As I’ve watched The Chosen TV series and thought more about the early disciples, I’ve wondered how they dealt with multiple griefs. During those early years of so many martyrs, persecutions, people being snatched out of their homes — how in the world did they emotionally survive?
The same question haunts me when I watch documentaries or read books about the Holocaust. With so much death, so much pain — how did they deal with it?
Then last week hit.
Just 10 weeks after my mother’s death, I experienced multiple losses. On Monday, a writer friend I have known for years died from COVID.
Connie and I met when I was teaching a workshop on prayer. She sat in the back row and wept throughout my presentation. At the break, I took a Kleenex box back to her. We talked for a while.
“I think God wants me to begin a prayer ministry,” she explained. We discussed what that calling might look like. Her tears were from acknowledgement that she had been called to do a special work and a willingness to relinquish her time.
Several times throughout the years, Connie and I met at writers conferences. Once during the Baldwin City Maple Leaf Festival. Always cheerful, yet she could be moved to tears so easily. Such a tender heart.
That was Monday. Connie’s tears are now wiped away.
On Tuesday, one of my clients died from COVID. Leann and I had worked for several years as she grew closer to gaining an agent and a publisher for her book about therapy dogs. As a woman dealing with chronic illnesses, Leann knew all about therapy dogs. Her beloved Zoey was well-known at many writers conferences.
In spite of constant pain, Leann somehow managed to smile every time we met. She lived day by day — literally, trusting God for her daily bread as well as the breath to keep living. Such a brave and beautiful soul.
When she died on Tuesday, I felt like a light had gone out in the universe. But Leann is now free of pain.
On Wednesday, one of my long-time friends died from a blood clot after surgery. Elsie and I played piano duets, and her sons were two of my students. She helped me learn the best methods for nursing my son after his birth, and she was also a gifted seamstress. Her quilts won awards all over the country.
Elsie so loved her boys and all children. She was a caring grandmother and so compassionate to everyone in her circle of friends and family. I imagine her now playing with the children in heaven.
By Thursday morning, I wasn’t sure I wanted to wake up and face another day. Would there be another death?
The early martyrs and the Holocaust victims — even the over 800,000 deaths from COVID — are far greater losses. But because I knew each of these women well, I felt gobsmacked. My heart hurt for their families.
So how could I deal with these multiple losses? How could I begin to understand others who have lost so many at the same time?
Honor the Grief. It does not help to just keep going in life and ignore how we feel. We need to work through the emotions and acknowledge how much it hurts to lose loved ones.
Wail. Lament. Cry. All are healthy ways to admit we loved and lost. Journaling helps me as well. Taking a long walk and talking through my feelings with only God and my angels listening.
Share the Loss. I texted my sister and several friends. Told them what had happened and asked them to pray for the families.
“I’m so sorry,” they said as they validated my grief.
A burden shared feels somewhat lighter, at least for that moment. It helps us begin to process what has happened.
Focus on Life After Death. Each of these women are now walking in heaven, free of stress and pain. No worries. No bills to pay. No more threat of COVID or any other illness.
So I imagine them there, hanging out with Jesus and their loved ones. I know they are happy, so I am happy for them.
Pray. Still, the loss lingers, especially for the families. So my prayers focus now on those left behind. Such a lonely time. So many decisions to make at a time when emotions are fragile.
Yet prayer reminds us again that we are not alone in our losses. Jesus himself understands grief. He was described as a man of sorrows. And he will eternally take care of my friends.
So I feel as if I know a bit more of how those early disciples might have felt. The courage it took to live each day, knowing they might lose another friend, another sibling, another child.
And I stay in hope, so that living becomes more of my focus rather than loss.
©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved
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