“…a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…” Ecclesiastes 3:4, 7

C. S. Lewis called it the laziness of grief in A Grief Observed—a journal of sorts about his grief after the loss of his wife in 1960. As an aside, his book is aptly titled. He does not resolve grief; he only observes it. And his was the first book I read a few weeks after Kim’s death. C. S. Lewis said of this weary state, “I loathe the slightest effort.” I understand. Psychologists refer to this symptom or stage as the apathy of grief. Apathetic laziness descends upon the mourner. You just don’t care, or at least you don’t care much.

For me it presented as lack of interest and lack of motivation. It was as if I just didn’t care, at times. Some normal conversations seemed petty and unimportant. Some responsibilities or duties took a back seat—for months! Procrastination became a coping tool. I put off some tasks that I should have accomplished easily under normal circumstances. However, I just could not produce the energy or even the concern to address the simplest of tasks.

Fortunately, I’d done enough reading to know it was coming, and it was okay. It is part of the journey. My pastor asked me over a cup of coffee one day how it was being back at work. I said that it was mostly okay, but I added that I have low motivation at times. He reached across the table and tapped my arm and said, “You know that’s okay, right?” I said I knew it was okay. However, it didn’t feel okay. It is a bothersome stage.

“…And though my heart grows weary, I never will despair. I know that He is leading through all the stormy blast…” Alfred H. Ackley, He Lives

Low motivation, laziness, apathy, or lack of interest. Whatever you call this stage, it is very real. And it is very helpful to know it’s normal. It’s even better to know it’s temporary. Long and unwanted journeys are marked by weariness. It’s like other aspects of grief. It’s real, it’s personal, it’s a process, and it is temporary. It’s important to lower expectations, and it’s important to give yourself grace. It’s important to not grow frustrated.

It’s a stage that must be endured as you face loss. It’s a part of grief that is temporary but must not be ignored or hurried. It’s another one of those realities that must be pressed into in order to allow for complete healing. You have to outlast this apathy. You have to press through the laziness. You have to endure.

“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5

By faith, I know—or at least I hope—it’s temporary. This apathy or laziness is on its own schedule. Be gentle and patient. With me. With yourself.

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13

12 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Thank you D Ray. This apathy is certainly part of healing and for me it has come and gone (temporarily). Your referenced scriptures are some of my favorites that I have clung to. Thank you again and God Bless you with a joyful 2021

    • D. Ray

      Thank you! I’m way down the road and have recuperated from much of the apathy, laziness, and low motivation. It still visits at times, but healing definitely comes to patient mourners, including me.

  2. Annette

    Patience and mourning, then comes grace and hope grounded in the promises of our God! We will persevere.

    God Bless and Happy New Year.

    • D. Ray

      Thank you, Annette. His promises are wonderful.

  3. Anonymous

    Yes… so interesting!
    Especially the comment about some normal conversations seemed petty and unimportant… what was “THAT” compared to “THIS”… this grief…
    I’d feel guilty or frustrated feeling that way!
    Oddly though, rather than apathy, my grief led me to “do” like a madwoman, a whirling dirvish… taking on extra jobs, filling every moment… to avoid the pain! At some point, Jesus said, “BE STILL, REST, OBSERVE where you have been, where you are, where I will lead you…”
    Great word D Ray! So thankful He moves us along the road on our journey ….
    Blessed New Year!
    Kathi

    • D. Ray

      Thank you, Kathi. I have also had busy times of hustling to make it through a day.

  4. Anonymous

    Thank you D Ray. I too am dealig with this laziness of grief. I had read Lewis’s book sometime ago never imagining I would track so close to it or call upon its insights so soon. My wife, Lori, died on Nov. 21, 2020 after a two and half week battle with COVID. Ron Roy connected me to your blog.

    Jim Spikes

    • D. Ray

      Jim, I am so sorry to hear this news. You are in the early days of a journey, for sure. And Thanksgiving and Christmas and a new year already. I would like to recommend another book, A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss. C. S. Lewis observes raw grief, Jim Sittser sees the lessons grief delivers if you have the eyes to look for them. Both books and perspectives, I am learning, are very important to hold in tandem. Press on and I hope my ramblings can help you face your loss.

  5. Page Cornelius

    I decided to start at the beginning of your blog and read each one as I have been able to. I do journal when I can, but I wish I could express my grief as well as you do. I do not seem to have the words as you do. When I read this post about the apathy and laziness of grief tears started flowing down my face. I have most definitely experienced this. Having difficulty to complete even the simplest tasks that normally would not be an issue for me. I consider myself to be a pretty hard worker, but sometimes I don’t even feel like putting the dishes in the dishwasher. Of course, I do it anyway. I don’t know that I realized this was a symptom of grief. I wanted to send this for you to know your blog is certainly a ministry and it is reaching lives. Thank you for sharing your journey.

    • D. Ray Davis

      Thank you, Page. I certainly appreciate hearing how it helps. I invested my journey for that very reason. Yes, even dishes are a chore in the throes of deep grief. It’s healthy, I have learned, to be able to admit and embrace the hard parts to be able to embrace hope through the journey. Press on. Healthy processing in the valley has enabled me to walk confidently on the mountain.

  6. Thank you for this post. I lost my husband unexpectedly in May of 2019 and I’m still going through this “laziness” period. My house is such a wreck I don’t invite anyone over. It makes one realize how much of a team a couple is in keeping something like the house tidy.

    • D. Ray Davis

      Lorie, the laziness or apathy is real. I have a recommendation for you. Spend a few hundred dollars, hire someone to come clean, and invite a couple of friends over. Tell them about the laziness and apathy. Share this entry with them, ask if they’re open to helping you, and come over to your clean house for tea or coffee. You might even make some cookies (before the house is cleaned).

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