Grief...and how to put your big girl pants on
I am usually a pretty “earthy” person. I don’t shower everyday, nor do I feel like I need to change my outfits constantly either. #SAHMperks But the level of “earthiness” that has happened in the last week with these covid-19 shut-ins is unprecedented.
Which begs the question: how am I supposed to put on my big girl pants and move on with life when I just keep wearing the same pants day after day after day?!
It’s like I’m stuck in Groundhog Day. Only I feel powerless to stop it because it’s like, what’s the point — why shower when there’s no one to see? Physical distancing’s got me like…
And I know I’m not alone. We’re all struggling in some “proverbial pants” way. Only some of us are struggling with WAY bigger issues than hygiene. Because of this, I haven’t felt justified in processing my own emotions, like I’m trapped in “survivor’s guilt” or something. But then one day, God impressed this upon me:
Jonna, what you’re feeling is grief……so GRIEVE! Put your big girl pants on and do it. Just make sure to do it WITH me. (Yes, God talks to me like that.)
“BUT HOW??!?!!” I lamented as I scraped leftover egg off my 5-day old yoga pants. And then I remembered: The first step toward grieving is naming it.
Grief is a cycle. There are 5-7 stages respectively, depending on what model you’re working from, but the basic framework is: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. So I decided to analyze my own thoughts and emotions from the past week, and I discovered that I’ve been grieving backwards: I wake up in Acceptance and end in Denial.
Do you feel like that too? Do you wake up feeling like everything’s going to be okay but end up depressed or in shock with each new headline you read? Or maybe you just feel angry or anxious all . the . time.
Whatever the case, grief is wacky. It manifests in strange ways, so you can’t expect to go through it in the same way as your spouse or kids. Regardless, it’s important to acknowledge where you’re at and allow yourself to FEEL those emotions so you can move on to step 2: Grieving WITH God.
Friends, this step is important. I’ve grieved with God and I’ve grieved without him, and let me tell you, doing it alone feels like sitting in the Bog of Eternal Stench. (Any other Labyrinth fans out there?! ) Despite knowing this, I still haven’t brought my pain to God (as mentioned above), but think about it…
Would you want your heartbroken 9-year old to tell you how’s she feeling about her school closing? Or would you want her stay quiet?
Of COURSE you’d want her to come to you! And God feels the same way. So I tried it one day.
I got in my car and started driving. I had nowhere to go, of course, which initially made me breakdown, but then everything else just started pouring out too.
Eventually my circular thoughts ceased and I found myself sitting in a McDonald’s parking lot. I took a deep breath, smelled the fries, and wiped the mascara from my eyes. And that’s when I felt something new: PEACE.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27).
Wow. So interesting, don’t you think? It wasn’t stuffing my face full of fries that calmed my heart. It was crying out to God and grieving with him. THAT’S when I found peace! So during this time of global chaos, friends, we can’t look to the world (aka popcorn, wine, exercise, or hugs) to find comfort. We have to look to him.
After that, all that’s left is putting on your big girls pants and doing the work!
Naturally, this will look different for different people. (After all, we all have different pants!) But for me it’s meant taking a shower, changing my clothes, and accepting all of the Zoom calls awaiting me (because I’ve been hiding from them due to my denial!). For you it might mean walking away from the Zoom calls; or maybe you need to find a place to pray and cry too (and yes, maybe even eat a few fries).
The point is, the process will look different for everyone so give yourself (and those around you) grace. And remember, doing these three steps won’t mean you’ll always wake up every day excited to shower, put on fresh clothes, and tackle the day. But it does mean that when you call out to God and surrender your grief to him, you WILL experience his peace (and maybe new pants).