How are you doing since your loved one died? I have been taking notice in talking with people who are in grief or in emotional trauma as to what their standard response is to this question. O, they say, “I am staying busy.” I have been considering this response by people for some time now. I am no psychologist or counselor but I understand what it means to grieve and to be traumatized by sudden loss. I have come to some conclusions in my own consideration of this matter. I am not too sure that I see it all clearly, but the following are some things I have observed. Why do we respond to trauma this way? Why do we answer this question in this way?
Our minds are continually busy and much activity fills our days. We run, we rush and rush until life’s no fun. We go, go go until we run out of gas and lay on our beds where we are suddenly confronted by the stillness. Busyness can be something that occupies space, it fills a vacuum that we don’t want filled with our pain or our present reality. Business fills our minds, our time and our days with allot of stuff. Stuff that is easy to manage and stuff that is perhaps easier to deal with than the heavy things. Stuff like hobbies, entertainment, projects, work, vacations, busy doing this and busy doing that.
Having lost a son I recently asked another father in the same situation what do you do on holidays when it gets tough. O, he says, I work on those days- I stay busy because my most difficult times are at home where it is quiet and I’m alone.
A grieving daughter who had lost her father recently said she has been devouring books. Why, I asked? It helps me escape reality, I am in a different place and can be free for a time from my pain. I totally understand that, grief is a leach and sucks the life out of you. It is constantly attached to you and escapism is something I have found myself doing as well.
These are just a couple recent encounters I have listened to and contemplated, there are many more that followed the same track. I have learned even by my own experience that busyness is a defense mechanism I have in place to counter my fears, anxieties, grief and my pain. I chuckled at this when I remembered the E-Trade commercial from few years back. Solitary confinement- just a man and his thoughts. The quiet confronts us and we begin to remember our trouble and begin to sing the old spiritual, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, nobody but Jesus.”
The quiet got ahold of me recently while on a visit to Angoon Alaska.
The business ended, the quiet set in and the stillness moved my heart to my pain. I hear people say that there is coming a time when the memories will be sweet. I am looking forward to that day because the memories are still bitter sweet for me at 17 months out. There isn’t a calendar existing that will show me when that day is to arrive- it is my hope that it will arrive sooner than later.
Perhaps staying busy is a numbing agent for grief and pain. It seems to be a standard reply, especially by those who are working through the early sorrow filled days.
Perhaps being still and feeling the pain is the best balm for the wound. I must walk through it, I cannot go around it so maybe the best way to heal is for me to be still. In those moments, in those times of silence we hear the comforting voice of Jesus who says, “I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you.” And I reply, “Even so, come Lord Jesus!” and begin to hum the old hymn, The Comforter has come.