When I was a kid, I remember being a fan of Charles Schultz' "Peanuts" characters. I watched the specials at Halloween and Christmas, I read the comics every Sunday, and I felt like I knew Charlie Brown, Lucy, Schroeder, Peppermint Patty, Linus, Pig Pen, and Snoopy personally.
It was one of those undercurrents of my childhood that I didn't think much about...much like "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood," the candied apples that the Kitchens family handed out every Halloween in our neighborhood, or World's Finest Chocolate...otherwise known as "band candy." There are others like movie popcorn in a box instead of a bag (and actually affordable) at the Ritz Theater in Thomaston, ice cream cones at Howard Johnsons' motels when we traveled, neighborhood dogs, and knee socks...but I suppose that everyone has their own list.
Yet, the "Peanuts" characters were always there running in the background of my consciousness. Lucy stealing the football. Linus with the thumb and blanket. Schroeder playing the piano and Lucy trying to get his attention.
And then there was Charlie Brown. Nice kid...but he always seemed to have issues with assertiveness. Even his dog had his number. Snoopy was smart, had a vivid imagination, and knew how to do the happy dance.
The happy dance is seriously underrated, by the way. Everyone needs to be able to do the happy dance.
Charlie Brown used to say things like "ARGH!!" and "good grief" and "rats" fairly frequently. At least most of that I personally attribute to him. Or rather to Charles Schultz. Whatever.
Anyway, I started thinking recently about how much change there has been over the past month or so. Somehow around mid-April...life just started spinning out of control. Looking back...it was not only the very real and horrible tornadoes that touched down...but little twisters that took parts of my life that had become a little comfortable and shook them all up as well.
Grief was defined by the oracle (Wikipedia) as a "multifaceted response to loss." It ranges from person to person because we're all so different, but it generally follows a pattern of seven phases: shock, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression, and acceptance/hope. I suppose that some people could blow past one or two of those, but sometimes months or years later the skipped steps come home to roost.
I watched videos and saw pictures of the devastation left from the tornadoes from the late April storm. My daughter and her sorority sisters lost a sister and friend in that storm. It was the third sister that they lost this year, as the other two died in two separate car accidents. I don't know about you...but I think that's a lot for girls aged 18-22 to take in.
I also had a sweet family member that lost her wonderful spouse in one of those shocking and rare health events that can come about with little warning. Their son will be a year old in July.
People I know have lost their jobs, their homes, and in some cases, their will to pick up and try to start all over again. A few years ago, relatively few people were in that category. Today, most of us know someone...or several "someones" who are trying to piece their lives back together.
And then there are those little griefs...stress about money due to an unexpected expense, children leaving the nest, or disappointment because something that was hoped for mightily just didn't come through.
I suppose I'd like to know exactly what "good grief" means...because I've not found grief to be a particularly good thing in most cases.
But it is a necessary thing. Through the grieving process people rethink their lives. They lose enough heart to also lose some inhibitions about trying a new path. They rebuild on a stronger foundation and they appreciate life in a way which would be impossible without the pain.
I know that literally...the expression means that one is irritated with what is going on. I get that. But I also know that it is an odd combination of words. "Good" and "grief" seem like they shouldn't belong in the same sentence...much less side by side.
Actually, most of the time...this is how I feel about it.
But sometimes...we can't focus on the big picture. We have to focus on the corner of the big picture or just one pixel...and keep moving forward.
Maybe your life is all unicorns and rainbows right now. I believe that some who are reading this are probably experiencing just that. Life is a teeter-totter in that way...when some are down...others are up. If you are...enjoy it. Absorb that glow into your spirit and ride it as long as you can. Don't feel guilty about your good fortune...just do what you can to help others who are living life at the other end of the spectrum. In doing so, you may actually give them hope that one day life will be better again.
And for everyone else who is doing all they can to draw in one breath after the next...keep looking up and take whatever crumbs of compassion or light and air that you can find. It won't always be as hard as it is right now. Life has a funny way of taking the most heinous, awful periods in our lives and turning them into something beautiful. The chapter may have ended...but the book is still being written.
I love "Peanuts" and the life lessons that it taught in a short little comic strip or a holiday special.
Whatever grief people are going through right now is going to reshape their lives. Some areas will remain tender and painful forever, and others will heal. Most will come back stronger and more appreciative of life and pain than they ever would have been before. While grief is certainly not something that any of us would wish on another...it is also a part of life in this fallen world.
I wish peace to all of those who are dealing with loss of precious people right now. Those who have found their possessions scattered to the winds or their life a blank slate after years spent building a career. May they feel the prayers of those who are lifting them up and may they find the comfort and strength to get through the unthinkable.
And finally...may they be able to look back on this season of grief and find something good in it.