I’ve loved wisdom for as long as I can remember. But it got me thinking…has wisdom helped me to grieve well? Has it helped the healing process? I think so. How can it not, it’s wisdom. At first it was hard, because as someone who enjoys the practical qualities of wisdom, grief was nothing but a tyrannical ball of emotions that seemed contrary to anything wisdom offered. But wisdom has helped to temper the ride. From very early on, I wanted to grieve well. I didn’t want to “get stuck,” so to speak. I wanted wisdom to lead me rather than the tyrant. Here are some of the things I feel wisdom has led me in.
One: Allow. Wisdom told me I had to allow myself to feel. Allow the pain. Allow the anger. Allow myself to cry. Allow myself to break down. I knew if I suppressed it, it would do me no good in the long run. I knew grief would seep into other facets of life if it wasn’t able to erupt and flow where natural and necessary. So I didn’t stop myself from feeling. Which meant… I was miserable. So miserable I didn’t know how my skin was still intact because I felt like a flipping series of explosions. I also didn’t seek to deny, distract, bury or ignore my grief. Although I did seek distraction, I didn’t seek total distraction. I allowed myself to be busy to offer reprieve, and then I allowed myself to just sit in my grief and feel all the feels, giving it its proper due.
Two: Roots. Wisdom told me to plant myself into the truths I knew. Although at the time it didn’t make me feel any better, I made a distinct effort to remind myself of some important truths. Without truth, emotions are a tempest with no anchor. I wrote some truths I needed on 3×5 cards and set them at easy places to read. Truths that combated the very things I struggled with. Truths that put my pain into some kind of perspective (I’m not alone nor have I suffered as much as others). Truths that reminded me what I believed about God even though I felt far from Him. Without rooting myself in truths, I would have been left to the ravages of grief with nothing to guide it. Without rooting myself in wisdom, I would have been at the mercy of the roller coaster of emotions with nothing to temper it. And one of the best truths I rooted myself in was the fallacy of needing to be strong all the time. Screw that.
Three: Dig. Wisdom said it takes effort. Dig for hope. Dig for healing. Digging is work. Lots of work. It doesn’t happen by chance. It doesn’t happen casually. I had to actively search for a new vision for my life. I had to search for a new identity for myself. I dug for a new purpose. Nothing makes grief more powerful than feeling like all hope, happiness, purpose and identity died with the one you loved. And like all things worth doing, effort is required for progress.
Four: Self-Control. Wisdom was like a leash. You know those parents that have their kids in those harnesses. Yeah, those. No one was more shocked than me by the things I contemplated doing. Things I would have never considered doing before. All my rules and morals seemed superfluous. Why not throw caution to the wind and distract myself with whatever I wanted, ease the pain with whatever was available? Honestly, if it wasn’t for wisdom, I’d have done just that. It was only the voice inside me telling me that the roads these choices could lead me down would be nothing but drama and complications in the long run that kept me in check. Don’t let grief be your excuse to lack self-control. You will never regret wise decisions. But you will regret foolish ones.
Five: Initiate. Wisdom told me reach out. I didn’t want to wait around to be asked to join an activity, or asked to lunch after church. I didn’t want to wait to see if life would serve new interests on a silver platter. I knew I needed to initiate things for myself. Take the reins. I asked people to go do things with me. I started hobbies I’ve always wanted to try like cello lessons, ballroom dancing lessons, and travelling. I asked people when I needed help with something. Yes, lots of people say, “if you need anything, just call me.” But no one is going to wait outside your front door hoping you will give them a job to help you. Tell them. Reach out. Initiate. I knew if I waited around for life to happen to me, not only would it leave me with too much time on my hands for grief to manipulate me, it would also leave a foot in the door for self-pity and bitterness to sneak in.
Six: Conquer. Wisdom nudges me to not stay locked in my own head. Fears of all the unknowns seemed to drown me at first. I don’t like tackling new things outside my comfort zone. Like… at all! The smallest thing seemed so, so scary. For instance, I didn’t know how to check the water softener, so I avoided it for months. I finally called someone to come help me (refer to number 5). When I walked out there with him, I noticed the lid, with arrows that said “salt”. Oh…so you just dump in the salt. I felt a little silly for calling him all the way out there to show me the obvious. But every time I tackled a new, an unknown, a previously undone thing, no matter how small…. I felt a little stronger. At the beginning it was little things, like getting an oil change and changing the air conditioner filters by myself. But it grew to small projects around the yard and tackling belts on my riding lawnmower. And every step conquered brought a small reminder that I can survive.
Seven: Willing. Wisdom taught me this simple thing: I cannot reach where I am not willing to venture. I HAD to be willing to get out of my comfort zone. Be willing to get out of the house. Be willing to take that trip. But….even more important and even more painful to accept is… I also had to be willing to get better. People can not be willing to get better for a variety of reasons, many having to do with fear or guilt. But I had to be willing to reach for a new life. I had to be willing to adapt. I had to be willing to let grief lessen its grip on me as time went on. If I’m not willing to get better, I will not get better. And mind you, this didn’t come without challenges, because it is easy for grief to manipulate us into thinking that we are betraying our loved ones by getting better and moving forward. But because of wisdom, I knew that to be a false notion. So I reverted to number two (see above), and rooted myself into the truth that moving forward isn’t the same as forgetting.
Eight: Escape Bitterness. Wisdom preaches this…Bitterness is an evil weed that finds fertile soil among the grief-stricken. And like any weed, it benefits no one and offers nothing healthy. Sure, there were people and circumstances that I could have focused on and fertilized those weeds. But why? Why would I want that? Wisdom is a strong proponent of releasing that weight. I didn’t want to focus on what I thought people should have done but didn’t. I didn’t want to search for ways people had let me down. (By the way, I could have been at the top of that list.) I didn’t want to concentrate on why the situation was unfair so bitterness could choke even more of my faith. So like any good gardener, I plucked those suckers out. No room for those weeds here.
Nine: Grow. The first rule of wisdom is willingness to learn and be corrected. I may not have chosen this classroom, but I do choose to take advantage of it. I want this experience to teach me, grow me, refine me, mature me. I can’t change it so I might as well allow it to make me better. I wanted my strengths to become more refined and my weaknesses to be pruned. I wanted eternity to become more real and what is important in life to become more….well, important.
At the beginning, when grief was loudest, these nuggets of wisdom were simple measures. Sometimes conquering was as simple as doing the dishes to overpower the apathy I felt. Sometimes initiating was as simple as partaking in a church function to make myself get out of the house. Sometimes allowing meant crying for two hours in bed and skipping an activity because at that moment I didn’t need to be around people, I just needed to sink in my sadness.
There is always a hundred things swirling around your head while grieving. So step back, and question which voice is the wise one. It may not be the one you want to listen to. It may not be the easiest. But you will never regret wisdom.
And, P.S… wisdom never makes you feel condemned for failing or struggling. That’s the last weight we need to carry. Each day is new. Each day, make wisdom your goal. And if one day, you don’t feel strong enough, try the next day. Big hugs everyone.