Christa Hesselink

Learning To Say Yes To Grief

“I hate this, I hate this, I literally hate this so much.”

That phrase is running around my head during one of two instances: a rollercoaster or grief counseling.

I suppose they’re very similar.

They’re both usher in a palpable fear within me. Fear that I’ll get hurt. Fear that I might die. Fear that I’ll discover just how weak I truly am.

And so for the most part I’m very good at avoiding both. I’m good at avoiding the things I hate. Because how often are you asked to ride a rollercoaster of grief or a rollercoaster in general?

Not often.

My friend Christa Hesselink says we’re really bad at grieving.

We’re bad at grieving because we rarely, if ever, practice it. Why on earth would we ever say yes to the invitation grief offers us? Thankfully grief doesn’t darken our doors very often. But when he does we shut him out and hope that if it looks like no one’s home that he’ll pass us by and move onto another sorry soul who didn’t have the foresight to reject his advances.

I don’t know about you but I’m hesitant to say yes to one tear because I’m afraid that means I’ll say yes to them all.

I'm afraid to start crying because I fear I'll never stop. It’s my pride that keeps me from my pain. I don’t have the time or the energy to be inconsolable. I don’t have the strength to be weak. I don’t have the balance to become undone.

So when I read Christa’s book Life’s Great Dare it made me uncomfortable because Christa might be the most embracing person I know. When you read her story you realize that she possessed the wisdom and grace to embrace grief head on, with arms wide open.

There’s a line in her book that says, “Suffering is the midwife to maturity.” And I can’t help but think she’s right. Suffering, grief, the hardest parts about us, what if they’re the key to the vulnerability and the growth we’ve always longed for?

What if it’s in the darkness of our grief that we’re able to look ahead to the horizon and spot the tiniest flicker of light and hope?

I don’t know what your grief is. I don’t know what painful parts about your past you’re afraid to open up. I don’t know what wounds you’ve bandaged up tight. But I do know that even the deepest of wounds need air to breathe. They need light to heal. They need to be exposed even though it stings and burns and we’re ashamed of the ugly scars we might bear.

Maybe you lost something, which could mean a million different things. Loss is a brutal cross to bear. If you lost a loved one, or a relationship, or some money, or a job, or a friend, or a dream, or maybe even yourself, then you my friend know grief in the deepest of ways.

Maybe someone took something from you and you’ve experienced loss that way too. Maybe they took your innocence, or a life, or your heart, or your past. Then you too are no stranger to grief as well.

At the end of the day we can all look around and say life didn’t turn out the way we thought it would. It’s the death of a dream and this vague inexplicable loss might be the hardest of offenses to mourn.

What terrifying fate awaits those of us who learn to say yes to our grief?

I can assure you a more terrifying fate awaits those who don’t.

Because saying yes to grief, exposing our wounds, and asking for help is the only way we’ll be made whole. It’s the only way we’ll be healthy both with ourselves, with others, and with the God we may or may not believe in.

Our willingness to enter into grief has a direct correlation to our ability to experience renewal.

Saying yes starts small. We can’t just take a huge bite out of the yes pie and dive right into our grief or we’ll never fully digest. I’ve had to say “yes” in a million ways as I’ve mourned my losses, one of which was saying “yes” to Christa’s book Life’s Great Dare. And her book isn't just about grief and loss, it's about the beauty that comes from the ashes of those dark places. So if you want to start small I say start there. Progress. Baby steps. One bite at a time.

To be honest, I'm still really bad at saying "yes" to grief. It's so foreign. I can say yes to a million people, places, parties, and commitments but grief often asks too much of me. I still hate it more than I hate rollercoasters. But I am learning, I have good teachers like Christa helping me along the way. When I hear grief calling I'm still very tempted to tell him no one is home. But on my best, or maybe my worst depending on how you look at it, I don't. 

"I answer to the best of my ability. Some days I eat complete shit. Other days I nail it. Mostly I fall somewhere in the middle. This, I've heard, is called being human." -Chloe Caldwell

May we dare to grieve. May we dare to say yes. May we dare to be fully and completely human.