Monday, May 18, 2020

Mental Health Awareness Week, day 1

This was me, on the morning of the first day of Mental Health Awareness Week. By the end of this week, I will have taken as many funerals in four weeks as I have taken in an average year since moving to Sunderland. It takes a toll. But right now, we are all grieving multiple complex losses, and constrained in how we are able to mark those losses, and it is taking a toll on us all.

For me, and for many of us, it isn’t unrelentingly bleak by any means. The quiet confidence in that face isn’t faked. There is joy and peace as well as sorrow and restlessness—and part of mental health is recognising these for what they are.

Grief is an active process that involves engagement with the tasks of accepting the reality of our loss; processing the pain; adjusting to a world without what we have lost; and finding an enduring connection with what has been lost in the midst of embarking on a new life.

In our household, we aren’t doing a great job at this. Part of accepting reality is that, unlike soundbites, reality doesn’t deal in ‘Great’ or the need to be the greatest. My presence in our household—not just what I do, but who I am, my personality—has both positive and negative impact on everyone else, and on the sum of the parts. Moreover, the truth is, I am not enough, we are not enough. That’s a painful thing to recognise, certainly painful for the ego, but we were never meant to be enough. And in acknowledging the pain, I am enveloped by the Comforter, the indwelling presence of God's life-giving Spirit.

This same Spirit is the One who leads us out, in time, to fill the world with life again, as Noah was brought out of the ark; and the same Spirit who inspires stories, of continuity and change, that root us deeply within a story of a people who are treasured in the memories of God. There is nothing superficial about these stories, about this Spirit who is more substantial than my flesh and yet rejoices to give life to my burnt-dry bones.

We are frail, and yet we are so very loved. Health, mental and otherwise, interconnected, has its days of freedom and its days of confinement; and both are an invitation to know more of the mystery that animates us. At times, all we can do is wait, trusting that the season of our soul will change, as seasons do. So wait, my soul, in quiet confidence.

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