Welcome back to Grief School! School is back in session. How do we know summer is over and it’s time for a new school year? Our “news feeds” are blowing up with first-day-of-school pictures! If you live in one of those areas that extends the summer past Labor Day (ahhh, the good old days), don’t worry. It’s coming.
History was never my strong suit in school, but let’s start with a history lesson. About four years ago, Angie Cartwright, started petition through Change.org to have August 30th declared “National Grief Awareness Day.” Change they say is slow and the movement to bring an awareness of grief to the forefront of the societal conversation is certainly no exception. We may not yet have an “official” day of awareness, but how can we not be aware of grief on a daily basis? Grief is the continuous backbeat that pulses through our day-to-day existence.
Every person reading this blog has been touched by grief. If you are reading this while sitting in a coffee shop, your office, the car line at school, your kitchen table, or anywhere humans tend to hang out – everyone in your line of vision has also been touched by grief. Every. Single. Person. No matter their nationality, their economic status, their immigration status, their age, or the color of their hair. So how is it that a reality disturbing literally every citizen of this planet is virtually ignored?
I’m not a psychologist, a counselor of any sort, or otherwise educated in the affairs of the human psyche. (Consider that a “disclaimer” about providing counseling services.) What I do have is way too much education from the school of hard knocks. What I’ve learned in Life 101 is that when we ignore our hurts, we are doomed to a history of hurt. You don’t have to look much further than the coffee shop, your office, the car line, or maybe even your own kitchen table to witness the devastating impact of hidden hurt.
What does hidden hurt look like? What does it sound like? Where does it hide? Frankly, hidden hurt doesn’t hide itself very well at all. It’s on full display every day from the “soccer mom” whose calendar is booked through 2046 to the guy down at the plant who needs to pop a few in the evening to take the edge off to the “weird” kid at school who is dying on the inside to be recognized to the “cool” kid who is holding it all together with a little help from the family medicine cabinet and to everyone in between.
Grief recognizes no socio-economic divides. It touches every one of our lives.
Even when grief creeps out of its dark corner demanding to be noticed – in the immediate aftermath of natural disaster, when the newspaper ink is still wet over the tragic loss of a young life, in a hospital corridor where the echoes of “I’m so sorry” assault the senses – we don’t give it the attention it deserves. We pencil in grief for thirteen minutes on a Tuesday.
Grief doesn’t work that way. Grief can’t keep pace with the clip of our modern lives. We live in a pressure cooker sort of world and grief is a slow cooker-style process. When we rush to relegate grief to its place in history, pain will become a pattern of our story. Anger issues, alcoholism, perfectionism, the opioid epidemic, the rising suicide rate are all mere symptoms of the problem. The real problem is that people are hurting and it goes back in history.
So, what can we learn from a collective history of ignoring loss? Setting aside even one day to recognize the toll that grief causes is a beginning. National Grief Awareness Day is about recognizing that there is no set schedule for healing. It is about recognizing that we must heal at the root of a problem if we do not want to spend a lifetime treating symptoms. It is about slowing down, taking a look around, and acknowledging the hidden pain.
Dear Father, give us Your eyes to see the hidden pain that surrounds us. Give us Your ears to hear the rhythmic backbeat of suffering that familiarity has caused us to tune out. Help us to slow the pace of our modern world so that we can work through our own tragedies and losses. Guide us to those who need our help in working through suffering and sorrow. Let us not be doomed to repeat a history of hidden hurt when you have given us the gift of hope. This we pray in the name of your son, Jesus Christ. Amen!
If you’d like to learn more about the movement for National Grief Awareness Day, click here to check out the petition started by Angie Cartwright.