Hopeful Grief


The image below began as an experiment. I’ve been looking for the easiest way to allow text to “cut out” any shapes with which it intersects, and I’d come across a tutorial which helped me figure it out 1. Seeing as I needed a word which had some letters dip below the normal line of the text, I thought the central word of my blog title would fit – “hopeful.” I chose a flowing cursive font because it would make for a better example of the technique, and also because flowing text looks like hope to my eye.

The cut out worked fine, as the final image shows, but the result felt incomplete. There needed to be a word in the black box which corresponded to “hopeful.” I didn’t even think before I typed out “Grief.”

Hopeful Grief

As my last post explained, I’ve been living in a state of grief for some time. This grief is reinforced whenever I’m called by our local police to help notify a family of a death. A more raw expression of grief, I will never experience first hand. And all I can do in those moments is agree that having to hear news like that should not be a reality for anyone in this world. It’s wrong that it is a necessity. As a chaplain I’m not there to preach, or give a theological response to the reality of death, I’m there just to be. If a person wants to yell and scream, that comes on me. If a person wants to weep and be just be seen weeping, that’s my role. If a person wants me to share news with loved ones to gather, I do that. When I was asked why I wanted to be a police chaplain during training my answer was that I wanted to be on the side of compassion – when faced with raw grief, that’s my desire.

The one thing I do take initiative on in moments like that is to give permission. As a pastor, I find our culture’s utter inability to grieve unhealthy. We hide from bodies, we allow people to die alone because we “don’t want to remember them that way,” we leave unresolved conflicts with complex personalities simmering in our minds because actually dealing with them would entail admitting their death was real. And giving permission sometimes frees people to fall into the whirlpool of grief, which is where they need to be. People need permission to weep, to fall to pieces 2, or just scream at the unfairness of it all. People who allow themselves permission to grieve come out of the whirlpool healthy and ready to live. People who who refuse this permission tend to not move forward 3. They inevitably become bitter, and the relationships they do have tend to fray because of it. As such, giving people permission to grieve may be one of the more important things I do in my role as both pastor and chaplain.

While grief is necessary, however, it doesn’t flow like script. It’s edgy, and even it’s curved lines meet jagged points and hard corners. Grief has barbs. But grief’s barbs aren’t there to impale, they are there to slow us down. They give us time to fix our memories and stories of a person 4 into our hearts. It’s not pleasant, but it’s good. And so to express this I chose a serif font which exhibited those barbs, but with a hint of curve and flow. Hope can be dimmed, but it’s always peaking through somewhere.

The background is a path because grief is a journey. It doesn’t end with the death of a loved one, or with the closure of a funeral. Active grief can last for years, and as long as a person is continuing to live and is able find some joy during that journey, there is nothing wrong with that.

  1. The command which helps me accomplish this effect in Affinity Designer is “expand stroke.” There’s a lot more to it than that, but a search on how that command works should get you there. 
  2. I encourage folks to “do a task and then fall apart.” As much as they need to. And tell people if anyone asks them if things are “getting back to normal” they are permitted to wack that person with a wiffle ball bat one time. They can’t hit a head, and they have to apologize right away, but “normal” is a lost loved one with us, and no one should be forced to feel otherwise. Life moves forward, “normality” does not. 
  3. Not, “move on.” 
  4. Good and bad.