The shrieking starts.

“See you later, darling, love you!”

I’m prying a two-year-old off her mother, and she clambers over my shoulder, reaching a desperate little hand towards the door. The parent, apologetic and yet still focused on getting out said door, knows her daughter will be happily playing in two minutes or less. I know it, too.

As a preschool teacher, I see it every day. Not with the same child, thankfully, but it’s a normal part of my job.

Separation anxiety.

It’s been quite the year. No denying that. My favourite meme that emerged was simply a white mug with “I miss precedented times”. Priceless. With New Year’s around the corner, we’re expectant things will be different, a little less “unprecendented”. But of course, we have no idea.

This kicks my own personal separation anxiety into gear.

I mean, a kid freaking out when their mom leaves for a few hours seems pretty irrational. But we all know it’s normal, and we don’t get annoyed at them for crying (well, most of the time).

Yet when it comes to the grief we feel in a global pandemic (and for me, indefinite separation from my family)—we anesthetize it all, and convince ourselves I’ll see them again, no point in crying.

But are we sure about that?

A couple weeks ago I stared out my window here in New Zealand (okay, to be specific, I was doing my makeup). Maverick City’s latest album trilled on my phone, but I wasn’t expecting a holy moment. Seriously. I was putting on mascara.

You do realize the temporary separations need to be grieved, too, right?

All of a sudden, it hit me. In the last few years, I’ve faced the fact I need to grieve things I’ve lost. Houses, jobs, countries, relationships. I turned from that annoying optimist to an amateur writer on grief.

But what about the things left in limbo? That haven’t quite ended? The people I will see again, I just don’t know when?

Well—the reality is—I’m not with them now.

And the right response to temporary loss is still grief.

To finish, Jesus never promised easy. And even when He was promising good stuff, He didn’t brush over the hard. Just look what He said the night before his arrest and crucifixion:

“So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice.”

I’ve been reading John 16:22 feverishly for seven years. But I camped so long on the “I will see you again” that I skipped the blunt fact, “you have sorrow now”.

In the words of a story I’ve read many times:

“We can’t go over it.

We can’t go under it.

We’ve got to go through it!”

(Michael Rosen, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt)

It’s only going through grief that we’ll find the comfort we’re longing for.

Blessed are those who mourn,

for they shall be comforted.”

-Matthew 5:4 (ESV)

Photo: Kelly Sikkema