Grief and Joy: A New Year Reflection

January 11, 2021

The New Year has begun. This week we sat down to talk about looking back to 2020 and looking forward to 2021. Overall, for those that this post falls into the category of TLDR 1TLDR: Too Long Didn’t Read, we’re pretty excited about the year ahead.

Jack: So we’ve closed out 2020, and we’re now looking out over 2021. Before we talk about the new year, let’s talk about the year that was.. 2020. How was the year for you?

Rebi: A bit mixed. Like a lot of people, it started with anticipation and excitement. We had just got engaged, and we were hoping for a year of celebrating that with people, obviously getting married, and all the things that come with that. But obviously, not many things went to plan. As I look back over the year there is tension between grief and joy.

Jack: Say a bit more about that grief and joy?

Rebi: I think it’s our human instinct to want things to be clear cut or certain. But 2020 showed us that life isn’t always like that. I’ve been finding that things can contain both grief and joy at the same time. For every moment that brought grief, through loss, cancellations, there was also an opportunity for a new thing as well. For me, 2020 was about tuning into both of those emotions.

Jack: In some ways I think you may have asnwered my next question in that answer. I’ll ask it anyway. What have you been learning this year?

Rebi: Yeah, that. Erm… (silence). Yeah, mostly that. And a deepened respect for the mystery of God and how we… engage with faith in collective trauma like this pandemic.

Jack: The mystery of God. I like that. I’d love to talk about that for longer, and hopefully we can later this year, but I wonder if you could maybe say something about that ‘collective trauma’?

Rebi: For the first time in lots of our lives, we are not only experiencing trauma individually, but we are united in the traumas that we are each experiencing. Cheesy as it sounds, we’re all in the same storm, not in the same boat, and that’s been useful to me as I think about navigating the pandemic, global events, black lives matter, the climate crisis and other issues. This feels like new territory for lots of us as we navigate it because we are experiencing the same thing, but all in different ways.

Jack: There is something about the word collective that stands out, as you’ve said. It’s unique, new, uncharted, and I think that is partly true because of how revealing it is to be ‘in it together’ so to speak.

Rebi: Yeah, because usually we are all dealing with different stuff separately, and we can escape from it. There is something about collective trauma that can feel a little all-consuming.

Jack: Maybe we could spin off and talk more about that, again. That’s so good. As the situation continues, and certainly in the UK we are still in lockdown, is there any advice you can give to someone that feels overwhelmed by this?

Rebi: I certainly don’t think there are any easy answers or quick fixes. The turn of the new year didn’t bring it’s usual reset. However, being in the midst of winter has been a comfort to me as I realise that things are still growing beneath the ground. One of the ways I am navigating this season is trusting the stuff going on beneath the ground, and trying to be attentive to things in my own life. I would say to people to take encouragement from the smallest of moments, and on a practical note, trying to keep healthy in my body and my mind enables that attentiveness to come more easily. As well as continually talking with those we love about how we are feeling, as hard as that can be at times.

Jack: Good advice. So looking forwards, what are you looking toward? Are you able to have hope for the year ahead?

Rebi: I wrote on our Christmas card the line ‘the light shines in the darkness but the darkness cannot overcome it’. This is my hope. Though I am struggling to look forward to concrete things, the belief that it’s not always winter is the thing that is allowing me to hope. Death doesn’t have the final say.

Jack: In the next few weeks, as you know, (but those reading might not!) we are going to try out something called What Feels Important, where we ask a few people that specific question. So, as that is coming up, I want to ask you our final question: What feels important today?

Rebi: I feel like I’ve said it already! For me, it’s the reminder that it’s not always winter. The process of winter and the transition to spring is charted territory, it’s not unknown, it’s well-trodden by humans. God isn’t worried by winter or waiting for days to get longer. That feels important today.

Jack & Rebi Hedger

Jack & Rebi Hedger

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