When we began our first period of lockdown I started a series of blog posts on the topic of how periods of grief and loss can be times of spiritual and emotional growth. I think this is appropriate again in this new lockdown period when we have been thrown back into that experience, perhaps in an even deeper way this time.
The process I am talking about is based on four stages of wrestling with grief and loss identified in the book ‘Emotionally Healthy Spirituality’ by Peter Scazzero, as he describes how the biblical character Job works through his own grief. The first step he identifies is the need to ‘pay attention’ to our situation, to ourselves and our feelings, to slow down, be present to our situation and accept the opportunity to learn more. Upon losing everything Job sits down and laments his situation, opening his heart honestly to God and to his friends.
The second stage he discusses is the need to ‘Wait in the Confusing In-Between’, which is to allow that there will be a time in this process when things do not make sense and we can’t see what will come next. Job was plagued by his ‘comforter’ friends who tried to find reasons for his suffering rather than journeying through it with him. In doing so they merely heaped more pain on Job and brought judgement on themselves. In our present situation of re-entering lockdown we are certainly in a ‘confusing in-between’ when we do not know the future or how to make sense of how respond to our ongoing crisis. In that space we are tempted to find ‘reasons’ for our suffering – to identify people or groups to blame, to jump to interpretations of God’s will in this, or to explain to others what is happening to them and how they should feel.
The story of Job invites us instead to remember that we do not have all the answers, and that the complexity of the world is often beyond our grasp. Moving through grief and loss is not about finding explanations that will make sense of everything, but remaining open to God’s love and transforming presence in the midst of confusion, trusting that on the other side we will find something new. And perhaps that ‘something new’ will be the more healthy and loving people that God intends us to become.