Grief is an unavoidable thing. Since that is true, why don't more of us handle it better? Somehow it seems that though we know life will not always bring us joy, when we encounter new loss it's like we've plunged into a pit too deep to climb out of.
Grief is difficult. It sucks the life out of us, like someone is extracting the marrow from our very bones. We have no energy, little positivity, we cry uncontrollably or walk around numb and lifeless like a zombie. We get headaches, our necks are stiff, we have pain everywhere, we can't sleep or all we do is sleep.
Grief is experienced differently by each of us. There may be a hundred ways that we experience and express grief, but there are just as many reasons to grieve. Too often we legitimize only grief that is attached to death, but there are so many other significant losses in life - loss of mobility and/or independence, a job you love, entering new phase of life, moving to a new state/home, divorce, estrangement from a loved one, a new and life altering diagnosis, failure of a business, not reaching a significant goal/achievement, etc. All loss is loss. And yet so many of us feel guilty when we grieve over something that seems less significant than actual death. We need to stop doing that.
Today I write to encourage you to do a few important things in response to grief:
1. Acknowledge your grief. It's a natural human experience to grieve the things we lose.
2. Don't put a value judgment on your loss. You are not less human or less of a Christian if you grieve deeply. Grief is a sign that you have loved deeply and that you are fully human like the rest of us.
3. Allow yourself to grieve. Your body and emotions will tell the story your soul is speaking. If you feel like crying, cry. One of the most dangerous things to do after a loss is to pretend it never happened or to force yourself to move on too quickly. Allow yourself the time and space you will need to process your loss, keeping in mind that there is no universal formula or timetable for grief. (Oh how I wish there was!)
4. Take your grief to God. God grieves too -- over sin and separation from his beloved people (us). God knows our loves and our losses. The Holy Spirit can be our Comforter as we grieve. Pray that God would console and comfort you because he understands your grief. If you don't know what to pray, flip through the Psalms; I'm sure you'll find one that speaks your feelings better than you could have expressed them yourself.
5. Get help. Grief often makes us feel alone. It can also make us want to withdraw from the world and relationships because they have the potential to cause us more pain. If you find yourself hiding from pain, your friends or withdrawing from daily life, then it's time to ask for help.
The grief process becomes more bearable as we turn to one another for help. Please know that I, the pastoral staff and our elders are here to support you. If you would like to meet with me one on one, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Another resource I recommend is The Grief Recovery Method, a support group open to the public ($15 for 12 weeks) facilitated by bereavement counselors at Banner Health. New groups are starting in April and May in several east valley locations. For more details please go to: http://www.bannerhealth.com/Locations/Arizona/Banner+Hospice/Support+Groups/_Support+Groups.htm
We all love and we all experience loss. I pray that we may learn to love ourselves better by acknowleging, processing and tending to our grief. It's important work.