I heard the news about Newtown at 1 p.m. last Friday. I was in the middle of training a coworker on some website updates, and both of us just froze, in utter shock.
Who does that?
We did the compulsory browsing of the Internet for recent articles, clicked on links that led to other links, which led to charts that showed what we already knew: the United States is far beyond other countries in terms of gun use. We browsed until we found a timeline of mass shootings in our country. I read it word for word and got more despondent. We felt the deep pangs of disgust.
And we didn’t know how to respond to our feelings.
I felt like the recent news deserved at least a somber moment of silence, a break from our normal work to acknowledge that something huge and ugly had just happened. But my coworker and I both agreed there was nothing to do, and it would be easier to distract ourselves from reality and just keep working.
Avoiding My Sadness
That night I thought to myself, Okay, you’ve stuffed your emotions down during work, which is kind of justifiable because you needed to focus and get things done, but now you’re home, so turn on the news, face reality, and let yourself mourn.
I turned on the news, watched it for about 10 to 15 minutes, and then turned it off, more upset than before. And not just from the videos and pictures. I was frustrated at the sensationalist portrayal by the news. The event was not presented in a somber way. It was not mournful. It was intense, drama-filled, and melodramatic. And it didn’t help me process my emotions.
So I avoided my emotions more.
I found solace in watching How I Met Your Mother and Wheel of Fortune, and in busying myself around the house.
A few days later, another friend told me about a man she knows, 25 years old, who is dying of cancer. After we talked about it for a few minutes, she said, “I’m going to watch some Hulu to get my mind off of it.” That seemed like a mildly abrupt transition to me, but I went back to what I was doing and moved on.
Jesus Totally Mourned
By Tuesday night, though, I was overcome with emotions. I was thinking about all the sad news I had heard lately, and decided I should write about it. Mourning is a healthy thing, I told myself. We need to do it. They did it in the Bible. God is very clear in describing mourning as a natural, healthy part of life as a human being on earth. I want people to know they should mourn—that they should dive into it. Jesus totally mourned. Avoiding emotions is bad. I’ll write a blog post to encourage others not to run from painful things, but to go through them, knowing that Jesus is taking them through all of it.
So I sat down with my computer, ready to write. I was on an emotional adrenaline rush, ready to explain to all blog readers how mourning is so good, and how God is so faithful to lead us through the difficult times and the hard questions in life. I have, after all, experienced his provision for me in this way—very deeply and powerfully, in fact.
But of course I needed to check Facebook first. Really quick.
Avoiding My Sadness Some More
Half an hour later, I remembered I was going to write a blog about mourning.
But my emotions were gone. I had lost my writing mojo. And the mourning had gotten pushed under the rug once again.
Plus, I was tired. I went to bed.
Wednesday night I was in a funk. In addition to the Connecticut tragedy, and the daily world news that I faithfully read, I am mourning some losses in my personal life. I took out my frustration on my boyfriend, and then got more frustrated because he didn’t respond how I wanted him to.
My soul was tired, hurt, and just plain sad.
But of course I needed to check Facebook before bed. Really quick.
Embracing the Sadness
By the grace of God, somehow, after checking Facebook, I remembered this blog that I had been meaning to write.
So I wrote it.
It felt great to stop avoiding writing about mourning.
It felt great to stop avoiding mourning.
It felt great.
So . . . stop avoiding mourning.
Marissa Newman was on campus staff for four years and is now the national coordinator for the Global Urban Trek. She is a strong believer in mourning and seeking Jesus’ presence in difficult times. And she cannot live without crossing cultures, deep relationships, and European espresso.
You might also be interested in Scott Bessenecker's reflections on the goodness of lament.