Grief can be so disorienting. When we lose something that is precious, the world feels out-of-balance, off-kilter. It’s as though we’ve been dropped in another country where we can't speak the language and we have no map. And so, we try to keep moving, even though all we want to do is to curl up in a little ball. For me, there are often times of feeling numb and muddled. Times come when I’m so deep in my grief that I feel detached from everything around me. Other times when I feel as though every nerve is on maximum alert, an intensity where even the little inconsequential things are magnified. There’s no rhyme or reason for this ebbing and the flowing. Feelings shift, back and forth. Sometimes subtly, sometimes with a jolt. All I know is that I wish I was anywhere but right where I am.
Grief can make it so easy to feel lost. Literally and figuratively. Getting lost can come when I’m not able to concentrate and pay attention. I get lost when I’m in an unexpected place. I find that I get lost when landmarks change. It doesn’t take much for me. Grief can bring all of these things into play, sometimes more than one at a time. When I am lost in grief, it is so difficult to concentrate and to hold any of my thoughts together. This sense of being dis-placed can be so exhausting. It’s so easy to lose my way.
A compass isn’t a big thing, really. It can fit in the palm of your hand. Mine fits in my pocket. It’s easy to even forget that it’s even there. Until I need it. And then, it can make all the difference.
My son, Sam is a thinker. I go to him every time I need something explained with patience and grace. Sam has explained to me how compasses work more than one time, and I still don’t understand. This little disk in my pocket is all I need to make my way in the world; it’s what I need to bring me back home. Sam says it’s something about magnets and pullings and opposites attracting and being drawnin a direction that is always true. It’s probably as much as what it symbolizes for me as what a compass can actually do for me. But, somehow, having this representation is enough to bring comfort.
In this Advent season we are held in symbols. Objects that can mean much more than what we can immediately see. These symbols can serve as guides for drawing us in and drawing us closer to what we are seeking. For me, pulling a compass out of my pocket and holding onto this little object reminds me of a force greater than what I can see – this act alone can sometimes be enough.