I was also a reader who could not read. Grief stole my love of reading. Here's how I got it back.......

So in 2017, when I already felt weighed down by grief, the loss of reading was a particularly sad defeat. I could still go through the motions. I could open a book and stare at its pages. But I couldn't concentrate.

My eyes floated on the page like a castaway adrift. I couldn't sit still. Every few minutes, I'd pop out of my chair and get busy with something else. I'd return to the page unable to remember what I had just read.

What was worse was that I didn't care about what I was reading. It all felt stupid and pointless. Sitting with a book requires some level of compassion and energy.

No one told me that grief affects reading. No one told me that this was common. But apparently it is.

I mentioned this experience to my therapist recently and she told me that some find comfort in reading. But for others, in times of intense grief or stress, our brains decide to spend their energy elsewhere.

This was the illiterate impulse of my poor, overtaxed limbic system.

She said it was analogous to her experience after a recent surgery. She assumed that during her recovery, laid up all day, she'd get a ton of reading done. But she read nothing at all : ''I was in so much pain, I just don't give a crap about what was in the books.''

She said her body had to focus all that energy on healing. It is the same, in seasons of grief, when it comes to our heart and souls.

I wish I'd known. As a pastor, I have seen that when someone suffers a loss, her community often offers books to help. And books on grief are indeed incredibly helpful. I've been helped by C.S.Lewis's ''A Grief Observed,'' Jerry Sittser's ''A Grace Disguised'' and many others.

I even wrote a book about grief. But, for many of us, the best time to read books about suffering or grief is not when we are actually in deepest mourning. We need these books before we hot seasons of sorrow or well alter a time of suffocating sadness, when we are starting to learn to breathe again.

Part of why, I wish this experience was more widely discussed is that all the friends I talked to who have faced this said that they'd worried that their love of reading had come to a permanent end.

But all of us eventually found our way back to the page. For me, reading resumed slowly and haltingly. And, strangely, it followed a similar trajectory as learning to read the first time. I restarted by watching someone else read.

My husband read the ''Lord of the Rings'' trilogy aloud to me each night. Then on my own I read young adult books I once loved : ''Anne of Green Gables,'' then the ''Narnia'' series, then ''A Wrinkle in Time.'' Then slowly I began to read books written for adults again.

Finally, over a year after the deepest season of grief, I was back to reading almost every evening and could once again research topics I was writing on.

I also bring this up because a similar loss of reading happened for me again, though with much less severity, when Covid hit in March 2020. During those early days of the lockdown, I felt as if all around me people were rediscovering a love of reading.

Fiction sales were up. Magazines were offering lists of books while social distancing. And I sat, with a newborn and two and suddenly online-schooled children decidedly not reading [unless reading Elephant and Piggie books to my first grader counts].

I was less worried about it this time because I'd experienced this before and knew it was common and would pass. It didn't carry the same sense of shame or fear that it did before.

I imagine I'm not the only one who found it harder to concentrate on a page during the past two years of Covid. As we slowly return to some semblance of normalcy, part of my ''recovery'' has been taking up deep reading again with a newfound joy and fervor.

I soaked in Clint Smith's '' How the Word Is Passed '' and Alan Jacob's ''How to Think.'' I am now reading Natasha Tretheway's '' Memorial Drive '' and Makoto Fujimura's '' Art and Faith. '' 

I am feasting after a fast, drinking words down deeply after a time of drought. After these blank years of stress and sorrow, page after page is waiting to be savored.

The World Students Society thanks author Tish Harrison Warren, a priest in the Anglican Church in North America and author of ''Prayer in the Night : For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep.''


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