What I Learned About Grieving from A Wrinkle in Time

In mid September of this year, I finally got around to watching Ava Duvernay’s film version of the novel A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’engle. I approached it with hesitation initially, because I was a huge fan of the book as a child and movie adaptations tend to change things, exclude things and sometimes ruin things.

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I went into it open minded nevertheless. In the end I thought it was a wonderful, modern, diverse revision of L’engle’s classic. It was especially exciting for me to see  beautiful Mindy Kaling on screen. Charles Wallace was quite similar to my expectations and Storm Reid, who played his sister Meg, has a bright future in front of her in film.

I think I enjoyed it because for once I decided to shed my guise as the uptight critic making grating, rigid comparison. I decided to appreciate it for what it was. (Wish I could live life like that more often instead of shaving off years by stressing over it all.)

I’m here however not to give a review of the movie but to highlight a single line that got me thinking.

Mindy plays the legendary Mrs. Who, who unreels a series of sagacious quotes to her usually puzzled audience. Of course, I took note of the validity and applicability of each.

One I found particularly striking is by a world renowned Indian poet whose little quips I’ve had appreciation for in the past.

“The wound is the place where the light enters you.” -Rumi

Before you think this is the stuff of fairy tales or the striking words of a Fantasy oracle, I want you to consider how grounded it is.

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My main take away is that you have to look at the thing that has brought you the most pain and face it head on. If you do not address it, you hinder your healing and you allow it to become a source of festering, pain and bitterness.

Storm’s character, a well known protagonIst in the literary world, Meg, has allowed herself to be consumed by bitterness, anger and isolation when her father, the scientist Dr. Murray, disappears unexpectedly for two years.

I thought, well, that “it was a great lesson to learn” at the time. But I did not know that a mere few days later I would experience my own loss.

Coming down to the close of windy, Autumn, September my mum sent me a message. It was brief and to the point, informing me of my uncle’s passing.

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At the start, I don’t think it hit me entirely. I think I was in denial. But I was reminded of a few important things which are necessary in dealing with loss effectively. As Steffany Gretzinger puts it: “Open up, let the light in. “

1. Acknowledge the reality.

I think I was perhaps attempting to put this off and deal with it later, considering that I was overseas in North America. However, when we ignore how we feel about things they find themselves oozing into your everyday emotional stability and breaking it apart gradually like weathering. I was weathered. I had not seen my uncle in quite some time and I thought that that would delay the impact. Yet I found myself randomly bursting into tears as a result of any minor infraction because I was ignoring the fact that I needed to grieve. This was my maternal uncle. This was a person who was present in my childhood. He wasn’t coming back. And I needed to accept that reality in its fullness instead of distancing myself because my emotional breakdowns would remind me that I was not o.k. about it.

2. Let it out.

My key means of getting this done is through tears and words. I’m not usually great at getting things out at the beginning. I’m an honest person but I’m a private person. I have not made a practice of addressing my emotions head on and as a result I’m a gurgle of waterworks and mucous until I find myself. Cry as long as you must. It could be hours, days, years. Cry as much as you must. Yell at the wall. Let God know what you have to say. Ask Him for comfort. Spill as much ink on a page as you can afford. Do not coop that pain up inside of you. Let it out in legal, safe ways please. But ensure that you let it all out.

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3. Find support.

I was thankful for the sympathy that my family received from family, friends and acquaintances; especially from within. When I think back to Meg’s pain, through it all she had Charles Wallace stand by her and endure with her.

It was really helpful to have people who supported her but it helps on another level to have empathy. Somebody who is right there with you feeling every ache. Who is willing to put their feet in those shoes right by you. It’s rare but when found it lifts such a load. Some pain is too great to carry alone. Find people you can trust to help you with it.

4. Don’t let anybody tell you that you’re overreacting.

One factor that bothers me terribly is our tendency to downplay people’s hurts and pains because we do not go through them ourselves. It is a garish show of selfishness when we open our mouths to tell others how invalid their experiences are or that they should just get over it. Or when we act as if they have said nothing at all.

Someone who has just encountered loss or brokenness doesn’t need our insensitivity, they need our sympathy or at the very least our understanding and respect. And if you, the sufferer, have to beg for this, it’s an indication that the people you are around won’t give you the support you need. If you have to get therapy find it. But don’t sit there and suppress because people think the puncture in your heart is a cut on the finger.

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5. Constantly assess where you are emotionally and work deliberately towards healing it.

Everything will be alright but maybe not today. That’s o.k. Take your time. But also make sure you are actively working towards healing. Your loved one should eventually be remembered with joy, honour and tenderness instead of strictly sorrow. As down as Meg was feeling she was willing to get up, fears aside and find her dad. Ask God to hold you together especially in those moments when you no longer can. Just because it hurts again today doesn’t mean you aren’t getting better. Spend some time alone. Be with God. Hang with friends. Get counselling. Do what it takes to heal. Because somehow, when the deceased are gone, we have to find a way to carry on living.

-CiCi

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