Permission to Feel Really, Really – Bad and Sad
Lou Holtz reinforced recently two powerful grief lessons. He and his wife lost their dream home to fire last year. (For those not familiar with this man, he was a legendary football coach at Notre Dame, Arkansas, and a few other teams, and a sports commentator for ESPN). I was watching a documentary on his life recently when the subject of the horrific fire was brought up. His humor remained though:
“Losing the home in the fire was really tremendous,” he said. “What was amazing, my wife said a month before, ‘What a beautiful home we have.’ She said, ‘This belongs to God.’ When that fire was burning, I said, ‘God, you’ve gotta take better care of your things.’
Holtz related how awful the experience was. He had pictures and mementos of time with family, children, presidents, 2 popes, celebrities, and all the players and coaches he loved down through the years, and even the torch he carried for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. All were destroyed by the flames. It hurt, he said, hurt a lot. “You cannot imagine what it is like to lose things like that until you experience it. Even though I know they are just things, the pain was overwhelming.”
As I listened to his heart, I was glad he was truthful with his emotions, and did not try to downplay it. Obviously, he and I (and you also) know that there are things worse than losing your possessions – like losing a child, or spouse, or parent, or other loved ones. But there are many kinds of non-death losses that hit us hard.
Grieving goes better when we acknowledge our hurt and pain honestly, and when we do not compare our losses to others’ losses. Though there are many who I would not trade places with, and would not want their losses, my losses hurt deeply. Some of those losses have sent me to the canvas, cut and bleeding, staggering to get up again before the count reached ten.
Lesson #1 – Don’t compare your losses with others – loss hurts. Admit your pain without apology.
Near the end of the interview, Holtz stated another profound truth that would help any griever. He shared how for a few days after the fire, he and his wife were feeling really sorry for themselves. They were stunned, and extremely sad. Then on Friday, as they were talking, they decided to do something – they gave themselves permission to have a few more really sad and bad days, and then on Monday they would get up and start with a plan to recover.
Now I am not saying that you should grieve for only a few days. We teach at our retreats that life will never be the same after devastating loss. A healthy recovery does not mean there are no more bad days, or weeks, or even seasons. I can be in a healthy recovery and feel absolutely terrible for a while. By giving myself ‘permission’ to have those times, and to not fight against those feelings, can be powerful. Though it is extremely painful, is it is necessary. So:
Lesson # 2 – Give yourself ‘permission’ to have really, really, bad and sad days, or even weeks or seasons. When we know those times are going to come, and stop fighting against it, peace can come, perhaps a bit more easily.
Spark of Life exists to give hope – hope that though life can never be the same after loss – life can be rich and fulfilling again– even in the midst of deep pain and sorrow.