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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson

Grief (Un)spoken

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

A long time ago I had an important conversation with my mom. She was remembering the day she and my dad dropped me off at college as a freshman. The hoopla of the welcome-week committee. Meeting their daughter’s first-ever away-from-home roommate. (A great gal named Cindy who was my complete opposite in all the right ways.) The for-parents-only sessions which instructed first time college moms and dads on the finer points of detaching. And the drive away. It was the drive away my mom was remembering, years later, in our pivotal conversation. When she’d told me how she’d grieved and cried.

I hadn’t realized she’d cried.

Which was my own naiveté more than anything. I suppose most of us don’t really GET IT until years later when our own are grown and we do the drop-off ourselves. Then you know firsthand what it feels like to have a chunk of your heart ripped out. Now I get it. But back then I didn’t know. Which is why the looking-back conversation with my mom was so important. Because when she told about the grief and the tears, it was something I really needed to hear—and I received it as love.

This post is like that. At least a little. This post is words I could very easily leave unspoken. But then the people the words are about would never know something important. And I think they need to know.

I have been grieving lately. And mostly the sadness has been my own season-of-life processing, an important journey of letting go and moving on. I’ll say a bit more about that at the end of this post. But there’s something more. There is also a part of my grief that has to do with unspoken love. And there are some people who maybe need to know.

These people are my former coworkers at my previous church. It is the staff I was a part of for twelve-plus years before resigning and transitioning to my new church home in my new community. The staff I bid farewell over a Zoom call at the end of summer 2020. Despicable timing. The fact that I all but vanished made the transition seem deceitfully easy in the moment, but has created a bit of insanity related to unresolved closure. Thus this post.

That said. I need to tell a few people how much I’ve missed them. I have missed my job…my church…my pastors…my coworkers…my Constance Free Church family. What I had for 23 years as part of your body…and the twelve years I spent as a member of your staff…was very, very good…and I am very, very grateful. And just in case it wasn’t clear in the Zoom call (eye-roll) let me be clear now. Sort of like dropping off your college freshmen, grief has a lot to do with letting go of something very good, and knowing things will never be the same again. Even while knowing in the depths of your heart—it will very likely turn into a different sort of good.

My life right now is ridiculously good. But it’s not the same. And even though I daily recount all of the blessings of this season, I also wake up at night remembering and missing some things I once had. The church ministry position customized just for me that won’t ever exist anywhere else. Twelve years of being a valued voice at welcoming table. Pastors who knew me and loved me. The church that raised my family…knew our story. Coworkers who served as road-trip therapists. (That’s mostly you, Jill.) I could go on and on. The point being. I just want y’all to know you are loved and missed.

Okay. Moving on. Because it is time-and-then-some for me to MOVE ON.

This moving-on has always been God’s leading, for both myself and my husband. God has been ridiculously generous in his leading, as well as his provision. New home, new friends, new church, new work. All of it is very good, and when it comes to gratitude, I don’t have to look far before bursting forth in heartfelt praise. I am grateful. Thankful for what was, and thankful for what is.

A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with a new coworker who listened with genuine compassion as I processed my struggle with letting go and moving forward. Wendy told me about a time when she grieved, too—a church and a job and a season of loss. And also a time of new beginning. It helped just knowing someone else has been there and done that. The conversation felt like permission to grieve, but also permission to move forward. I knew in my spirit it was time to let it go. Time to release.

I follow a ministry leader named Christine Caine on Instagram, and she recently published a new book called Don't Look Back: Getting Unstuck and Moving Forward with Passion and Purpose. I haven’t read it, but I obviously ought to. Yesterday I copied her Insta post word-for-word into my journal:

Letting go of the old in order to embrace the new is not an easy thing to do, especially if you are sentimental, loyal or simply prefer predictability and routine. It takes both a mind shift and a laser focused commitment to loosening your grip on what was so your hands are free to embrace what is and what the future could be. It is difficult to do this when our hearts are involved, our emotions are involved, or our minds have mapped out the path we thought God was going to take us through. You have to allow yourself some time to adjust to a new normal and unfamiliar people, places and things. But—at some point—you will have to decide that you are going to go where Jesus is going and not remain where he once was. It’s time to embark into a new thing. God is with you and for you in this new season.

Okay then. Jesus—I really am ready. Going where you're going. Right behind you as we embark on this new thing.

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