She had to lay off 30 employees knowing that some of their children will go hungry and without life-saving medication; then she was told her pay would be cut as well. His father died in the cancer ward with no family member there to hold his hand. And she faces another day alone in quarantine with symptoms so fierce she cannot care for herself; but not fierce enough to be hospitalized. Each of these instances have impacted my world in the past week and I don’t see them stopping anytime soon.
You may be thanking God right now that you have not faced what others are suffering through now. But, whether you want to admit it or not, you have suffered a loss recently. From church services that are empty to school classrooms that ring with silence, our lives have changed and the loss is real. And for some, the loss of a loved one encircles every breath they take. How do you survive such loss and continue to find God’s will when things are upside down?
First, we cannot get overwhelmed by the fact that they are turning to our radio stations to help them. The music that you play and what you say when you turn on the microphone is changing lives right now as they try to fill the whole that grief is causing in their hearts. That is why it is so important that you understand the stages of grief; including the new one of Finding Meaning.
Grief expert David Kessler, who wrote the book Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief, worked and wrote a book with the researcher who created the Five Stages of Grief. You may recognize those five stages as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Following the loss of his son, David Kessler believes that there is a sixth stage that can make all the difference in the world. Looking for closure in acceptance that may never come has caused some to search and search while continuing their heartbreak. Although he speaks about losing someone you love, this final stage can also apply to losses that you are suffering now because of the pandemic. That job that you poured your best into that is now gone, a high school graduation that you or your child worked for eighteen years to experience or your feeling of insecurity of what the world will look like after all of this is over are just examples of losses that you can help your listeners through by helping them find meaning.
“Suffering is what our mind does to us and it can be mitigated by finding meaning in what we’ve lost,” David Kessler explains. For the person who lost their job they loved, they will have a larger sense of how precious their next job will be. The missed high school graduation can drive the student help others cherish theirs’ more or perhaps they will help other students get across the threshold to graduation by becoming a teacher. Someone who is facing a stay-at-home order alone will never look at leaving their home the same again.
It is in helping them define that meaning that you are vital every single time you open the microphone. Acceptance is something most of us have embraced when we are told we had no choice so you will be needed in the “finding meaning” department before you know it. “Every loss has meaning and all losses are to be grieved and witnessed,” Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief by David Kessler. You are there to witness and grieve with them and that gift is what God gave you radio waves for. You are also there to laugh with them and remind them of the meaning of that laughter.
Be encouraged! I have often been told that we are sometimes the only voice a person hears all day. That is true now more than ever. And as they move through the denial, shock and anger of loss, you are there to help them find meaning.
Stacey Stone continues her 27-year radio career in afternoons with her husband Johnny on WGTS 91.9 in Washington DC. She is also a licensed counselor in the state of Maryland and finds meaning through helping her clients and listeners push through whatever they are facing at the time.