Although Montana has had ups and downs (47 one night and the high 90’s some afternoons), we are definitely in the “dog days” of summer. This period was thought by the Romans to be a poor time in people’s lives – definitely not like the spring, when their troops would “march” off to war in the name of the God of War. The definition characterizes this period as ”a period marked by lethargy, inactivity, or indolence.”
The definition brings to mind some thought about lethargy, which is often a part of grief and/or depression. Since I experienced a major time of lethargy and know what it can do to people, I wanted to re-share a story which I tell in my book, “Walking at the Speed of Light.”
One winter I found myself being nonproductive in my job as library director. I seemed immobilized – could not complete tasks, would end a day feeling that nothing was accomplished, etc., and also kept forgetting things. Because my parents both suffered from dementia, at 66 years of age I was really frightened that I was beginning that condition.
I took a break to go on a cruise with my daughter, an adventure which turned into a fiasco when our cruise ship was trapped in Houston Harbor by an oil spill. Because we were restricted to on-ship activities, we had extra time to talk. My brilliant bank officer daughter confided that she was unusually nonproductive, forgetting things, getting to the end of the day with nothing accomplished etc.
When she finished, I burst into tears and told her that in suffering the same symptoms, I had been afraid of dementia. Then we both realized that what we were experiencing was lethargy and nonproductivity brought on by our grief over our beloved Josh’s death. And we both began to heal.
This experience has two lessons to it. First, people need to realize that grief and depression can bring on lethargy and useless feelings, forgetfulness and much more and that they shouldn’t “beat themselves up” for those things. Guilt only makes that condition worse. Second, sharing the concerns with others who have or have had grief experiences can help us understand what we are going through and come to a point of coping and healing.
I am dealing with an accusation of being overly optimistic about grief and depression and my view of healing. First, I am enough of a realist to know that when you put your opinions into writing and share them with others, of course everyone is not required to agree or to react in any kind of a positive way. Controversy and varied opinions are not only guaranteed but also a sign of a healthy society which values free speech and thought.
Second, if you have read my book, you know that I included a chapter which dealt with the extreme depression I went through after my son’s death. When I described the feeling of not only dropping into a black hole but also reaching a point where there was little to no desire to continue the struggle to climb out, I definitely was not being overly optimistic. In fact, I understand despair and desperation as well as inertia really well.
However, I have spent many, many hours studying the Bible and in particular the New Testament life and words of Jesus. I have found Him always to be both realistic about the human condition and offering better life, future hope and optimism to everyone around Him. Only when people like the Pharisees and the rich young man cling to wrong thinking and wrong ways does He rebuke them. Otherwise, He offers compassion.
I also have to say that one of the most consistently positive things I have seen in use in education, all the way from tiny tots in library Story Hour to seniors in advanced classes is a good story. Jesus is the master of the good story! He uses parables to make clear His teachings and to convey His optimistic expectations for all mankind.
The story of the Prodigal Son is an excellent example of what I am talking about. Jesus tells a very common, realistic story of what can happen with natural rebellion, succumbing to sinful nature, greed and lawlessness. But He offers the solution of a father’s forgiveness and benevolence, and offers His audience the opportunity of a welcoming future.
Bottom line, I sincerely believe that Jesus’ way offers optimism to everyone, no matter how dark their present. May He bless you richly. Amen.
The news today in Montana included a memorial to a group of firefighters who died in 1949 at the Mann Gulch Fire near our capital of Helena. People all over our state mourned when this tragedy happened, and the history of grief returns with the 50-year tribute to the men and their deaths.
Elsewhere today, people are grieving in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, where mass shootings have left many dead and many worried about public safety in our country where mental problems and use of mind-altering drugs are out of control. We hurt whenever these tragedies happen, both for those who die and for those who are directly dealing with loss of friends and family members.
So often when we think about grief, we consider it a solitary, personal thing. But today’s events remind us that grief is also a group emotion, sometimes a nationwide emotion. When we deal with personal grief, we approach it from our own understanding of our faith. Grief shared across boundaries, however, often includes people of many faiths, many levels of belief, and many concepts about eternity.
Where does Jesus enter into this shared grief? Is he there just for those who gather in a Christian church or those who say the right words? The answer is a resounding “No”. He is the Lord who died for us all, who loves us all. We Christians need to see God’s hand in every part of history, despite the fact that we know that He is not the author of our tragedies.
Through all times, He has offered compassion and comfort to all people, if they will only accept it and cling to Him when they are in need. He cannot force their belief but instead offer the rewards for that belief. What that means is that every tragedy deserves our response of grief, empathy and prayers for all suffering people. When we know that all is in His hands, we can depend on our faith for all situations and all times.
Walking with the Light of the World gives us belief in Perpetual Light, in God’s hand in all times, and in the power of belief and prayer in the face of all tragedy. Amen.
I just want to continue to share ideas about grief and life with people who long as I do for comfort and understanding.