be afraid of it and never feel guilty for sharing your pain. Grief is all the love which is left over and has nowhere to go. When you have loved much, you grieve much and grief hurts.
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