It’s not the end of the world. Except, when it is.

“It’s not the end of the world.” Have you ever used that phrase? Have you said it to someone who was taking something very hard and perhaps needed some perspective on the situation? Has someone said it to you? I have certainly dished it out on occasion and been on the receiving end, too. And, to be frank, there are times when I needed to both hear it and consider its element of truth. Sometimes we do need that shot or jolt of perspective to snap us out of being overly distraught about a disappointment or challenge that, in the grand scheme of things, is a bump in the road, not a mountain but merely a mole hill. That’s another often used phrase, at least in the south anyway, that is usually meant to gently snap someone out of a funk over one of life’s many challenges and obstacles. Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill.

However, when my husband died, it literally was the end of the world. As I knew it. I remember having that exact feeling and thought when my mother died, too. My life is over. And, when Paul died, I thought, Damn. My life is over. Again.

There’s a knee-jerk reaction from people when thoughts like this are said out loud….“Don’t say that!” and “Oh, now, that’s not true”. These rebuttals are said presumably to be a comfort but are more likely meant to quiet the grieving person because the raw truth out and running loose around the room is just too much for most people to handle. So, just for future reference for those of you in proximity to a griever, the preferred response, in my opinion, is one that is honest, acknowledges the deeper meaning of such statements, and at the same time, offers hope and encouragement. It should go something like this, “You’re right. Life as you knew it, your life together, is over. Now, you will start, little by little, to build a new life for yourself, and we’ll be with you every step of the way.”

The question then becomes how we are going to build and shape that new life, our new world. This is where grief becomes a vehicle for growth. My first bout with grief when my mother died was such a different experience than this has been. Bout is a wrestling or boxing match term but is often used to refer to an attack of illness or strong emotion of a specified kind. I think grief qualifies. As a child, I made grief my friend, my partner, my security, because it was always there. As an adult, I have co-opted grief and used it as a spring board to the rest of my life. It might just be the difference between experiencing grief as a child versus as an adult, or it could be an indicator of where I am in my spiritual development. Ephesians 4:11-16 says, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and the teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from who the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Yes, indeed.

In Isaiah 6:1-7, Isaiah has an encounter with God. In a vision, he saw God and with that his sin was revealed, exposed. He saw clearly how broken beyond repair he was. He said, “Woe is me! for I am undone”. In another translation he says, “Woe is me! For I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then, in Isaiah’s vision, a seraphim with a set of tongs holding a burning, hot coal that had been taken from the altar flew to him and touched his lips with the coal. The seraphim announced that Isaiah was cleansed. His sins had been atoned for. He had been restored to a right relationship with God. An encounter with God enables us to see ourselves more clearly. It is difficult. It can be painful, but it is critical to self-awareness and self-knowledge. Plato said that the unexamined life isn’t worth living. There is nothing like grief for giving us the opportunity to examine our lives, to take stock, to do a complete personal inventory to see where the shelves are full and where they are lacking.

So, just recently, I’ve started to notice some signs of progress. One in particular got my attention. I have actually been feeling well enough to start making some changes in the house. I updated the family pictures, changed around some furniture, started redecorating the guest bedrooms, and replaced some framed artwork with different artwork. This may seem trivial, but I take it as a significant indicator of my health and well-being, my progress, that I’m able to make changes in the house instead of treating it like a shrine. If you’ve been reading this blog for while, you might think to yourself, “What is she talking about? She has jumped out of plane, taken on a new position at work, successfully developed new routines, and even traveled to another continent, by herself no less! Are those not greater evidence of progress than moving some stuff around in the house?” Not really, and here’s why. All of those accomplishments are entirely novel. They have no connection to my life with Paul. The real challenge and the real progress is in adjusting to doing everyday life without Paul.

Here are some more areas that I count as signs of progress…..

I can sit on the couch alone and watch TV.

I can tolerate something different in my home. I can tolerate household items being in a different location in the house.

I can make food for myself (occasionally) beyond a frozen dinner.

I can project myself into the future. I can imagine what the future looks like with me in it.

I can go to work consistently.

I can sleep <most> nights.

I can go inside the grocery store if I have to instead of using the pick-up service.

I can sit through a church service (still glued to our pew though) without tears or having to excuse myself.

And, finally, drum roll please……the morning, kitchen paralysis has been replaced by the morning, kitchen dance-jam with the dogs and often shared with friends on the Marco Polo app.

Rock on, my friends. Rock on, Malia

7 thoughts on “It’s not the end of the world. Except, when it is.

  1. scottfw

    I’m starting to enter this realm of change via the deaths of loved ones & learn that part of life. In June a friend and the moderator, chief instigator, and general ringleader, of our local creative writers group died. In July the 93 year old fellow who was my partner at model train club died. Currently my 78 year old Dad is going downhill fast. It would not be astonishing if he didn’t see New Years in this life. All three were/are saved in Christ and therefore we will have the eternity to come where we can keep in touch but for me where I still reside in this life their loss hurts. A lot.
    Even so, my two furry feline fellows still want brushing and playtime and cuddles and dinner and their litterboxes cleaned; and there still is creative writers group to go to & my book to finish; and my hobby projects to do. And the laundry. And doctors appointments. And pay the electric bill. And check on my friend Paula who had knee replacement surgery. And slowly and gently see if she can be persuaded to accept Christ.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. maliadunn

      Goodness. You are experiencing a significant season of loss in your life, and you are so right. It hurts. In every possible way. The good news is that life goes on. The bad news is….that life goes on. All those daily to-do’s are such a challenge. Use prayer and God’s Word to keep yourself grounded and nourished. Stay connected with others and practice self-care regularly so that you can be there for those who need you. Blessings, Malia

      Liked by 1 person

  2. bereavedandbeingasingleparent

    This is so true. I remember thinking my life was over in the aftermath. Quickly moved into my life is over but I have got to give son best childhood possible. Now like you starting to see some signs of progress. Now I see it not as life is over. It’s like I’m stood next to a locked door to my old life. I can look through the window back to it but I can never go back into it. I then have a decision to make just stay by that permanently locked door and gather dust or I can force myself to walk forward. You never know I may come across some doors that do open. I love the new morning routine may have to start a Yorkshire Version. Thank you for writing with so much heart and so beautifully. Keep dance jamming. Gary

    Liked by 2 people

    1. maliadunn

      Yes, I, too, feel like my old life, my previous life, is “contained” as in some keepsake box of some sort. But it’s fenced off, hemmed in. I can observe but not interact. Like watching a movie. Finding new purpose is definitely part of building a new life. Part of your purpose, clearly, is parenting, and you’re doing a marvelous job of it. I know your spouse is so proud! Yorkshire Version of the dance-jam? Yes, please! Maybe we can get a bloggers’ dance-jam relay going ’round the world! Be well! Malia

      Liked by 1 person

  3. bereavedandbeingasingleparent

    Yes a movie is a great way of thinking about it. I wish I had taken the time to memorise more to film. But I won’t get tired of watching the copies I have. And you won’t as well. Which is beautiful. Yes a dance jam relay would be cool. Try to smile as much as you can. Gary

    Liked by 1 person

  4. sdredfearn@gmail.com

    Thank you for this reminder. I tell myself this and feel hopeful for a few days-maybe even a week. Then I sink back into despair. Your work is encouraging and your courage inspiring.

    In Christ,

    Sandra

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 2 people

    1. maliadunn

      Grieving like this is, by far, the hardest work I have ever done. Some days I get the better of grief, and some days it gets the better of me. Fits of irritability and down right anger are not uncommon. Overwhelming, unshakable sadness creeps in and cannot be willed away. I have to wait for it to roll back out on the same tide it rolled in on. And it hurts, and I think “Lord, help me. Am I going to feel this way forever?” Then, I am reminded of what one of my GriefShare group members said. It took 30 years for Paul and I to weave the story of our lives together. I have to be patient and be willing to grieve fully. As always, praying for you, too ♥️ Malia

      Like

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