I miss you, Mom: How to handle personal grief during a time of collective grief

It hasn’t been an easy summer so far.

We just keep going, pushing into the discomfort, the unsettling, the non-normal. After weeks and months of collective grief and insecurity, today all that stops so I can sit in my personal grief for a few moments. It isn’t fun, but it needs to be done.

Give yourself permission to hurt. Then give yourself the chance to heal.

Today, I will drive to the park and sit on my mom’s memorial bench. I will look at the water and feel the breeze on my face (or humidity, whichever it is). I will sit in the moment with God, with Mom, and with my own anxiety and grief. I will pray a simple prayer of grief and faith.

And I will expect God to bring me peace because that’s what God does when we ask for it and believe him for it.

Today is the four-year anniversary of my mother’s death.

I have no new words and only the old and familiar pain of losing her and wanting her here.

Given the accumulated events of the past several months as well as the impact of July 8 in particular, I’m reminded of how I felt after 9/11.

Unsettled. Afraid. Shell-shocked.

We are all living in acute awareness of an unsafe, trauma-filled world of which we have an integral role, whether we’re silent or verbal. This is true of collective trauma, and it’s true of personal trauma. Grief is the same, regardless of scope or origin.

It demands process.

There is so much at play culturally, spiritually, emotionally in our world right now. Our involvement is important, surely, but the pressure to respond to every moment about every critical issue drains me. I want out, and yet I feel compelled to participate. I want resolution of some kind, but I’m tired of processing.

I want closure and healing to all of it, don’t you? It’s enough already.

I know we all need encouragement today, and I’d to share something powerful and uplifting. I’ve said it all already, many times—all the faith comments and the justice comments, all the prayers and Bible verses. I feel drained at the moment. And that’s part of the process, too.

Give yourself permission to be tired. Then find renewal.

God has a plan. We can hunker down or join it. We can panic or pray. We can learn or defend. We can love or hate. We always have choices in this polarized world that’s continually telling us to pick a position and stick to it. We have the choice to live in God’s kingdom, even while we’re stuck here; or we can live in our country’s “kingdom” and for our own kingdoms on this earth filled with anger, divisiveness, marginalization, and incrimination.

Today, I’m working through a list of COVID, wedding, writing, and grief-related agendas, so I’ve got enough to distract me. However, my quest will be to lean into the God-ache, the most significant human longing and the one that’s easiest to undersell on a busy day. Yet addressing the God-ache quenches all my other longings.

I started today by reading from Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging…

Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations.

I will be exalted in the earth.

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

God is with me. Jehovah-Shammah, the Lord is present. Even though someone else I love is not. That’s the encouragement. That’s the piece de resistance to a day that wants to stress me out and get me down.

Give yourself the exposure to truth and grace. Then grab onto it.

I miss you, Mom. And missing you makes the rest of the world much simpler and less important today.

Mom and me at the Denver Art Museum

Some other blogs about grief:

How to cope with loss

Grief sucks

Grief sucks less today

Happy Birthday, Grief

When grief keeps coming back

Do’s and don’ts for friends of the grieving

What would my mother do?