Niki Kirby grief post sept 2021



—niki kirby / 09.16.21
a time for everything-grief
There is a time for everything. A season for every activity under heaven.
—Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Yesterday morning I burst into tears in church before the sermon had even begun. Last Friday, I cried to a friend on the phone. I bawled my eyes out the other day when I was alone in my car after dropping off my kids at school. I cried watching The Lord of the Rings with Jude. And then, I cried again last night while watching Ted Lasso. I even cried when an Imagine Dragons song came on the radio and then again when We will Rock You by Queen came on.

It would appear, despite many denials on my part, that I am apparently upset about something.

Last year during quarantine there was a Disney “family sing along” tv special where famous actors and musicians were recorded from home with their families singing everyone’s favorite Disney songs. It was sweet and heartfelt and happy….and I bawled my eyes out through half of it. At the time, this emotional, visceral response was completely foreign to me. I didn’t quite understand why something so happy had triggered such a rush of, well, sadness. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Happy things should make you happy, right?? Where was this coming from?

Turns out I was grieving that night and wasn’t even aware of it. Grief has a funny, almost sneaky way of making itself known. And try as we may to circumvent the process, grief will have none of it. One way or another, grief will have its turn.

This past weekend when those unexpected tears came, it didn’t take me long to figure out what the issue was. Grief. My grief responses were unleashed yet again, and they caught me off guard again somehow, with their suddenness and intensity.

Things are fine. I’m fine. Everything is fine. Right?

And yet, we are not fine, friends. You don’t go through what the world went through and come out unscathed. That’s just not how it works. Even the most resilient human on earth cannot walk through the uncertainty, divisiveness, and deprivation that the pandemic caused, without being at least a little shaken. And shaken we are.

So, in hindsight, it makes total sense that I reacted the way I did. Because even if for the moment things may very well be fine, that doesn’t change the fact that we have collectively been through some serious stuff. And one way or another, our bumps and bruises are determined to be seen and tended. Even if it means bursting into tears in the produce aisle to get our attention. Grief will find its way to the surface.

Now, you could argue that there are far worse tragedies we could have walked through…especially when you compare the “privileged” western world to much of the third world. Many would say we should just count our blessings and keep things in perspective. They might ask, “What right do we have to complain?” And they would not be wrong, except that grief just doesn’t work that way. And let me be clear, grieving is NOT the same thing as complaining. Brene Brown speaks at length about the idea of “comparative suffering” and the damage it can do. I’ll definitely dig into that topic another day, but for now, let’s let go of any added guilt over how painful our bruises feel and ideas regarding how we should be handling things, and instead, let’s just sit with what is. Let’s process without the pressure of measuring our hurts against some sort of litmus test to gauge whether they qualify as “real trauma.” Trauma is trauma, and the body simply does not discriminate.

And so, here we are again…we may have run a marathon in our attempts to dodge the reality of our pain, but alas we find ourselves individually and collectively operating in what author John Eldredge calls “diminished reserves.” We are tired. We are grieving, and many of us are dangerously coasting on fumes. As much as I would like to rush past the slow, uncomfortable process of healing to jump straight into the adventure and fun and joy and zeal of life, quite frankly, that would just not be wise. There are neglected places in my soul that evidently need tending.

Here’s the thing, no one WANTS to sit with grief. Why on earth would anyone want to re-live any kind of painful trauma, no matter how small?  So why bother? What’s the point of grieving anyway?

Grieving allows us to give purpose to our pain. I believe that. But for that purpose to be birthed, our tender spots must first be tended. Pain left unattended in the dark, hidden places of our souls does not birth purpose…it doesn’t birth at all, but instead just brings death and decay. Like an old apple in the back of a forgotten cubby, when left alone for too long, it  festers and eventually rots. Only when we bring things to the light can they heal.

There’s a reason the Bible says, “blessed are those who mourn.” To mourn, grieve, and lament is to heal and to grow. Much like how in nature a seed must first be crushed to reproduce life, we too sometimes must live through the painful pressing process of grieving to grow.

I wish I could say that this healing process was easier. I wish I could offer you a proven five step plan to “get back to normal.” Unfortunately, I have no such thing. What I do have is a living, breathing, powerful, and very real God who promises to step right smack into the middle of our pain with us. He promises to make beauty from ashes and to gently hold the mother sheep with her young. He promises to carry the young close to his heart. He promises to heal our bruised, tender spots if we will allow him to. And he promises that a “bruised reed he will not break.”

And so today, I am choosing to not ignore the pain and hurt but rather acknowledge it. I will allow myself the space to sit with Jesus and simply lament the losses and hurts and fears of the last 18 months, perhaps even longer, allowing him to minister to my battered heart. There’s a time for silliness and laughter. There’s a time for adventure and excitement. But perhaps more importantly, there’s a time to simply grieve and lament.

One day soon I hope to be able to write about the fruit that this season has yielded me. I hope to offer you a clearer, more seasoned bit of advice on the how of grieving. But for today, I simply offer you an invitation to join me in both the  acknowledging that you have been through some things and the act of  laying those things out in the light for Jesus to start healing.


For everything there is a season,

a time for every activity under heaven.

A time to be born and a time to die.

A time to plant and a time to harvest.

A time to kill and a time to heal.

A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to cry and a time to laugh.

A time to grieve and a time to dance.

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.

A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

A time to search and a time to quit searching.

A time to keep and a time to throw away.

A time to tear and a time to mend.

A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

A time to love and a time to hate.

A time for war and a time for peace.

—Ecclesiastes 3:1-8