Last night I had an epiphany…
I have been feeling really sad these last few days, but also feeling quite puzzled by sadness’ persistence in staying with me. One of the reasons that, I thought, explained the constant presence of tears was that I had not yet adequately grieved my cousin, Zaida’s, death. I had hoped that Saturday’s internment of my Uncle Roy’s and Zaida’s ashes would be the catalyst that would unleash the depth of grief that has been hovering just beneath the surface of my consciousness since Zaida’s untimely death last year.
And Saturday did unleash many tears. I sobbed on a friend’s shoulder, both of us clinging to each other as waves of grief washed over us. I thought that would be enough, but it was not. The tears are still so close to the surface, and sadness has remained a companion.
Then I received an email yesterday morning from my cousin (Uncle Roy’s eldest daughter) about her husband’s deteriorating health, and once again I became aware and felt the tears threaten to surface and spill over. All through the day, tears and I played tug-of-war. At one point, tears won (and thankfully I had a a safe space in one colleague’s office; she let me stay in her office until the wave of tears had ebbed). But for most of the day, I won; my tug-of-war partner was not able to overcome my determination to stay in control. By mid-afternoon, however, my control was in danger of slipping, so eventually I gave up fighting and left work early.
Last night I found myself awake beyond 10 pm despite needing to get up within the six hours to go to work and teach. I would need to teach about Scripture, about God and Jesus, but all I really wanted to do was to stay at home, to stay in bed, to cry and cry until there were no more tears. I’m actually quite amused at my behavior last night; it was almost as if part of me was a\wanting to stay awake as if that would delay the coming of new day. I didn’t want the new day to dawn because I didn’t want to stand in front of my class, pretending to be composed and confident, pretending that I was feeling okay. I don’t want to pretend; all want to do is weep.
As I lay in bed, mulling over the day, reflecting on my emotional state, a thought intruded into my consciousness. The intrusion came gently, so I was not averse to it. I recognized the feel of it; I knew it was the Holy Spirit, invited me to travel down a particular path. And what was this intrusion, what was the invitation that aroused my curiosity? Well, it was an epiphany, one that my spirit had long beein waiting for.
I realized that the depth of sadness that I am currently experiencing is grief that I have been suppressing for the last two years. I am finally grieving a friend who died two years ago. When she died, the only emotion I could access was anger. Every time I thought about her, instead of sadness, there would be this irrational anger directed at her.
But yesterday, a friend posted a link on my Facebook wall to an article about Rick Warren’s first sermon since his son’s suicide, and in that article was the key that the Holy Spirit gave me to unlock the epiphany. I had completely forgotten that anger is a natural part of the grieving process. alongside denial, anger is a natural response to news of death. what I had forgotten was that the cycle will run its course, that sadness would eventually replace anger. And that was exactly where I was in my grieving process.
For weeks now, I have been perplexed about the intensity of emotions that have been present since my Uncle’s death. I knew his death had really rattled me because now both my mom and dad are the only siblings alive in both their families. I have never been more aware, and more afraid, of my parents’ mortality as I have been these last few weeks. But I understand the intensity of the grief much better now; I am finally grieving the loss of my friend.
So now, despite the presence of sadness, despite the difficulty to cope with what I need to do work-wise and academically, I welcome sadness as a traveling companion. I am no longer afraid of her; I am no longer ashamed of my inability to control my tears. I no longer question my sanity because I am feeling more awake emotionally now than I have felt since my friend’s death more than two years ago.
I am now choosing to journey well with sadness. I will cry when I need to, I will feel down when I need to, I will allow feelings of being overwhelmed to be there and I will wait for the wave to pass without fighting it. I will embrace my vulnerable spaces, no longer trying to ignore or oppress the sadness, because being present to her means being fully present with myself. And that is exactly where I need to be.