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Allow yourself to grieve, but grieve with healing in sight

As I’m writing today’s blog, the Coronavirus has claimed over four million lives across the globe, according to the Worldometer update.

It is certain that in the weeks and months to come, another father or mother’s seat at the dinner table will be left vacant; the funny jokes of a child or of a teenage son or daughter will no longer bring a cheerful note to the family routine and special gatherings; and the trips to a grandparent, relative or friend’s house will become a painful memory. Not mentioning all those who have lost their job, their business, their home, their health, their savings, and their dream, because of this pandemic. It’s been a rough ride for so many.

Many things can be replaced in this life, but a loved one can never be replaced. When we truly love someone, we experience great sadness when this person passes away. We may tell ourselves and others, that at least, the person doesn’t suffer anymore, or he had a good life, or she died at a good old age. Being pragmatic may help us to put death in perspective, but it doesn’t do more than that. There is always a distance to cover between quoting a philosophical statement and living it out; and bridging the distance between the two takes time. The whole process is called grieving.

It is not uncommon to feel anger, confusion, sadness, numbness, and at times, to feel depressed and overwhelmed. Grieving is a unique experience. We bring our own uniqueness to the process: our past experiences, our hopes and broken dreams, our failures and achievements, our regrets and fond memories, our strengths and vulnerabilities, our religious and spiritual beliefs. So, when we grieve, we do not only grieve for our departed loved one, but we also grieve over what has been, what could have been, and what will never be.

Grieving reminds me of the Lucky Knot Bridge in Central China. It is actually three bridges intertwined into one. Pedestrians can access it from eight entrance streets. Because of its shape, it’s been compared to a children roller coaster; it’s also been referred to as the topsy-turvy bridge. This steely bright red bridge is 185m long and 24m high and swoops into an infinite loop, with no clear end point. It takes 1,000 steps to get to the other end.

The length of the Lucky Knot bridge is 185m long, but the journey’s length will vary depending on the entrance street the pedestrians enter. Likewise, the grieving process will be longer or shorter for even members of the same family; it can feel like taking thousands of steps or more to get to the other end.

When you are on a bridge that stands 700 meters above the river, you feel more vulnerable and have less control over your surroundings. Grieving feels like a long way from home, and from what, hitherto, has felt familiar and secure. It mercilessly propels us into a place that exposes our fears, our struggles, and our regrets. You know how it feels to be on a roller coaster. One moment you are up, the next moment you are down. There are times when the turns are so tight and the slopes so steep that you fear having a heart attack. Grieving is pretty much like that. One day, you feel better, the next day, you feel down and wonder if you will ever get out of this loop, because there is no clear end in sight.

And just like this imposing and sturdy bridge, the emotional and mental pain may feel like a piece of steel that stubbornly holds its grips on you, until you have almost nothing left in you. When you grieve, the tenacity of the emotions you experience is only revealing to you what has been inside of you all along. The emotions you experience, however intense or conflictual, are not your enemies; they are your friends. They are God-given means that are designed to help you navigate through your loss until you come to terms with it.

The Lucky Knot Bridge is 24m high and is made of steel to ensure protection and an astounding panoramic view. Furthermore, its 8 entrance streets ensure good communication and offer pedestrians various entry and exit options. Pedestrians who use the bridge may stop for a short time to catch their breath or gulp down some water before they climb the next set of steps, but they resume their walk because their aim is to get to the other side. Likewise, take a few breaks as needed, cry if you must, take a few days off work, and learn to say, ‘I would love to help but I’m just not able to, right now,’ but keep moving forward in hope and in faith. Learn to ‘conjugate’ with the pain and not to allow it to overwhelm you. How do you do that?

Pedestrians who use this bridge must constantly choose between 2 alternatives. Either they keep their heads down to look at the number of steps remaining, or they lift up their heads to admire the panoramic view. In your grief, don’t forget to admire a sunrise or a sunset, a hydrangea in full bloom, and to listen to God’s voice through your favourite hymns and psalms.

The whole bridge is painted in bright red. For the Chinese, red symbolises good fortune and prosperity. For me, red represents God’s power at healing the broken-hearted, and the hope that He gives when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death; and there is no end in sight. The grief you are currently experiencing will not be as intense in a few more weeks or months. Moreover, God has promised to gently lead and comfort us with His staff and His rod until He takes us to our final destination where ‘He will wipe every tear from their [our] eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

So, if you have been touched by death, by the loss of a loved one, or any type of loss, imagine that you are a pedestrian walking on the Lucky Knot bridge wanting to get to the other end. So, allow yourself to grieve, but grieve with healing in sight. And grieve in hope.

In my next blog, I will share a few practical suggestions relating to grieving.


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