I often feel very alienated. It is almost like I have the plague. And it is visible–you can see the distance happen.
More on that in a moment.
But first, it is obvious some of my experience is fairly common. If you want to make people uncomfortable, suffer unexplainable loss.
- Face a tragedy outside the imagination of most.
- Live through horror.
We don’t know how to handle the grief, heartache, and pain of those who have suffered or are suffering loss. Add in unspeakable evil, and most are left with their mouths opening and closing like some kind of mechanized Big Mouth Billy Bass singing from a plaque on the wall.
And I understand.
But here’s where it really hurts. When the funeral is over and all the mourners depart, the real grieving begins.
- The bed is empty.
- The chair is empty.
- There is a hole in the very fabric of life.
- Add in being a victim of depravity and murder, and the hole is made of harsh jagged edges that are all the harder to mend.
Maybe the best two words we can use to describe how the mourner feels are empty and lonely. The emptiness and loneliness is a bottomless pit of despair especially when it feels as if God has abandoned you.
I was once accused in the aftermath of our tragedy of pushing people away. Sure. If you judged me or tried to fix me, I couldn’t cope with that then or now. But if you will be honest, you’ll also realize that what some might call pushing away could have been the sound of people running the opposite direction.
It is easier to run away than be dragged into all the pain. It’s a lot more comfortable too. And the fact is, we want people to get back to normal so we can be normal.
I experienced that in spades. Earlier readers may remember I was asked three weeks after the funerals “if I was about to get over all this and get back to preaching.” At the sixth month mark, I had to make a decision. “Preach or step down. The church was ready to get back to normal…”
Normal? I understand the church couldn’t be allowed to fall apart. But I never really needed the guilt that came with hearing, “We are losing members and contributions because you aren’t preaching.” I understand we were all in unknown territory. I get that others needed to get on with their lives. But normal? I had no idea then what normal would ever look like.
So here I am. Trying as hard as I can to build a new life. I am so very thankful for my family’s support and love. For friends who stick closer than a brother. For a wife who is as determined as I am to build and thrive and live.
Do I want more? You betcha! I want a speaking and writing ministry. I am working as hard at developing that as I am our real estate careers (My Becki, the Interior Designer, is now a licensed real estate agent and we are marketing our selves as The Home Team).
But the truth is still hard. I often feel like an alien. Like I don’t belong here. Like a fish out of water. In a world of so called normal folks, my life and situation is anything but. And whether you see it, believe it, or not… it sets me apart. It sets me apart in spite of however hard I work to keep it from happening.
At times it feels like I have the plague. Especially around preachers and church folk. I am an unwanted reminder. Because if it could happen to my family, then it could happen to yours… and nobody wants to be reminded of that.
So do me a favor, call me to speak. Ask me to write. That would be great. But more importantly, try to remember that those who grieve still need you to help them pick up the pieces–and that’s a ministry that may take a lifetime to complete.
Chances are, you know somebody who hurts and feels all alone in the process. It is often a very painful world. Find a way to help them know they are not alone.
Words by themselves will not do it, but love converted into action will…