Connecting in the Chaos: How to Hurt
When I began this column, I believe that somewhere in the first article was a loose commitment to make people giggle. Considering the days we are living through right now, I am not sure I can keep that commitment. I don’t know what is happening at y’all’s house right now, but over here at casa de Morgan we are not exactly cracking up. To be very honest, between the global health concerns, social unrest, and natural disasters, we are often trying not to sink into a depression under the weight of it all. More succinctly put, we are sad.
We are hurting over our own losses. 2020 was supposed to be one once-in-a-lifetime celebration after another… or so we thought. Work was suspended, friendships became digital, and Sunday worship happened on the corner of Facebook and Youtube. I am not saying it was all bad, but I am saying that every week demanded we let another plan, hope, etc., fall from our hands.
We are hurting over our neighbors’ losses. We are not the only ones grieving. We don’t have to leave our neighborhood to find shared sorrows. There were other graduates. There are those whose jobs have been impacted. The disappointments over celebrations that had to shift to a conference-style call were happening at other houses, too. Friends had to leave loved ones at the hospital. Funerals were attended by only nuclear family members.
We are hurting over our nation’s losses. This is very tender ground. I don’t have words winsome enough for the hurt, grief, fear, and anger that we as a nation are experiencing.
So, how do we connect in all of this chaos? This isn’t the normal chaos of an overscheduled, overwhelmed family. This is global, national, neighborhood chaos that is wearing out our hearts and minds. Currently, we are connecting by teaching our kids how to hurt. Why in the world would we do that? We want to do that because these will not be their only hard days and we want them to know how to walk that road well.
For most of us, when we face pain, our first instinct is to make the pain stop. That is great when you touch a hot pot. However, so much of our pain is internal… and out of our control. Illness, job loss and stressors in relationships are not things we can just choose to avoid. These are the kinds of things that demand our attention and presence. Sadly, most of us want to treat these things like a hot pot; and we spend our energy trying to make the pain stop. We have lots of methods. Denial, substance abuse, stoicism, becoming so busy we don’t have time to hurt… the list goes on. Many of us do not know how to hurt in a way that sees us through the pain so we spend all our effort trying to get around it. When my kids are grieving something significant and they just want it to stop, I remind them that there are no roads around “this.” The only road is through this. They are going to have to feel this.
In order to do this, most children will need help. Here are a few ways we try to guide our kids through tough things:
Help them learn how to identify when they are hurting and how to express that verbally. Kids often express their feelings without understanding what is at the root. They know that they are angry, but they will often need help figuring out why they are angry. It’s easy to respond to an angry child with your own anger. Yet asking them questions about why they feel that way will get everyone further in the long run. Eventually, they learn to ask themselves these questions.
When they are finally able to tell you what is at the root of that hurt, grieve with them. Share their burden. Don’t tell them it will be ok… at least not at first. Agree with them that it is a painful thing and let them have the time they need to feel that pain. Grieving is not what crushes us. Running from and stuffing down that grief crushes us.
Lastly, help them hope. Hope is powerfully sustaining during difficult times. Hope reminds us that the darkness of our tunnel will not last forever. The source of that hope matters. Empty clichés lead to bitter adults and understandably so. For us, Jesus Christ has been a generous wellspring on dark days.
Staying connected in a time when all we really want to do is go and hide in a hole until the storm blows over is difficult, to say the least. However, our shared sadness can bind us together in sweet ways if we will do just that… share our sadness.