The Apathy of Grief

I feel like Solomon in Ecclesiastes. “Meaningless, meaningless. All is meaningless…what does a man gain by all the toil…like a grasping of the wind.” Since being widowed, I have felt these sentiments. I would look at my life, my routines, my past investments, my passions, and go, “what is the point of any of it?” The death of my husband felt like a vacuum of my function and wholeness, contentment and centrality.  And nothing I did fixed it, so why keep trying? And so, the detachment and indifference takes over. I have felt myself retreat into a shell on many occasions. I have felt numb to the things that once captivated my passion.

I had read Ecclesiastes before and it always seemed depressing. Everywhere Solomon looked there was an insatiable thirst, an unending toil, a futile existence, a sorrowful journey. But now I read the words and they echo how I often feel.

I never expected grief to encompass such…..apathy. Like a country bumpkin plopped onto a sidewalk in NYC without a map. Turning and gazing, not knowing where to go… overwhelmed by the sights and smells and the noise and bustle. Standing there, alone, confused, dazed, while the world dashes around you. And instead of feeling ready to tackle a new adventure, I am frozen… still… stuck. And hope the sidewalk will just open up and swallow me so I don’t have to face any of it.

When I feel I have made progress, I still have those moments where I get pulled back and that whisper comes, “what’s the point of any of this?” There have been times I fill myself with mindless distractions to fill the space. Even exciting moments… when the dust settles, that blah feeling permeates me again. The stagnant depression. And part of the apathy is the hopelessness that life will ever get past this… this feeling of being lost and indifferent. Because no matter how many new plans I make, the hole he left still resides.

Some days I feel a glimpse of my passion for life. Other days there is such a lack of motivation. When the questions and unknowns won’t stop haranguing me. Defeat won’t stop whispering in my ear. No option seems to fit. No choice seems proper. The crossroads in life seem never-ending and oppressing.

And it all gravitates back to my profound loss and the sense of confusion that loss brought.

I think of what else Solomon said: there is a time for everything. Through the eyes of grief I read these passages differently than I did before. Because they describe the ebb and flow of this grief journey quite well. “A time to plant and a time to pluck… a time to break down and a time to build…a time to weep and a time to dance… a time to seek and a time to lose… a time to keep and a time to cast away… a time to tear and a time to sew… a time to keep silent and a time to speak.”

So many of these happen a hundred times, back and forth, in the journey of grief.  My memories, my emotions, my processing, my decisions, my fears…all have experienced these “times” more than once.

And I may add my own. A time to move forward and a time to take a step back. A time to let grief drape about your shoulders and a time to unwind yourself from its grasp and fold it neatly away. A time to dwell in raw memories and a time to tuck them into the depths of your heart.

Apathy is normal. But it’s not where I want to live. Being detached is normal. But it’s not where I want to stay. So even though the question, “what is the point” pounds my brain, I must respond with an answer.

“Because I can.”

“Because there is more.”

“Because I am alive.”

“Because my purpose hasn’t ended.”

“Because the sum of who I am hasn’t reached the equal sign.”

“Because I want to honor the sanctity of life while breath is still in me.”

“Because there are people I can bless in their distress.”

“Because God can still use me.”

“Because life is more than what I feel right now.”

What is your answer to the question?

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