Growing up, I don’t know that I ever fully appreciated or understood the meaning behind the Easter holiday. I loved chocolate and bunnies, and I liked that the season was one of beginnings and joy. But this year, the idea of re-birth and transformation hits home in a new way because, unlike when I was a kid, I have contemplated the first step in resurrection: death.
The sermon at my church today asked us to consider what part of us is stagnant and needs resurrecting. As I sat listening to the rolling r’s of my Scottish minister’s words, I realized that grief is its own process of death and resurrection. I have been slowly coming back to life since my dad died two years ago, and this new person, with new perspectives and a permanently altered existence, takes some getting used to.
When my dad passed away, some pieces of me froze, some parts disappeared, and some broke into unrecognizable shapes. The depression of grief is like an emotional and mental death (though it also has many physical aspects as well). I lost touch with who I was. There was serious stagnation and hopelessness in my heart, and key pieces of myself seemed unreachable.
The hardest part of any change is the loss. When that loss is a fundamental and formative person, such as a parent, it permeates every aspect of your identity. But following death and loss, we have the potential to grow into something entirely new. Sometimes, people like to simplify this and say it ‘makes you stronger,’ but the reality is more complex.
Starting over is a long process, and it’s scary, lonely, and difficult. Maybe we end up stronger in some ways, but also more sensitive or more guarded in others. Maybe we aren’t better or worse, just different. A few more jagged edges, a new scar or two, and our insides completely rearranged.
It took me at least nine months after my dad passed away to start to feel emotions on the positive end of the spectrum again. It took another six before my shifting pieces seemed to begin to settle into their new homes. And now, two years and two months after my dad passed, I can finally start to peek inside my sensitive newness with a gentle and open-minded wonder.
Like opening a box after its been rolled down a flight of stairs, I don’t know what to expect.
My point, I suppose, is that the original resurrection story takes only a few days. Renewal and transformation seem to be presented immediately to the world. Humans do have a fascination with the big reveal. Makeover shows take advantage of this, as do diet and exercise programs. We like being able to have a date to declare a ‘new’ personhood. But my experience is not like that at all.
When you’ve died in some way, approaching life again can feel like inching your way out of a dark cave. You need time to adjust to the light, the air, the rain, the grass. And even when you finally reach the open world, you will be unsteady on your new feet.
Like a baby, we have to learn to do everything again as a new person. I think it goes a little faster the second time around, but that doesn’t mean it happens in a week. Or a month. Or a year. We slowly discover where each piece has fallen, which parts of us are nowhere to be found, and where there may be new nooks and corners to explore.
Maybe resurrection is more about the left behind than the deceased. Whether or not you believe Jesus was physically resurrected, it is apparent that his followers were forever altered by his death. Their personal journey of loss and renewal is its own resurrection story, and it’s one I think we can all relate to. Grief is one of the most unique and vital of human experiences, bringing us to our lowest despair, our fullest love, and perhaps, our truest resurrection.