Death no matter what the shape or form comes as a thief in the night and leaves behind a wake of unanswered questions, conflict, and spiritual crisis. Researchers identified violent death as having a greater chance of producing a spiritual crisis that may result in a stronger faith but often questions our faith to the very core.
Social Scientists refer to the “Just World Phenomenon” as a belief that if we work hard and live right then we should prosper and stay safe. It’s like an internal sense of fairness. Have you ever watched a victim on the evening news and quietly wondered what they did wrong? We do this to protect ourselves from the anxiety that accompanies the ugly truth that control is an allusion.
But if I work out, eat right, and take my kids to Sunday School then I will live to a ripe old age with grandkids bouncing off my knee right God? Right?” Despite knowing that we all suffer, there are some things we simply are not prepared.
Violent death, be it at the hand of someone else, suicide, a motor vehicle accident, or the result of nature slaps us in the face, kicks us in the gut, then knocks us down when we struggle to our knees. Again, the research attributes the suddenness as a major reason. We just didn’t see it coming.
Trite godly sayings can’t fill the void. Little can. “He’s better off. Just give it to God, and Jesus understands,” is of little help when all I wanted was to be with him. Just for a moment, just for one hug, just one. Just one chance to look at him and simply say, “Goodbye.” We don’t ask for much, do we? Just a second of control. After telling Hanna’s mother about my son, she stopped and gave me a hug. She gets it. She lost Hanna and is all she wants is another chance to tell her how much she loves her before Hanna gets into that car.
We build strong houses, track hurricanes, and buy SUV’s as feudal attempts to control our world. Yet, control is a croc.
Looking from my office window, I see my wife on our deck going through her Yoga poses; lifting, stretching, and breathing in concert. “It’s the only thing I have control over,” she says. She gets it.
When I retired from the military, I prayed each morning, I read ten chapters of the Old Testament, and I contacted people I needed to make amends. Then I ran on the beach, picked up my clothes, and worked from home. I had life by the short hairs. My world made sense and I was at its center. Then the news came and nothing made sense. The violent death of my son cast me into a spiritual crisis. One that I continue to climb.
A year later I found myself on a mountain ridge looking across miles of Tennessee wilderness. I felt so small, like an ant on a stick. Yet as small as I was, I felt a gentle breeze across my cheeks and knew that I was looked upon and cared for. I counted. My son counted. The breeze meant something. It wasn’t an accident. And neither was the butterfly that flew by. It meant something.
I am still finding my place in this world. Gone is the “success story” and in its place, is a real story.
Trying to wrest control in the midst of the spiritual crisis of grief is as likely squashing the sand in your hand by squeezing it tightly. What you need to do is open you hand and let it pour out between your fingers. Let it be. Let it go.
It’s not as much of an action as it is a state of being.
Last week I talked about getting up and this week I’m talking about letting it be. It may seem like a conflict but I believe the two concepts are complementary. You once filled your life with frenetic activity to convince yourself you were in control. It may have been work, ministry, or hobby. Regardless, it all meant nothing when you got the news. Only life means something and now you are searching through your life deciding what is meaningful and what is vanity. That is a spiritual quest.
Today I ask you to slow down, stand on the mountain, stretch, breath. And when you get the chance – share a hug.
Andy Davidson is a Clinical Psychologist who lost his son in a motorcycle accident. He is a weekly contributor to PsychCentral.Com and can be reached at [email protected] and facebook.com/through lifeandloss.