Moxie and Joy Step Through Able Grief

MoxieSS4“Well, o.k. then! Prepare for incoming missiles of counsel!” Joy shifted on the couch and Moxie just laughed.  “Here it is, straight from Dr. Joy at no charge!”

“Wow! What a deal! Free session in the Brighterday clinic, and all to save my young love life. Can’t beat that!” Moxie leaned back in the recliner then, allowing herself to relax a little as Joy took a deep breath before the plunge.

“Well, first of all, if I had to guess, I’d say Able is going through something like grief. In fact, it’s probably very similar, although the steps, or stages, may be a little mixed up.”

“You mean, like, the stages of grief. Denial, anger, sadness and whatever else?”

“Yeah, whatever else.” Joy laughed. “Honestly, if he hasn’t hit them all, he probably will, because if you think about it, it really is like he’s lost somebody … in fact, a whole lot of somebodies, including his own life, in a way.”

“I get that…” Moxie turned it over in her mind. “Not that I’ve thought of it quite like grief over losing a loved one … but I guess that’s really kind of what’s happened. I knew it was serious when he decided to move out, leave his church, and essentially bid farewell to so many people he’s known for most of his life… Guess it really is  like death.”

“Yep, it is. And so don’t be surprised if you find him going through some denial, just like people do when they’re grieving. You know, the whole world suddenly seems emptier, and confusing, maybe even senseless. Of course, early in the whole process, denial is a kind of God-given survival mechanism that kicks in to help us cope. All the emotions raging around inside are just too much for us to take all at once and, so, we only let in a little bit at a time.”

“So…” Joy continued. “One day pretty soon – maybe even tomorrow, who knows – Able may wake up flying high as a kite, saying, ‘Oh my God! Everything’s wonderful! Life is great!’ But then, you’ll know everything’s not  wonderful, and that’s where you’ve gotta be careful. Take it as it comes, of course, but soberly … almost with a grain of salt. This early in the game everything is far from being wonderful. It can’t be; not quite yet.”

“Then there’s the anger, I suppose,” Moxie anticipated the next stage. “Like we talked about before.”

“Yeah… And Moxie, that could end up being the most difficult for you. Not to scare you off, o.k.  Please believe me, I don’t want to do that, but… He’s feeling adrift right now, or to use an old cliché, like a ship without a rudder. And like we’ve talked about, too, he’s probably dealing with some fear… Well, eventually you get to the point where denial’s not enough; it just doesn’t cut it. One very natural reaction is anger.”

“And with this, you sometimes get some fist-shaking, which is what you’ve got to be ready for.” Joy leaned forward. “Mox, I’m just telling you this so you can be on your guard, or … bolster your heart, so to speak. Because we humans have an innate tendency to blame, especially when we’re uncomfortable and everything seems chaotic and confusing, or just not-right. You know, it’s the old story of Adam blaming Eve, and Eve blaming the snake.”

“And that’ll be Able blaming me, of course.” Moxie sighed and rolled her eyes. “Great! So I get to play Eve now… Ha! I may end up being the subject of some fundy’s sick-ass sermon!”

“Yeah, that might happen,” Joy eyeballed Moxie seriously. “And that’s what I mean. Feelings can be overwhelming, no doubt about it, and disorienting. Able may wake up tomorrow feeling great, then he may wake up next week wondering what the hell is going on and asking whose fault it is, and when he rolls over in bed, who’s the first person he’s gonna see? The very one he left home, church and family for… You. Moxie Keener.”

“The Jezebel. The serpent. The great temptress. Yeah, I get it!”

“Maybe. But, then, maybe you and other people, too. Maybe you and his parents and the church and the college and God, along with his … first grade Sunday school teacher, who knows?” Joy threw her hands up. “It may not be very logical, o.k. But all of the stress and confusion and feeling disoriented could send him into a kind of tailspin. And anger is … well, how do I put it? Strange as it may sound, it’s like a strengthening … like you’re muscling up your inner core.”

“Ha!” Moxie’s eyebrows shot up. “Never heard it put like that before!”

“Well, yeah.  I know it sounds crazy, but anger can make you feel strong … sort of.  God, if I had the words.” Joy shook her head. “But it’s like you’re pulling all of those different, warring feelings together into one emotion and giving it direction.  And for awhile, at least, this sort of grounds you … which, when you think about it, is necessary … especially in the grief process. Now, of course, anger’s not a good place to stay! But at some point, it can be healthy…  It’s just in this case, it may be pretty damn miserable for you!”

“Yeah!  I think I got that, Dr. Joy!” Moxie chuckled sarcastically. “Me bad; my fault… Burn the witch! Great, but let’s just say I survive, and move on to the next stage, huh?”

“Moxie Keener,” Joy smiled and wagged her head. “You’re the one who drove into this thing a thousand miles an hour. I’m just trying to put some road signs in place to hopefully keep you from driving headlong over a cliff… You’re not  bad, o.k.? Moxie Keener is not  the wicked witch, or the serpent, or any other nasty character.” Joy laughed now and shook her head again. “But you are unique … and  exciting and beautiful and intelligent, all rolled into one.”

“Thanks.” Moxie had to look away, but Joy could just see her barely blushing. “Hope Able still feels that way,” she almost whispered to herself.

“And, you know, after all is said and done,  I really think he will.” Joy scooted over on the couch closest to where Moxie was sitting and leaned toward her. “But … we said something before about him possibly going back … and that’s part of this process, too.  Maybe it’ll happen; maybe it won’t.  But at some point, especially when he’s exhausted the anger – and that happens, by the way, because sometimes you just get plain tired – then he’ll start bargaining with himself.”

“Bargaining? Like making a deal? Hadn’t heard that one before.”

“Yep. Deal-making’s a pretty good way of putting it, actually. He’ll start reasoning with himself. You know, like, ‘maybe things weren’t so bad after all. Maybe, just maybe, some little changes here and there would have been enough. Maybe leaving and cutting ties was too radical. Maybe it wasn’t necessary, and I just jumped the gun.’  And, of course, the big one, which is something like, ‘Look! I’m worse off than I was before…’ Even though it’s not true.”

“You really think he could forget that easily?”

“Of course. Remember what we said about comfort in the familiar? His life in his world … the only world he’s known? And now he’s out in a much bigger world, totally different, with all these conflicting thoughts and emotions whirling around inside, and anger only gets him so far… Yes. Hell yes! He could very easily sit down one day, totally spent – and I mean exhausted, wiped out – and start asking these questions, seriously thinking about a return voyage.”

“Convinced it’ll be much better and brighter, I’m sure, but making a goddamn fool of himself!” Moxie was practically in tears again just thinking about the possibility. Joy reached out and put a hand on her knee.

“Moxie,” Joy leaned in a little more and spoke softly. “It may happen; it may not. All you can do is prepare as best you can … be there for him, love him, encourage him … but also keep yourself steady and healthy.  This is big.” Joy paused for emphasis. “Right now … at this point in time, difficult as it is, you’re the anchor…  If he’s at all like a ship without a rudder, he damn sure needs an anchor and Mox, you’re it… But there’s danger there, too.”


“Well, this pendulum can swing from one extreme to the other, my love. One day he may be angry and blaming you; the next he might be clinging to you for dear life… It’s turbulent waters you’re sailing right now, and there’s no way around it, Mox. Both of you will drive straight through, or he’ll turn around and head back for the home harbor. But if you make it through the worst of the storm, the quieting down could be a very sad time for Able.”

“When we’ve made it through, he’ll be sad?” Moxie sounded perplexed.

“Not necessarily, but it could happen, just like in grieving.” Joy took Moxie’s hand and gently squeezed. “When he realizes that there’s no going back, or at least no good reason; that that life, that world is truly behind and he’s out on the open sea, so to speak, charting an unknown course, well… at first it may not matter how calm the waters are. In fact, the relative calm and quiet may actually seem … melancholy, you might say.”

“I think he’s already there, actually. Like I said, he seems down all the time now.”

“True, but … that may be – and I’m saying may  because none of this is written in stone – but it may  be just the beginning. And, anyway, remember that none of what we’re talking about right now is an exact step-by-step process. These are just things to be aware of and prepare for, at least as well as you can, so you’re not caught completely off-guard … for your sake and  his.  But, hey,  if that ship sails through the storm and you make it through the melancholy waters, too, the last is the best.”

“And what’s that?”

“Living. Call it ‘resurrection.’” Moxie looked up at Joy and Joy smiled. “Life after death. And that’s not like saying, ‘well, o.k.’ or ‘it’s alright.’ No. Able may still have a sense of loss, maybe some sadness … but you’ll turn that ship toward the setting sun to chase the light into the dawning of a new world, the world you call your own … together.” Moxie’s eyes watered and her lips trembled. Joy gently placed a hand on her cheek. “Are you ready for this, Mox?”


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