“Everything good seems far away. I’m emotionally and spiritually paralyzed. I feel dead inside,” Jack shared.
Jack’s daughter Chloe was a daddy’s girl. She clung to Jack wherever he went. He adored her.
Chloe grew up in a stable and loving home. She confronted the usual, daunting challenges teens face and emerged from them fairly unscathed. She married her high school sweetheart. They had three kids, two boys and a girl.
One day Chloe was returning from grocery shopping. A thunderstorm had been raging for hours. Chloe’s car hydroplaned, and she lost control. She was killed in a multi-car pile-up. She was 34.
“Dads protect their daughters, but I couldn’t protect her,” Jack said, gazing into my eyes.
Deep loss can produce spiritual numbness
After the death of a loved one, many report a sort of spiritual numbness or fatigue. Trying to make sense of what appears to be senseless can be spiritually exhausting.
All of us have a faith of some kind, even if it’s not clearly defined. We all believe something about ourselves, life, the world, God, the spiritual realm, and the afterlife. In tough times, most of us either lean heavily on our faith, begin to question it, or both.
The death of someone close to us raises deep questions. We search for answers. Our emotions are varied, complicated, and frustrating. It’s easy to become spiritually frustrated too. We experience overwhelm, and spiritual fatigue sets in.
We engage in our usual spiritual activities, whatever they might be, or perhaps we distance ourselves from them. As with the rest of life, we might find ourselves going through the spiritual motions, but feeling little to nothing. What was once powerfully meaningful can now seem dull, drab, and empty.
We can become spiritually numb. This isn’t necessarily negative, but rather the natural result of having our hearts shattered and experiencing grief overload over a period of time.
Spiritual numbness can protect us. It can provide a much needed break from the intense emotional assault and the incessant search for answers. This numbness can be a valuable spiritual rest stop along the grief highway. For most, it’s a temporary state. We pause there for a while, and then re-engage when we’re ready. We all need rest – not just physical, but spiritual as well.
For some, spiritual numbness can be unnerving and frightening. In most cases, however, this is a natural part of the grief process about which we can say, “This too shall pass.”
“Losing you is spiritually exhausting. I’ll honor you by taking my heart seriously.”
An exercise to try:
Write a letter or poem (you choose to whom, knowing this is a letter you will never send) describing how you sense you are doing spiritually. Are you experiencing spiritual fatigue or numbness? What is that like?
After writing, consider talking with someone about what you wrote – a trusted friend, mentor, minister, counselor, etc. Sharing our grief is important, both for us and others.
Spiritual fatigue and numbness are common for those who have lost a loved one. Most often this is temporary. This too shall pass.
Adapted from the 2017 USA Best Book Awards Finalist and Amazon bestseller, Shattered: Surviving the Loss of a Child.
Question: Have you experienced some spiritual numbness or exhaustion? What was that like for you?