The Hardest Thing

Omar Aleman Aleman and Associates

Baseball. No need to ponder, dig deep in the confines of my brain or compare notes; hands down… baseball, that’s what I thought. That’s the hardest thing I had ever done, by far. For most, the answer was sort of a letdown, particularly if they were privy to my sordid past. But, for all my colorful endeavors, it came down to the “national pastime.”

 Nothing, absolutely nothing, can compare in degree of difficulty to hitting a round ball thrown by an expert hurler standing on a small hill 60 feet six inches from me with my only weapon being a wooden stick that barely possesses a few square inches of contact space. This ball comes at differing speeds and angles with the added disadvantage that your opponent dictates when the battle begins; you are always the counterpuncher.  And… there are eight folks in front and one in back who are there to insure my futility in the event of initial success.

 

Loss

That’s what I thought. I was so wrong. By 2012, in the space of two years, I lost both my spouse and my father and painfully realized that the loss of a loved one is the hardest journey we must undertake during our tenure here. Tragic loss brings such profound grief and pain that it cannot be captured in words. C.S. Lewis came close when he wrote, “We can ignore even pleasure, but pain insists on being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience but shouts in our pains, which turns the death of a loved one into an amputation.”

The feeling of loneliness after the passing of a loved one, the uncertainty of the situation, the unsteady footing and the folks looking you over takes me back to baseball’s batter’s box. The “can’t win for losing” atmosphere, the speed in which mourning reaches you every morning and its different sources come to mind. And, it will be a long season, with a string of secondary losses attached to the process until one turns the corner and gets “used” to the “new normal” without the presence of the loved one. While baseball is real, grief is surreal.

 

Not a team sport

Grief, however, is not a team sport, because grief is unique; it must be dealt with individually. No two people grieve the same. When it is all said and done, regardless of the support you may enjoy, the nights are yours alone… literally. Yes, grief is an individual activity, much more akin to golf. You are playing against yourself, there is lots of waiting, the frustration level is immense and the process is filled with shanks with nary a hole-in-one.

 

Support through the process

So when faced with the hardest thing in life, I tried to take the easy way out. Instead of facing the pain head on, I tried to avoid it by circumventing it. Grief  is a process while death is an event; a process takes time and toil. Trying to pretend all is normal in the midst of grief usually backfires. All my attempts at self-medicating my mourning not only proved fruitless, but eventually landed me in the hospital with a severe case of anxiety. It was not until I “leaned into the wave” and joined a Grief Share group, that I was able to reclaim a semblance of normalcy. Our loved ones went through death and we must do the same with grief; going around it is not an option.

 God has given me the opportunity to serve Him in a myriad of ministries, all of which have allowed me to mature in the faith. My stint as a Grief Share facilitator has been, without a doubt, the most arduous and yet the most satisfying of all. The painful realization that every week we must “taste their tears” in order to empathize and assist them in their healing is tempered with the joyous opportunity to share their progress in the journey from mourning to joy. The relationships made here are sincere and steadfast… they are forged in the midst of extreme anguish.

 The time will come when you will face the hardest thing you will ever do. And the human tendency is to tend to it alone. But take it from someone who tried and failed miserably. My mistake was not inviting God to join me during my first grief journey; once I corrected that mistake and accepted His assistance, I was able to successfully finish my trek. And then, to my surprise, the Lord not only gave me back my joy, but gave it in increased abundance. The prophet Jeremiah, known as the “weeping prophet,” was a man of sorrow with a daily diet of hard things, yet his faith pulled him through. Thus, he uttered, “Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”

To find a Grief Share group in your area, go to Griefshare.org.

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