I’m staying in the vain of dealing with grief this week because I feel so many of us need to have these conversations to help us process through the heaviness of grief and lingering sadness.
We could choose to ignore feelings of sorrow, heaviness and grief, but eventually it will all build up and catch us off guard. We’ll wonder, “Why am I so irritated, angry, sad, or withdrawn.” It may be due to grief or our inability to properly deal with it; and 2020 has brought its share of it…grief that is.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter how strong we are as people, how much we already stayed to ourselves before the pandemic, or how strong we are in our faith; none of us can escape the unavoidable impact the events of 2020 have had on us. Whether it be from the aspect of social distancing, job loss, economic hardships, race relations, children returning to school, double-decker storms, COVID deaths, or unexpected other deaths that have taken place; no one is immune from sensing the cloud of seeming uncertainty and despair that 2020 has carried for the past 7-8 months.
It’s important that we understand though, when talking about grief, it doesn’t just involve death. Grief comes with loss of any kind. Loss of job, money, resources, possessions, relationships, identity, self-worth or esteem, motivation, or family and community. Missing, leaving, or moving on without someone or something affects us more than we probably care to admit or ever realized. When we lose, we grieve; and we must go through the stages of grief to deal with that.
Circle of Grief
I wrote last week about the unexpected amount of grief I felt after the passing of someone I knew well. And though she was not a family member, the reality of the Circle of Grief and its impact on those on the outer ends of the circle are surprising, yet factual.
Past Grief and Trauma
Maybe unknowingly, but many Americans and others have felt the touch from the Circle of Grief. We were affected by the Circle of Grief when patriots like Senator John McCain and President George H. Bush passed away. People felt as if they knew them personally, and not just through television, media, or articles. Our respect and admiration for them felt closer than that. Their losses touched the Circle of Grief, just as that of the Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting. And lest we forget we are approaching the 19th Commemoration of September 11th World Trade Center Attacks and just past the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Recent Grief and Trauma
Our touch from the circle began early in 2020 with the death of NBA Superstar Kobe Bryant. We later encountered it again after witnessing the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. Those were tragedies and will carry secondary trauma, as well as post traumatic disorder (PTSD) for some.
We’ve seen further examples of the circle with the passing of Civil Rights Activist and Senator John R. Lewis; and most recently in the passing away of the Silent Warrior and Actor Chadwick Boseman–who not only played superhero parts, but for many, especially in the African American community, was a superhero.
Boseman’s death, for me, was when I truly felt the enormity of my grief. I felt it similarly with others, but for whatever reason, Chadwick’s death hit me differently. After literally saying goodbye to Momma P on that Tuesday and learning of her passing that Wednesday morning; I had been trying to shake the weightiness of sadness as best I could, but with no success.
It seemed as though the week of August 24th brought with it a plethora of everything that 2020 had previously given to us in parts. School was back in full effect, but not going as smoothly as I hoped. This virtual school thing is more than a notion. Don’t feel like I’m playing the role of substitute teacher this time around; instead, feeling like an unpaid para-pro. Two storms were brewing off the coasts of Louisiana and Texas, expected to travel inland at speeds and distances not seen in years; possibly affecting a large degree of my family and friends. More racial unrest had ensued with killings, protests, and riots. Hearing of struggles, sicknesses, and deaths impacting family and friends. It was all so much. And then on Friday, our superhero dies?!?! That was like blunt force trauma.
All hell can break loose, but can we at least keep our superhero?
For me at THAT moment, I felt completely hopeless.
Of course, I know the superhero played by Chadwick Boseman was merely a character; but the embodiment of royalty and power he brought through that character was more impactful than some will ever comprehend.
Feelings of Hopelessness
On Friday night, I went to bed feeling extremely heavy-laden and burdened; and it seemed impossible to shake it. I was so stricken with grief, I cried myself to sleep. I asked God, “What’s next, and can we even handle it?”
I woke up Saturday morning wishing that it was all a dream, but my Instagram and Facebook timelines told the story. By now everyone knew the man popularly known as Black Panther had lost is silent battle with colon cancer. Suddenly, not only was there grief, but there was also shame and guilt. How could this man who portrayed so many strong trailblazers like Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, and James Brown…and our superhero, King T’challa, be privately in the battle for his life and none of us knew it? How dare we complain about the circumstances of 2020 that, though seeming inconveniences for most of us, are not unto death.
It was still too much to process. So, I retreated back to my bed, covered my head and just decided not to actively participate in the day. I didn’t have the energy to approach it if I tried. Though wallowing in something, I continued to pray; because somehow, I know no matter how bad it gets or seems, God is still in control and has the power to change anything; but I still didn’t feel good in the moment. Can I just be real?
Glimpse of Hope Revealed
About 2 o’clock that afternoon, (and yes, I did say 2 o’clock that afternoon) I finally pulled the covers from over my head. I remember hearing…”Order of Operations.”
I heard it again. “Order of Operations.”
Order of Operations?
This particular revelation was unique; because this was the very concept my daughter had been going over in math all week . And all week I had been saying to her every time…
”NO MATTER WHAT…you must follow the Order of Operations. Don’t try to guess it. Don’t try to figure it out. You just follow the steps. Period.”
The steps I was referring to are commonly known as PEMDAS. Those from my generation remember them as “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. I guess PEMDAS is Aunt Sally’s Instagram handle. LOL! But God, when He woke me up, gave me something different. He gave me Please Excuse Me Dealing with Abstract Situations. Different…but that’s what He gave me.
Now what I had been sharing with my daughter, as she worked her problems for school, was she’d benefit by keeping all her steps aligned. However, I explained, if she needed to work out a problem within the equation, she should come to the side, solve it, and then go back to plug that information into the original problem. This would help to keep her equation aligned and not confuse her by working another problem in the midst of everything else.
Following the steps and making sure we stay in alignment; those are the same factors we should consider when approaching circumstances of life. We’ve been given a LIFE EQUATION that seems extremely difficult, when we’re just looking at it in its totality; but if we allow God to “Order Our Steps” and just take it one step at a time, we can derive at our solution.
You see first we have to work with the parenthesis, which for life sake are the PEOPLE we have been entrusted with. As we deal with them, they are also dealing with things that multiply problems to our lives and sometimes drain us. Those people and situations require special care, so we have to tackle those first; stepping away in prayer. Sometimes, the problems of those people or situations are also being affected by Everything Else in the world (those exponents). We can’t always figure what we need to do in the midst of the problem, so we’ll have to step outside of it for a time to get alone with God. When He reveals THAT answer, then we have to go back and align ourselves with the overall equation.
Understand, God is not the God of confusion. He’s not trying to overwhelm us. He’s trying to guide us. But once we’ve learned and overcome one thing…we still must go back in and continue following the steps. We run into difficulties when we think just because one portion was solved that we have the answer to the whole problem. We can’t do that. We just need to get back in and continue to follow the steps.
So then, we have to go back and multiply some things and divide others (left to right, because that’s how we read). Once we get that done, we still have to go back and add and subtract some of the pieces or unresolved situations that may still be lingering. But in the end, we’ll finally get the answer.
The Answer is ONE
For the example equation AND for our life equation, the correct answer is ONE. Why? Because He’s the only ONE. If you multiply the answer “1” with any other number, you’ll still get that number. If you divide the answer “1” by any number you’ll still get that number. What am I saying? Who you are to be has already been established; and as long as you stick with God, you’ll be exactly who and where he intended for you to be. Remember, the number “1” given any exponential is still itself. God times God is GOD.
Yes, it gets tough and life seems to be overwhelming and unfair at times, but in this equation of life just stick to the Order of Operation. Don’t try to figure it out at one time. Don’t try to put one step in front of another. Don’t try to just put all the pieces together and think it’s supposed to fit. Follow the order of operation. When things get tough, go off to the side and work that part of the problem out in prayer, then come back and align yourself again. You can’t stay out of the equation forever or give up altogether. How are you ever gonna pass if you don’t take the test? Sometimes we may not have all the answers correct, but we’ll get through it still because our process for solving the problem is clear.
Know this; you’ve been purposed for greater, and there are others who need the tools you’ve garnered on your journey to help with their process.
Order My Steps
Believe me, I know oh too well that loss of things and people can catch you off guard. And I also know that the stress of trying to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders can quickly wear you down; but don’t take yourself out of the equation thinking that you can’t possibly survive. You can get through this; and with the lessons you’ve learned and with the maturity you’ve harnessed, you’re gonna be stronger because of what you’ve endured. Just stay the course and ask God, “Order my steps.” Here are some steps to follow:
- Acknowledge Need (Psalms 25:16-17, 42:5, 116:1-4) – God loves when we acknowledge our weakness; for it is in our weaknesses His strength is shown.
- Pray (Philippians 4:6-7) – Prayer is our love language to God. It provides us with the armor and protection we need for our spiritual and internal battles.
- Read your Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17) – Reading our Bible increases our knowledge and understanding of God, and equips us with insight on dealing with the affairs of life. It’s our Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.
- Seek God above all else. (Proverbs 3:5-6, Matthew 6:33) – Often times our first response to conflict, internal or otherwise, is to seek outside sources or negative fulfillments. Some of these sources could prove to put us in more of a deficit than we already are. Consider God first.
- Meditate (Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:1-2) – Sometimes it’s not just enough to pray or read your Bible. A consistent path and relationship with God also benefits from meditating on Him, thinking about Him, hearing about Him, and even singing about Him. Our relationship with God is like any other relationship we care with. We have to invest in it.
- Take time to get alone with yourself and remove the distractions of outside noise (i.e. negativity from people or otherwise). (Matthew 6:6) – Decluttering is a must for our mind, body, and spirit. Just like when our living spaces are consumed with clutter and cause us stress, the same is true for mental and emotional clutter. Getting alone to process your thoughts might prove to be helpful.
- Stay in the equation (Galatians 6:9, Philippians 4:13, Luke 1:37, Isaiah 41:10, Jeremiah 29:11, Hebrews 12:1, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Isaiah 40:31) – No matter how hard or difficult it may seem at times, never believe you are the only person experiencing a trial of your kind. The Bible says there is nothing new under the sun, and no test uncommon to man. Remember, you’ll never get the answers if you stop taking the test.
Hope is Possible
Last Saturday, when I was alone in my bed lamenting in the anguish of grief; though I felt hopeless, I knew there was only One in complete control. I called to Him and He answered…in a crazy way; but He always talks to me in ways that I understand and can hear. I don’t know how that might sound for you, but I can assure you it probably won’t be like the Easter television special of the Ten Commandments. LOL! No, it will sound like a friend and someone who knows you well.
Yes, it seems like we’re in a collective state of grief and sadness. Our families are grieving. Our communities are grieving. Our Country is grieving. Our Nation is grieving. Even our World grieves. Some grieve out loud and others in silence. Collectively, the enormous affliction of grief resounds as sounds of extreme darkness, but the light comes on when we follow the proper steps for the equation. Remember…the answer is ONE.
Additional suggestions for dealing with sadness, grief, or depression…
If you are dealing with extreme sadness, due to the pandemic or other factors during this time, please consider some other helpful tips and resources to help you cope. You may want to consider some mindfulness exercises to help with breathing, relaxing, and decluttering your thoughts. Physical exercise and outside time is also a good outlet. Furthermore, consider speaking with a close friend, confidant, or spiritual leader about your concerns. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking with someone you know, know that professional help is available. The Open Counseling website provides a thorough list of counseling providers in different geographic areas and categories. *Dawn of a New Day 365 is in no way affiliated with or receiving compensation from Open Counseling.
In Dedication of
This week’s blog is dedicated to all my battle-buddies who left the familiarity of the homes and families, on September 3, 1996, and journeyed with me to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, to begin Army Basic Training. The relationships I gained during that time have been unforgettable and have truly made me understand the importance of a battle-buddy. That endearing term is not just appropriate for the battlefield of war but the battlefield of life; and I’ve gained and claimed many more battle buddies along the way, both military and civilian.
It never ceases to amaze me how seasons show themselves in our lives. When I got to Fort Jackson, September 1996, a hurricane hit the East Coast; and delayed our basic training for several weeks. So, I’ve often thought, when something new and great is getting ready to happen, some of the old things have to be taken away by storm. Embrace your storm…and wait. ~Dawn~
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See you on the horizon ~