Spiraling Grief

For the past four years, I’ve been lurching back and forth between various cycles of grief. Shock. Denial. Anger. Rage. Depression. Acceptance. Denial. Anger. Depression. Rage. Pull the covers over my head. Acceptance. Denial . . .

I’ve spent four years trying to understand: trying to understand why too many of my fellow-Christians worship at the altar of a false god.  Trying to understand why too many of my stubbornly independent neighbors give themselves over to an authoritarian wanna-be-dictator. Trying to understand why otherwise good-hearted people tolerate and even celebrate bad faith actors.

I really wanted this election to be a blowout for “my side”; I wanted a clarion call to equity, compassion and justice. Or I could live with a close win—even though we knew lawsuits and interminable delays would occur. But I did not want yet another reminder of the huge disconnect that stands between me and my neighbors.

I just don’t get it. I don’t get them. The spiraling grief dizzys me.

Then this morning it occurred to me that understanding is not one of the classic stages of grief. Healing through grieving, it seems, must happen without clear-cut understanding, without knowing the “whys.” Instead, healing acceptance must come right in the messy, muddled middle of not knowing; of not understanding why.

I don’t like that truth much. Something inside me keeps searching for explanations; looking for answers to the whys. “Is this part of the primal sin?” I wonder: not being able to stop seeking knowledge—be it good or evil. I don’t know.

I may never understand why some people think the way they think, why they act the way they do, why they are the way they are. But I need to let go of letting that affect me. Letting that infect me.

So I will grieve my nation unabashedly. I will mourn what needs to be mourned. I will be grateful for what is gratifying. I will look reality full in the face—as incomprehensible as it may be—and accept the inescapable incongruities of our bent and broken humanity.

But I will never give up doing whatever I can to call out unfairness and injustice—no matter how embedded those realities may be. I will never stop challenging the bullies and standing in the gap for the oppressed. I will never quit hoping – even as I grieve.

As I wait for election results and ponder the uncertain future of our nation, I’m thinking maybe now would be a good time for me to do a better job of living the prayer Reinhold Niebuhr taught us:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, Courage to change the things which should be changed, and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

6 thoughts on “Spiraling Grief

  1. Oh, that’s interesting! I always thought that the Serenity Prayer was written by someone in AA — friends who’ve been involved with it have shown it to me — so it’s lovely to know that Niebuhr actually wrote it.

  2. Here we are on Nov 8, election results are in. relief should be washing over me. But four years of anxiety doesn’t just go away in one day. I still feel raw. Thank you for using your words to express my heart.

  3. Thank you, dear Charlotte, for putting into words this morning exactly what I am feeling. I texted a dear friend whom I usually call every morning that I could not call yet because I could not talk. I’m still falling apart. Niebuhr’s prayer must be my prayer today.

  4. Charlotte Vaughan Coyle I don’t believe I have met you — although I knew of you and your ministry — but seldom if ever have I read something that so completely captured my own beliefs and emotions. I agree 100% with your despair and desperation of the election results, not only across our state and nation but in our own community. (But I still have hope — as I understand it, whoever wins two of the three battle ground states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan will be the next president. Looks like we’re winning Wisconsin and leading in Michigan, while trailing in Pennsylvania, where lots of early votes are still to be counted. The GOP needs two of those three to get over 270.) … Thanks for what you said. Barbara and I were very much uplifted. We are not alone after all! 🙂

  5. Thank you so much for perfectly expressing the despondency I am feeling, knowing that my neighbors and relatives support a cruel, authoritarian President. My husband and I were discussing how we don’t even want to see or talk to them right now because our hurt is so raw. It is nice to know there are a some in our area who understand how we feel.

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