We've all seen them - the signs, t-shirts, mugs, and pillows that say variations of the same message "But First... Coffee". We nod and smile because we get it. As adults who are fueled by caffeine, few of us would want to tackle the day, let alone be in the same room with someone we love, before getting our first cup.
I'm with you on that. My best mornings are the ones when I wake up with plenty of time to spare before another human being interacts with me. I like to drink my coffee, spend some time reading God's Word, and - I'll be honest - catch up on some social media, before anyone else is awake. The mornings when I wake up to questions, demands, bad attitudes, or even pleasant smiles before I have my coffee are not pretty. I feel grumpy, unprepared, sleepy, and all around not ready for anything that is in front of me. While that extra half hour of sleep has its appeal, I long ago learned that it's not worth skipping the quiet cup of caffeine that prepares me for what's to come.
There is a sense to doing things in order. There is preparation that is needed, an awakening of sorts, even to face the most mundane of tasks. When things come out of order - when I talk to my child or jump into fixing a problem - before I'm fully ready and awake, things go poorly.
So it is with loss and tragedies of all kinds. In our instant-fix society, we want to rush past the pain to find a satisfying answer, some good news, or a way to bring beauty from the sorrow. Those are all good things at the right time, but disastrous when rushed. We must first grieve. We must label the loss for what it is: senseless, horrible, tragic, evil, too soon, too fast, too sad. Whatever it is, we need to face the truth of it head on. And then we need to grieve it. We need to let ourselves sit in the pain and the sorrow. We cannot fast forward to a place of healing or acceptance without causing some sort of lasting damage from unresolved and undealt with pain. Just as we would not wake up and go immediately into a child's birthday party without a cup (or 2, or 3!) of coffee, so we should not start our grief journey by rushing to experience joy. No, first we grieve.
Grief takes time. It is messy and it is sad. It is an unraveling of sorts - of what we expected, of what our life was, of who we were, or of how we saw the world. We must let the threads of our life before loss and tragedy unravel fully before rushing to tie them back up. Rushing forms knots, and in grief, those knots are formed in our souls.
Slowly, as we let ourselves grieve, healing will come. Slowly, we will integrate loss into living and living into loss. Slowly we will be ready to take the next step and then the step after that. Slowly, we will be able to enter life - not the old life with the old us, but a new life with the changed us - a little more whole, a little more healed, a little more ready to experience more of life.
But first... we grieve.