by Geordy Murphy MA CCC
My grandmother had a dream for children and the longing to be a mother to nurture and hold dear, to feed and clothe and have the ability to raise and feel that sense of innate purpose that many who grow up with this longing would understand. To make a long story short, my grandmother had a few losses through miscarriage, which is an unimaginable grief that only one who has experienced it might understand. Thankfully my grandmother had children eventually, but it did not take away the grief of those lost lives, and it only became worse with the grief of a husband who passed on the abuse he received in a Japanese war camp onto others.
My mother tells me that her mother counselled her with these words that came from her own experience of grief and feelings of depression telling her, “life is often, one uncomfortable night.”
When you Feel that You are Alone
This analogy really sticks with me, I wonder if many who are going through grief, pain, depression, struggle etc.. feel this very way. Life is often an uncomfortable night. The things that just don’t seem to line up. The dark night of the soul. The struggle with thoughts, emotions, behaviors, circumstances of abuse, trauma, neglect, abandonment, and shattered dreams. When it feels like God is on Mute. When the prayers are not answered and the silver lining has not come.
One of the most difficult things about grief is when it feels like you are walking through it alone. It is hard to feel like someone is walking through grief with you when you don’t feel like it is understood. That is, no one will experience grief much the same as you.
We have often heard the 5 stages of grief as denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance. Contrary to this neat and organized structure, it actually resembles more like a soupy mess.
We are Prone to Making Meaning out of our Situations
An additional stage in the mix is something that David Kessler writes as, “finding meaning” (Finding Meaning, the Sixth Stage of Grief, 2019).” He writes that “meaning is relative, personal and that comparing losses makes no sense, the worst loss is always your loss. Only you know your loss and the meaning” (Kessler, 2019). Making meaning doesn’t mean that we necessarily understand why things happen or that there was some purpose in a horrible situation. This is not the point of the finding meaning stage. Far too often the “everything happens for a reason” platitude is given which tries to minimize our grief, but maybe it is more appropriate to say that we make reasons for everything.
There is no quick fix to grief. There’s often no story of hope that will make us feel better. It might be more painful before it gets better. The horrible situation that happened to you will not go away, but the meaning that comes down the road as you explore it and walk through the pain can bring healing and be a healing balm for your future. The relationship with your loved one, the shared story, the wisdom you are gaining as you grow. Yet it is terrible and horrible and lonely, yes…
Grief can feel like the dark night of the soul. The uncomfortable night. The hope is, that in the making meaning stage of grief we can transform it into something else that is rich and fulfilling. It takes time, it is uncomfortable, and it doesn’t minimize the hard. It is nice when someone can sit with us in our pain and explore with us the angst. It is also okay to feel the grief and not have the answers.
It doesn’t have to be painful forever and that making meaning can balance out the pain that we are feeling. The fact that you are willing to explore it and walk through it already makes you resilient and courageous. May you find others to walk with you through the uncomfortable night.
Some Good Reads and References
David Kessler: Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief, 2019.
Kate Bowler. Everything Happens for a Reason and Other lies I’ve loved, 2018.