Countdown to Grief

red timerI’ve seen them.  They even make a widget for them.  The countdown clocks and calendars, that is.  Sometimes I understand because it’s a countdown to joy, but there are other times when I don’t get it at all.

I’ll admit, I’m not incredibly time oriented.  Clocks seem more like a suggestion to me than an imperative.  I try to be punctual; I feel it honors the people I’m going to meet.  Even when I try to be time oriented for the sake of others, I fail more than I care to admit.

But this counting down with a calendar?  It leaves me a bit mystified.  I only remember doing it once.  It was during my homestay in France.  Crossing the days off in my homemade calendar in the back of my notebook wasn’t so much a countdown as it was proof that I made it through another day.  An outsider looking in might have thought I was counting the days till I would leave, but that’s not how my brain functions.

Today I heard about a mom who was counting the days she had left with her high school senior.  I thought, “Great!  How better to make the most of the time you have left with someone?”  But no.  She was counting from the other end of the spectrum.  She looked at each day with sadness.  Instead of 85 days to live fully, it was 85 days to borrow grief.

Grief is inevitable.  For the TCK it is part of the warp and weft of the soul’s fabric.  It isn’t merely occasional.

Does this mean the TCK walks around like Ziggy under a dark cloud?  Absolutely not!  It means many other things.  It means they’ve led lives filled with many good and wonderful things and people.  After all, we don’t grieve the loss of the bad and miserable.  It means they can identify with others who suffer and grieve in a way many of us can’t.  It means they can know they have an advocate and a friend in Jesus–a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief.

Grief is a two sided coin.  There’s the pain of loss on one side.  The other side is splashed with the joy of what was.

It may be tempting to flip the coin over to the grief side and let joy’s colors dry quickly.  Don’t do it!  Let the knowledge that there’s a current end to what is drive you to dig deeper and find new colors to use on the coin.

You can prepare for the grief without it robbing joy.  Not every moment of every day is infused with neon; shadows provide the depth that make an image more realistic and satisfying.  Grief and joy mingle to create a rich, multidimensional life. If you must countdown to a grief, don’t just anticipate the pain–celebrate what you have.

Do you countdown?  Is it to things you’ll mourn or things you’ll celebrate?

3 responses to “Countdown to Grief”

  1. I loved this as I’m packing for a trip I keep forgetting remember. It’s not that I’m dreading it, quite the contrary – I’m really excited! It’s just that life – the here and now – consumes me. I pretend to count down – every now and then I’ll think of how many days to such an such. And I do advent calendars with my girls at Christmas time. But, no, I don’t count down. And I’ve never counted down to grief. How morbid! I love the anticipation of a fun thing coming, and I definitely plan. We aren’t promised our next heartbeat. I prefer to live in the now. Tomorrow will be here soon enough without a countdown behind it.

  2. I’m with you on living in the here and now–for the most part. As you know, it has been a discipline for me to stay in reality instead of partially living in an idealized future. Of course there are things I look forward to, but their proximity usually catches me off guard. Have fun on your trip, Tirzah!

  3. Sheryl,

    Your advice in “You can prepare for the grief without it robbing joy” and the reminder to “celebrate what you have” resonates with me. I agree, and try to live that way too. Thanks for tackling this.

    How have you been? What conferences or tasks have you been busy with lately?

    Jennifer Dougan

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