A few years ago I selected “placid” as a focus word. Each year, rather than writing New Year’s resolutions (which I have never been fantastic at keeping), I select a word as a focal point. Sometimes the word serves as a catalyst. Other times it’s a theme.
The year of “placid,” it served as a sort of meditative chime. I needed that word, that reminder to bring me back over and over again in the midst of chaotic waves of change, to a place of calm stillness. I needed to watch muddy waters clear.
It was the year after my father-in-law died. I was very close to him and so was everyone who loved him. He was magical.
During that time, I grieved. I learned it was okay to allow everyone grieve differently. My husband turned inward and almost refused to express emotion. My daughter is the complete opposite; she could earn an Emmy Award for her wailing and gnashing of teeth. I am generally not as expressive. For years, I kept emotions locked up tight (to my detriment). Only through recovery and counseling did I learn how to properly grieve, how to allow myself time and space to grieve without judgment. Now I can allow others to do the same.
Grieving teaches us things–more than we ever hoped to learn, really. Through grieving various losses, I learned who I was. These lessons proved to be a essential. Sometimes we need to help others through grief, and if we’ve never grieved ourselves, we’re unable to give people permission to feel, permission to hide their feelings, and permission to take as much time as they need to walk through the harrowing hallways of grief.
We all need different things when grieving. I need placidity. I need silence, fewer waves and less chaos. I need more alone time. I need to be around people who are okay with me not being bubbly, the life of the party, or enthusiastic and energetic. I need people who feel urged to check on me, but not urged to shove advice and empty platitudes at me. I need to allow myself room to feel and time to heal.
When I lost my father-in-law, I meditated on readings and Scripture about peace, stillness, and calm. I prayed continually. I also viewed a lot of paintings and images of placid places. I spent time in placid locations in nature, even on my own land. It was different than just being still, because I had done that before. It was more like joining in with an entire world of quiet, worshipful Creation. It helped me remain in step with the spirit of the notion of walking toward Jesus amidst a storm. This fed my soul during a time when self-care was very important and fostered my healing. It helped me become the person God could use for the next steps in my journey.
Today, I am walking through grief with a dear friend. I’m grateful I found my own path through grief a few years ago, or what help and comfort could I offer her now? Our own sorrows are never only about us unless we make them all about us. God uses every single hardship we experience and every single mistake we make for the benefit of others–if we let Him.