This article originally appeared in Write Away and is reprinted by permission from the writer.
A friend of mine suffered a grave loss this week. It stirred up something in me. I do not deny the beauty and compassion and generosity that course through our world, but there is also much malice and hardship and loss.
We humans give and take. We are capable of redeeming love and diabolical hate. And because of this, we live in a bicameral world: it is both tragic and beautiful.
How does one move through a life like this—one with both hope and despair; love and hate; and joy and fear? When you boil it down, there are only two options (though each contains many variations). You either choose to go on or you choose to quit. And you may choose to change from one to the other on any given day or at any particular moment.
Many of us who have suffered great loss or despair are asked how we manage to keep living our lives. But that’s really the only option if you’re not one for suicide. You either assume the loss or divest your stock in reality. However, “going on” and “being okay” look much different than they feel.
A person can be shattered and still manage to smile. A heart can be broken without falling behind. Going back to work doesn’t mean that all is well. Sadness can coexist with laughter—just as tears with happiness.
I have experienced many of the relative levels of “being okay.” Some days it means that life is comfortable, and I am content: I am not overly concerned about anything. I am not full of anxiety or ambivalence. Some days it means I did the bare minimum: I got up and participated in the world (perhaps against my will). I acted like a responsible adult and met all of my obligations. However, I may have done it with a deficit of motivation. Some days “being okay” means I remember the last time I showered, and it probably wasn’t today. Some days “okay” is an act, and others…I can’t even fake it.
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Life often asks us to shoulder on—to endure the unbearable. Some of us bear up under the weight of our losses, and some of us break. No path through loss or despair is perfect. Each response to mourning is unique. Death might make you loose your appetite; I’m rarely unable to eat. Stress brings out the fixer in some while causing others to freeze or retreat.
Loss is too personalized to be homogenized. The same person dies, but one has lost a parent, another a sibling, and another a spouse. Each cannot possibly feel the exact same sadness or take precisely the same path through his or her hurt.
Through my experiences with life and death and mourning and depression, I’ve learned it’s okay to not be okay. There is too much humanity in this world for everything to be love and light and laughter at all times. And even if we were all always kind to one another, there would still be the occasional illness, accident, or natural disaster.
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This world has pain to mete out, and we will all get a share. But no evil is eternal, and no hurt lasts forever.
Weeping may endure for the night, and the night may be long and hard. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morn (Psalm 30:5).” Weeping may endure with such strength you feel your heart won’t mend, but as deeply lost as you may meander through the hurt, you will come to your mourning’s end.
[A photo of a person sitting in a cafe. Their face and body are in silhouette. They are wearing a hat. Behind them is a window. Source: Chris Goldberg]