After Great Pain…

After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?                                                                                                                   Emily Dickinson 
“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted                                                                                                                                 Matthew 5:3-4

I am really not into poetry. I do not understand it well, and I prefer prose as my expressive medium. Yet that first stanza of Emily Dickinson’s classic poem has always stayed with me. I remember some times after physical pain that, when the pain subsided, there was a feeling that I could not, and still really cannot, describe. It was like feeling relief, but more than that, it was the sense of feeling nothing.

This I believe, in a way, is how we react to certain traumatic events. That pause, that reprieve, allows us to shove the pain far away in our minds. We do not want to revisit it, so we file it away and try to convince ourselves that it may not have happened.

We see this in trauma work regularly. Dickinson’s line – And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’? calls to mind a sense of timelessness. Time gets lost after trauma, at least for a while, while the mind tries to heal.

I began thinking of this as we encounter our COVID-19 world crisis. It is clearly a life-shaping event, and it is also one we share with the whole world. When this crisis subsides- and it will- how will we make sense of it?

Will we, as the world has collectively done after some crises, somehow forget the enormity of it as it fades into the background and as other crises arise?

I trust that after this crisis gradually fades, we will have learned some very important lessons about our collective responsibility for one another. I hope that we will be better prepared for another worldwide pandemic, when one inevitably arises again.

Life will again be “normal”, but in our quest for normal, I hope that we will have learned from the past, and that we put into place safeguards for the future.

Prayer: Lord help us to learn from the pain we are enduring, to redeem it for good for future generations, Amen.


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