A few days ago, the girls and I came home from running errands just like a million times before. I pulled slowly into the garage, turned off the car, and got out to help Willa out of her carseat. My six year old was stalling like usual, because, ya know, you can’t cooperate fully or the grownups may think they have control. God forbid we let a grown up think they are in charge of us.
Anyway, as I lifted tiny Willa to the ground and then began to gather up bags to carry inside, I heard a thud, and then that split-second delay of silence before the wailing. I dropped whatever I was carrying and jumped over to the side of the car to see Willa holding her head, and Audrey with a terrified face saying, “SORRYsorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorry it was an accident I promise!”
“I know, honey, accidents happen. It’s really ok,” I reassure Audrey as I scoop Willa up and rub her forehead. “Shhh, I know that hurts. I’m sorry. You gonna be ok?”
And then, through her huge, crocodile tears and in between sobs she said:
“I pwobwy gonna make it…. *sniff, sniff* …. But I sad.” And then of course, more tears.
I couldn’t help chuckling a little as I snuggled her and carried her inside. But as I retold the story to my husband, we realized our three year old had been able to articulate something many of us grownups cannot.
When we get hurt, and life whacks us in the head, many of us don’t allow ourselves to feel the pain of it. I know I struggle with this all the time. I don’t want to wallow or become self-absorbed, so I just try to brush it off and move on like nothing happened. And my brain will even cooperate sometimes and forget, but the trouble is my heart does not. Even if I’m not consciously thinking about it, my heart will find other ways to get the pain out, and sometimes those ways aren’t pretty.
So often we want to jump to the part where we really are OK, where we’re completely on the other side of whatever it is, and it’s not affecting us so acutely anymore. So we force ourselves to keep a stiff upper lip and soldier on when really what our heart needs is some time to be sad. I love how Willa said she was probably gonna make it. She wasn’t quite convinced yet. And that’s ok. I think some of us need the grace to spend time in that in between where there’s a lot of grey and uncertainty. If we don’t allow ourselves to feel the shakiness our heart is experiencing, it won’t completely find center and stability again.
We need to give ourselves the grace to be sad. It’s ok. That thing they did was wrong. That loss you experienced is real and valid. That was a real blow and it’s natural to be reeling for a minute. Scripture is full of literature that’s all about healthily expressing the sadness. The Psalms, Lamentations, Job–they all voice the pain of the human experience. And that’s what’s beautiful about God. He doesn’t require stoicism from us–in fact Scripture gives us an opposite picture. Before we can get to the other side of our grief, we must actually walk all the way through it. It’s not easy, and for us complicated grownups, we will probably need some help from one another.
So what things do you need to allow yourself to grieve? What pain do you need permission to feel today? Here’s your permission. Your encouragement, even. Give yourself the grace to feel the sadness and uncertainty in your heart, and invite God there. That’s precisely where he loves to show up.