I was 22 when my father and stepmother were killed. It was the first major loss (aside from my parents’ divorce at age 9) I’d ever experienced. I was in college and living off campus. When I returned to school after the funerals, I couldn’t sleep. I was afraid of the dark. I lived in the second largest city in New York and there were street lights outside my window, but I couldn’t sleep without a lamp.
One night, in an attempt to be brave, I turned off the lamp. After staring nervously into the darkness for some time, I finally fell asleep. I woke up later that night but didn’t get up. Light streamed in from a street lamp outside the window on the far side of my bedroom, creating shadows. That’s when I saw what looked like someone standing in front of my closet. I tried to grasp what I was seeing. I’m pretty sure I stopped breathing but my heart continued to thud heavily in my chest. I was terrified. I didn’t want to turn on the light because I knew someone or something was standing there, waiting to attack me. I had to do something but I was frozen. Finally, I reached out to turn on the lamp. And there it was!! An overcoat. I neglected to hang it inside the closet. Yup. No Grim Reaper, no, no… I was nearly frightened to death by a coat.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” – MLK
In the shadows, it may be hard to figure out what you’re seeing and it can seem extremely scary. Once light is shed, we can properly determine if it’s a threat. If something is hidden in darkness, we don’t see it and usually won’t worry about it. Grief and loss can cause a lot of darkness in your life, from your mood to your outlook on life. Loss is not just loss of life, either. It’s in those times you may find yourself angry with God, questioning and wondering why He would let us suffer. Perhaps the pain is so great, you purposely separate yourself from others and build up defenses to protect yourself, fearing you’ll be hurt again. (Doesn’t really work, by the way.)
The only way I know of to drive out the darkness is to have the courage to let the light in. Sound like a bunch of crap? Depending on your mindset, it may sound exactly like that but I can testify that it works. When I say let light in, I mean that even in the midst of adversity, you must have hope that things will get better. It helps if you temper it with a healthy dose of realism but acceptance of where you are goes a long way toward moving into an emotional space where you aren’t as afraid.
Don’t Let Fear Keep You In Darkness
It’s often said that courage is not the lack of fear, it’s knowing the risks and moving forward any way. If you are struggling with grief, please don’t go through it alone because you’re afraid no one will get it. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you should be “over” it because a certain length of time has passed either. Surround yourself with positive people who are supportive and understanding, even if they don’t know what to say. Grieving takes time – a lot of time (even a lifetime) but once you feel well enough to “turn on the light,” just do it, or you could find yourself “profoundly stuck” as my brother says. You can either stay where you are or use the grief to propel yourself higher. I guarantee you’ll come away with a renewed sensitivity to others dealing with similar situations or emotions. In other words, use what you’re going through to help others… flip that fear to courage to let your light shine.[biblegateway passage=”2 Corinthians 4:6″ display=”2 Corinthians 4:6″]