The Search for Meaning
Life is complex. Can I get an, Amen?!?
"Back to Life, Back to Reality."
In the past two weeks, we’ve resumed classes at the university where I teach, and I’ve spent an incredible amount of energy adjusting back to my “pre-pandemic” lifestyle with “mid-pandemic” realities.
This consists of (very) long workdays, constant mask-wearing, and getting re-acquainted with “regular” workplace attire, including clothing with buttons and zippers (why aren’t leggings and t-shirts acceptable anymore???).
Amid this “new” (or easily forgotten) pace of life, I’m physically, emotionally, and cognitively drained at the end of each day. I imagine a few of you are feeling the same.
Usually, I’m a “burn the candle at both ends” kinda gal (which I realize is not super healthy). After my body, mind, and spirit stopped revolting against the slower pace of the "pandemic lifestyle," I began adjusting to the new reality of my days. In the quieter moments, I was provided the time and space to reflect on my life, including my priorities, relationships, vocation, goals, and dreams.
Overall, I learned that I move through most of my days at a very rapid pace and sometimes miss meaningful opportunities as a result. The pandemic is teaching me that I need to scale back some aspects of my life while investing more energy in others.
"Meaning-Making" Following Loss
This entire experience reminds me of the great paradox of love and loss--- the concept of reconciliation.
During times of difficulty, stress, loss, or grief---when changes are forced upon us and we must adapt even when we do not wish to do so---there can still be hope, joy, love, and growth in our midst.
As much loss as the pandemic continues to bring, we are starting to reflect on the past six months of our lives. We may be searching for something- anything- of beauty amid the ashes of our grief. We are taking inventory of what we've learned about ourselves and others during these unforeseen circumstances in our world’s history.
My dear readers, if we come out of the pandemic the exact same people who went in, I'm pretty sure we will have missed the point.
In grief work, this is referred to as the "meaning-making" process following a loss.
It happens when we begin to make sense of our losses and assess how we have grown or adapted along the way. Sometimes, we learn things that we want to change. Other times, we recognize something about ourselves and our capabilities that we never before thought possible.
Words of Wisdom (from those who have journeyed ahead of us...)
I recently asked some friends who have experienced significant losses what they learned about themselves during the grief process. They frequently described being more "resilient" or "stronger" than they anticipated. They also drew upon their faith to help them cope with grief and expressed a greater capacity for empathy and compassion toward others since the loss.
Here are a few of their words (of great wisdom):
"I am resilient…I can do hard things."
I allowed myself to be vulnerable & show up to my feelings."
"I am stronger than I thought I was."
"I learned my heart can mend."
"I can still have joy, even on bad days."
"I learned I am resilient and my capacity to endure hardship is growing with God's help".
"Grief opened a door of empathy to people…being able to recognize a loss."
"I am stronger than I expected with grief."
"I really can handle more than I think I can, and God is always doing for me what I can’t do for myself...even at some of my lowest moments."
"I learned to have grace for myself and others. Everyone is walking through a personal battle of their own."
Here's the reality....my friends didn’t feel this way in the hours, days, or weeks immediately following their losses. They only discovered these hidden resources of their souls by doing the hard work of mourning---feeling and processing their painful emotions of loss.
Grief is NEVER an easy journey.
But, I suppose that’s true for most of life.
Yet, if we are willing to do the courageous work of mourning, we may identify strengths and capacities within ourselves that we never before imagined.
We may begin to extend ourselves and our friends more grace and understanding during times of adversity or loss.
We may prioritize our days and our relationships in more meaningful ways.
We may pursue more things that bring us joy, laughter, and hope.
We may even grow in empathy, compassion, and love.....
This, my dear readers, is my hope for us all.