I experienced great loss right before I went to college, not because I was leaving all that was known but because I found out that all I knew wasn’t as I thought it was. The world did not get my permission when it turned upside down. Nope, the universe didn’t consult me at all. My input, my feelings, my suggestions were not considered. My voice was silenced and there was hardly a warning. Sure, there were signs of movement, change, and shifting but it was subtle and incongruent with the magnitude of what would happen next. It was like a quiet tap on the shoulder to warn of a pending tornado instead of loud, wailing sirens.
I was shocked and mortified. It was disorienting. Down was now up and up was now down. I felt lost. When my world was turned upside down, the map I had was no longer useful or trustworthy. I actually could not tell if the map was wrong or if I had just been reading it wrong all along. Now, it felt like the odds of knowing up from down were always 50/50. So, navigating my way on my own felt impossible.
Change, pain, betrayal, endings and brokenness bring a disorienting grief. Grief is being dropped into a foreign country with a strange culture. The people are different, the cultural norms are different, and the language is different. It requires so much energy just to get around. All that was known and familiar is useless. Grief hears no protest against change, but it amplifies the homesickness.
Many of us don’t speak “grief” because it is an alien and scary language. So instead, we choose a kind of amnesia that forgets pain, death, brokenness, heartache, and loss. But when we forget these things, we create an alter-reality that does not reflect real life. We fabricate our own fantasy-map that doesn’t represent the real landscape that exists. Instead of finding our way, we get more lost and even further thrown.
When you’re disoriented, a false map isn’t much help because you don’t know if your North is the True North. It’s taken a while for me to realize I don’t need a new map but I need Someone who knows the way…Someone who speaks the language…Someone who’s got the whole real world in His hands. Isaiah 53:3 “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
Mollie Johnston is a Counselor for The Barnabas Center. She has her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Tennessee where she majored in Spanish as well as her Master of Arts in Christian Counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is especially passionate about helping individuals who are working through grief, doubts, trauma, relationships, anxiety, depression, self-esteem/identity issues, seasons of loneliness, family of origin issues, and divorce.