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Between Grief and Hope

So again, going back to my newfound inspiration from music, I came across a song called Between by Satsang. The song relays the idea that we all have purpose and reasons to be grateful. To me. purpose and gratefulness can co-exist with grief.

“No matter what they say, I have purpose I'm followin' my dharma And I serve this This is what I'm aiming for Everything I need and all that I am grateful for And this is where we find out how to live Make me the trees and I swear that I'll give Everything I can to keep air in your lungs Truth on your tongue, the work is never done”

Artwork - Lynda Williams

Grief and recovering from challenges are hard work and work that can sometimes feel “never done”. And, even, sometimes, we can vacillate between hope and grief. These two ends of the spectrum do not have to be mutually exclusive. We can be “between” hope and grief and be okay as long as there is a general moving forward. In fact, if you go back to some of my blogs in May and June, you see that continuum – that vacillation between hope and grief. I had anger, disgust, sadness, acceptance and back to hope.

I was also chatting with Amy Lambert, a fellow hippie and healthcare chaplain who is forging ahead towards a goal of becoming a Physical Therapist. Amy has a very unique perspective – that of patient and minister of health and hope. We got to talking about the grief process and how it can really apply to those with hip pain and dysfunction.

Amy defines grief as an “universal reality for anyone experiencing a change. And a change can range from super small to incredibly major.” Amy shared that she “started looking at grief this way because we often reserve that term for the loss of a loved one, a deep illness, or a major tragedy in one’s life.” She recognizes that sometimes the grief process is pushed aside and not acknowledged or honored regardless of the intensity of the change (big or small).

And what she said next really supported my thoughts about resiliency. People get stuck in their grief and in that place between hope and grief when they “won’t [or can’t] name it, own it, and honor it.” A patient with pain can be experiencing grief, but that person may not know it (or acknowledge it) and sees hope as pointless and wishful thinking. They are stuck.

Amy knows that when she “looks at what many of us experience in this injury and/or surgery - we face a lot of changes and loss even if it is temporary. Not being able to drive when and wherever you want to or be able to get a cup of coffee without help - even though it’s 2-6 weeks - that is still a loss. A loss of ability, a loss of independence, a loss of control, etc. etc. etc. Not being able to pick up your children, not being able to just ‘go out and do what you always do,’ are all changes in this process.” For this Hopeful Hippie, it is simply having the worry and the focus on my hips. And then coupled with this is the unknown. Everyone knows these hip issues can take a year or more to resolve and there is an uncertain future. “We know there is no guarantee for being pain free.” There is a gamble and, again, you are “between” – where you are and where you want to be.

Many patients also experience problems with diagnosis and then treatment. I am fortunate as I did not experience long delays from symptoms to treatment, but there are patients who are shuffled through the medical system. Some are told they are too old or too fat. They are told it’s all in their head. Go here and do this exercise or do that exercise. For some in countries where there is socialized medicine, the wait times to even be seen by a specialist are shocking. These patients are “between”. They are stuck between grief and hope. They don’t even know where they are.

Pain is another “layer” that can put patients “between”. Patients have “pain before surgery. Pain after surgery. Pain showing up randomly after years of no pain.” Pain makes it super challenging to move forward towards hope as Amy affirms that pain can be “emotionally exhausting whether it is a 1 or a 10. To have it intermittently or constantly - pain is more than just a physical thing - it wreaks havoc on the mind as well as the body.” It leaves you “between”.

Pain, lack of independence, lack of diagnosis are all things that can contribute to grief. They are all things that can contribute to getting stuck between hope and grief. Amy relays that these “things build up over time and when we don’t recognize them - they will become very big things that squash some of the potential of holding hope.”

Amy definitely encourages not sitting and whining but reaching out to others who understand and are going down this similar journey. And trying not to get stuck in the “between”. Always trying to move forward towards hope at the same time as honoring the grief.

She shares this picture of hope and fear going hand in hand. “Replace the word fear with grief - and it is the same thing. We have hip pain - regardless of what we choose to do with it - we are facing a change and change can have grief attached to it (even positive happy and hopeful change can still have notes of grief stages).”

Amy’s thoughts have really reaffirmed my journey through grief which I had never really named as such. “Even if the changes are temporary for some it is okay to honor and name [it as grief and to recognize] that having a loss due to this injury is a reason to grieve.” Amy continues to help me see that naming these feelings can be, “one of the most freeing things I have found. I can have hope and still have times of sadness and anger at things I’ve lost without being consumed by that anger/sadness.” I can move forward and not be “between”.

Amy believes that honoring grief “allows [her] to hope more fully. It allows [her] to hold hope for others more honestly.” I believe the same. If you cannot name your grief and give it the respect it deserves and you deserve, then you will be stuck “between”. Move forward, know your purpose, and “find out how to live” (Satsang).

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