Please use this blog to help us remember Joshua Lee Anderson, who made the tragic and fatal decision to take his life on Wednesday, March 18, 2009. Please post any memories or thoughts you may have in the comments.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

4 Years and 2 Months - Chronos vs. Kairos Time

My 5th Mother's Day, sans Josh, has passed.  I didn't expect to feel sad the day before but sure enough, on the way to teach my morning cycle class, I started thinking about Josh and next thing I knew, big fat tears were rolling down my cheeks.  I only had a few stoplights to get myself together and in the right frame of mind to lead an energetic workout.

Grief is like that sometimes: a spigot that suddenly turns on and with much effort, can be turned off.

I have been thinking a lot about the concept of time after reading a profound passage in Styron's haunting novel, Sophie's Choice where the protagonist Stingo quotes George Steiner, an essayist who wrote about the Holocaust and more specifically, about the disconnect between the horrors faced in German concentration camps and normal life experienced by millions of others, within the same timeframe - see link for actual essay.
Precisely at the same hour in which Mehring and Langner were being done to death, the overwhelming plurality of human beings, two miles away on the Polish farms, five thousand miles away in New York, were sleeping or eating or going to a film or making love or worrying about the dentist.  This is where my imagination balks. The two orders of simultaneous experience are so different, so irreconcilable to any common norm of human values, their coexistence is so hideous a paradox, Treblinka is both because some men have built it and almost all other men let it be - that I puzzle over time.  Are there, as science fiction and Gnostic speculation imply, different species of time in the same world, 'good time' and enveloping folds of inhuman time in which men fall into the slow hands of the living damnation?
In the margins I wrote: Different species of time in the same world?  Yes!  Grief time vs. normal time. 

I felt this disassociation the split second my eyes saw death and my heart, soul and psyche comprehended our new reality.  I began living in two genres of time.  In my world, the sun stopped, echoing my zombie-like feelings and exemplified the un-natural state of life.  Externally, the sun and moon exchanged places, as per usual.  This is what is hard - the "as per usual" piece.   It was incomprehensible that everything continued as normal: neighbors still walked their dogs, kids got on the school bus, people went to work, shopping, to the gym.  How can you act as if nothing has happened? I wanted to shout.

In doing some research, I found this helpful article: How Long is This Grieving Going to Last? by Elizabeth Harper Neeld on  In it she talks about two kinds of time:

Chronos time- chronological time.  "Measured by a calendar.  Chronos time is counted in days, weeks, months, years.  Chronos time describes a continuum of past, present, and future."

Kairos time - "the time within which personal life moves forward.  Kairos is an ordered but unmeasured kind of time outside of space-time."

She says that the integration of our grief takes place in kairos time, not chronos time so that "the mere passing of days and weeks and months and years does not within itself bring integration of our loss."  Furthermore Neeld postulates that this kairos time is longer than what non-grievers will think.

So true!  This thinking is exposed with unhelpful comments such as "It's been a year - you should be feeling better by now" or "give it a few months and you will feel better."

Another google search brought up this blog post, The One Greek Word You Ought to Know by J.R.Briggs.   These quotes bring more clarity to these Greek descriptions of time:
Chronos is quantitative minutes. Kairos is qualitative moments. 
Kairos is pregnant time, the time of possibility – moments in our day, our week, our month, our year or our lifetime that define us. It is a crossroads. It has the ripe opportunity to make you bitter or better. It is a teachable moment. It is the right or opportune moment. They are rarely neutral and always leave an impact on us.
Kairos moments are a string of moments that possess possibility – clarity brought on often by pain, uncertainty or crisis. They force us to be absolutely present: to ourselves, to God and to the experience of reality that we’re facing.
and the bottom line:
As human beings, all of our growth happens in kairos moments.

Personal reflections from my journal:

Chronos time:  Four years and two months.

Kairos time:  this is what my journal and this blog have chronicled.  Or better said, this blog, my reading blog, my journal are all critical to my kairos time - tools to help me integrate my loss.  Chronos time just marks points of kairos time, like mileposts on a road - a very long road - a lifetime road, what I have called My Grief Journey. 

Intuitively, I know this journey is not bound by physical time (chronos) but is internal, personal, subjective.  There will be epiphanies, setbacks, ruts, obstacles, wrong turns, U-turns, hairpin turns, bumps, potholes, hills, valleys and maybe mountain tops.

I will end this post with Neeld's thought-provoking questions and uplifting conclusion:
"What insights have I had? What have I realized? What meaning am I making of this terrible loss?"
The good news is that healthy grieving does result, at the time right for each of us, an experience of integration. We take stock and say: I am changed by our loss, and I have changed my live as a result of my loss. And we are not shriveled permanently like a dry stick because of our loss. We can feel alive again…probably wiser, maybe quieter, certainly full of gratitude and a desire to contribute from what we have been through. 
And all in good time. All in good kairos time.


GrahamForeverInMyHeart said...

What an insightful and amazing post. Thank you for this perspective. It is so true.

Denise Smyth said...

This was my second Mother's Day without my son, and my dad died. It just hit me he died on Mother's Day; my heart is already so broken for my son. There is nothing like losing a child and yes, about time. It doesn't have the meaning it did when Philip was alive. I have to make my own time now because I don't seem to be operating the way the world does.

I miss him; thank God for my daughter.