On Grief

Couldn’t sleep so I thought I’d write a post for Peter Pollock’s blog carnival. Today the theme is “grief.”

Ouch!

Admittedly, I am no expert on grief.

Grief

Sure, I know grief. I’ve lost my fair share of dogs, grandparents, and friends. I’ve had my heart broken by a boy. But, I don’t know GRIEF. I’ve never lost parents, children, siblings, or best friends. I’ve never had my heart broken by a husband.

Grief is always hard. Always hard. Always HARD.

But from what I’ve witnessed, grief is the most consuming, the most gut-wrenching, when the loss can not be reconciled. A child dying of cancer. A dog disappearing from a backyard. A man taking his own life. A fatal car accident.  A man walking out a relationship with no explanation. Something, someone, being plucked right out of (the illusion of) our grasp.

I guess it is because when we can’t reconcile a loss, we get STUCK. We get stuck desperately trying to understand “why?”. Instead of mourning, reflecting, and discovering what’s next, we get stuck replaying the loss over-and-over, and our heart breaks again-and-again.

Once I FINALLY put away the “why?”s, I begin to properly grieve my loss, to heal, and to move forward. Of course it’s still a process, but at least I’m not stuck…

The one thing I still haven’t figured out (and it is a doozy) is HOW to skip the stage where I try to reconcile my loss, the where I get stuck asking “why?” Is there a way to fast forward through this painful (and usually unfruitful) stage of grief?

Thoughts?

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Lindsey has a sincere love for her precious dogs Molly and Maisy, a good red wine and the Delta Sky Club. She spends her days (and some nights) laboring to end childhood hunger at Feed the Children and to gather, equip and unleash women at IF:Gathering.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Grief has a purpose, it's part of our humanity, part of what God gave us when he made us in his image.

    I struggle sometimes to see the purpose in grief except that it helps us to learn the value in what is good.

    Don't try to skip a step, but don't dwell there, either.

    Wonderful post, Lindsey.

    Thank you for sharing with us and joining the carnival!

  • Great post and insight, Lindsey! I am not sure there is a way to skip the why stage. I think it might be part of the grief process, trying to reconcile the unexplainable in our feeble minds. The only thing that helps me in those times is remembering a Sovereign God is still in control even though I may not understand.

  • Grief is one way we express our humanity — and it's one way God expresses his divinity — his grief with all of us. And out of that grief came love. Great post.

  • Great post Lindsey.

    I know what you mean about being stuck…and I think that's where the body of Christ should jump in to help…but they usually avoid it. People don't know how to deal with someone deeply grieving something and either tell them to A) suck it up and move on or B) avoid them like they have giant mutant ticks from Mars on their heads. When people have someone to help them get pulled out of the muck, they can heal faster…or start the healing process.

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  • I am much like yourself (minus the heart breaking by a boy). I have lost grandparents, dogs, and some friends, but have never experienced the grief of losing someone really close.

    To be honest I really do not want to experience that grief. I do not want to know what that is all about.
    But I know that it will come and I will have to work through it and not run away from the pain.

    I think what grieves me now is that there are people hurting and suffering from pain.
    My heart often longs for heaven, where there will be restoration and healing and peace.

  • Hi Lindsey,

    You should check out Jason's post on why grief is good: http://blog.breakthroughalaska.com/2009/12/grievi

  • I don’t think grief has to be for something “huge.” It can be for anything as you gave examples. I think Chrystie’s right though that the questioning and pain are part of the process of dealing with it. If we don’t do it right, the pain hangs on and clings to us and can’t fully let it go.

    Don’t worry- we’re all in the same boat. 🙂

  • Ali

    Yes I agree that grief is so hard to deal with. And Christians who say they have never have experienced any form of it are not being honest with themselves–at least in my opinion. I always take comfort in the fact that Christ himself experienced grief in his human form while He was praying in the garden before he was crucified and while he was actually on the Cross and felt abandoned. I also take comfort in the fact that God is always by my side when I experience grief. In fact, this is the only was for me to find any kind of hope that I will get through my grief. I honestly don't know how I handled grief–and sadness–before I was a Christian. It was much, much harder–and it is by no means easy handling it now.

  • That is a great post. Very helpful. I can't wait to go read them all tonight.

  • I don't think the why stage is at all unfruitful. I think it's vitally important, because every "why?" is an opportunity for faith. Steven Curtis Chapman, when talking about the loss of his daughter, said, “We're a family with a lot of questions. But that's what faith is. It's living with the questions."

    Every time you hit "WHY?" in your grief, you get to decide, again, to trust God even if no answers come. Like the David Ruis song, "Whom Have I" — "Though the questions asked may never be resolved / whom have I but You?"

    In grieving, I find myself praying over and over, "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!" And every time I ask why over and over, and every time it breaks my heart again, every time I say, "Not my will but Yours be done…God, I trust You even though I don't understand," my faith grows.

    I think "Why" is one of the most important and powerful parts of grieving.

  • @Becky, that is very good. love your insight.

  • Good post!
    I think my first word in life was Why? and I haven't stopped asking it since, so I relate to your question. God gave us brains to ask questions, to process and to learn, so I'm not sure skipping that part of the grieving process would be wise. I think we need to go there, but not stay there.

  • Lindsey, I feel grief is a process. You can't really skip ahead or the healing won't be 'complete'… I also believe that everyone processes grief in a totally different way, I am amazed at the reaction of my children. They are resilient, but the pain they feel is all too real and intense!
    Great post.

  • I don't think there's a way to skip the "asking why" part. But I think we do have the option to fast track it. I also got stuck once, and it took me three years to get it over with. Three years!

    • @jojoagot I have been stuck WAY longer than I'd like to admit and I was grieving things that seemed so silly now.

  • this week I preached about remaining eternally focused. I know how hard it is for most people over the holidays to deal with death, so instead of ignoring it, i chose to speak into it, and challenge people to live with the end in mind!

    thanks for your thoughts on grief today…it was wonderful.

  • Rami

    In the past 15 months I have met grief and have found it can be my biggest foe and at sometimes, oddly enough, my friend. Losing my Father so suddenly to suicide is the definition of "why" to me. However by facing my grief honestly and openly, something else has occurred. My grief has begun to facilitate my healing. I have worked hard to allow myself to embrace my grief. To let it become a part of me but to never let it define me. Everyday, I find that this becomes a little easier. Loss can not be measured or quantified. Every loss, no matter how large or small, leaves a mark. I just try to not allow that mark to be permanent or stagnant. To allow that mark to move, change colors, grow, shrink. Through doing this, I can now "work with" the grief and not let it take over.

    • This was well expressed. Thanks for sharing your process.

  • Even though I’ve never lost a parent, spouse or child, I’ve learned alot more about grief in the past few years than I’ve ever wanted to. Some of that was due to the suicide of a good friend, but some of it was due to loss of relationships, changes in a stage of life – and most recently – loss associated with resigning from a job I loved and held for 11 years. Grief is that uncomfortable process that carries us kicking and screaming from one reality to the next. And even when we understand the process that doesn’t mean we get to skip through the process or control it. It sure would be nice to pick and choose how we wanted to feel and express grief, but I’ve found that grief finds you when you least expect it – and it is a process – we cannot handle all the reality of a loss (especially an extreme one) all at once. Our minds and hearts cannot bear it. So we may grieve in little segments. Here and there, when we least expect it, the reality of our loss will once again crop up and slap us in the face!

    I was in a Christmas store the other day and was looking at an ornament shaped like a musical note. As I looked at it, tears streamed down my face. I’d recently resigned from my position as worship pastor and my tree is filled with music themed ornaments people gave me each year. I stood there in my tears and thought “Nobody will buy me stupid little plastic music ornaments anymore!”. And I couldn’t move. I was bawling. All over a portion of my loss that seems really, really silly even to me. Yet in that moment I faced more of my loss and I mourned it and now I can move on a bit more.

    Wish I knew how to get a handle on it, but for me, at least, it’s just taken time.

    • "Grief is that uncomfortable process that carries us kicking and screaming from one reality to the next." Well said!

  • Bernadette Pabon

    I WISH WE COULD FAST FORWARD THE PROCESS OF GRIEF THATS GOOD,
    BUT NOT LOGICAL, BECAUSE WE HAVE TO GO THROUGH IT FOR GROWTH,

  • kathleen

    You are so right on. It is so hard to stop asking why and instead start thinking what's next.

    When people truly offered comfort, they seem to be able to move forward faster to that next step.

    Comfort is almost a lost art in our world, maybe because it is intimate and vulnerable in a 2 way street sort of way.

  • @Blake, I heard it was a great, and powerful message yesterday. I can't wait to listen to it online.

  • Wow, what a post, a timely post, as I'm revisiting the "why" today, as it it the "anniversary" of my brother's death. This happened over 25 years ago, when I was in 5th grade. He battled with cancer (brain tumor) for 2 years before finally succumbing to it at the age of 6. (and that itself is quite a story)
    I could go on and on about this, the wonderful wisdom and faith of a 6 year old but I won't. I did not ask "why" then….. so the past year I've asked a lot of whys, and got through it. Yet today the whys have come back. I don't want to be stuck….. but on Dec. 1st it always hits me, and it's not just the fact of my brother's death, I also mourn the aftereffects of all that. The stress of my parent's marriage. The silence. The awkwardness. Being the kid whose brother had cancer back when cancer wasn't so known.

    I do believe that grief does have a purpose but this week I struggled even in hindsight to find the purpose. People say "if just one person came to know Christ because of it" it's worth it. I'm not sure I agree. It seems awfully harsh of God to feel that a 6 year old is "worth" more dead than alive.

    Honestly, I still don't understand, and yet I do move forward. I wonder if life like this is akin to "It's a Wonderful Life"…….. I have no idea what my life would've been like without the death of my brother. Though I look out and only see the negative, I wonder how things might have been without the tragedy?

    The reality is I lead a good life. I've a wonderful husband, 3 cute, mostly sweet kids that tend to drive me crazy but make me laugh a lot too. I don't have a strong, close relationship with my mom, dad and brothers. I could blame it on my brother's death, but the reality is that it's within my grasp to restore it. And I think that's actually what I'm grieving today; not so much my brother's death but the death of my family.

    For me, I do believe that even now, though I can't see it, God is a good God and my life is better for this suffering I have endured even if I still can't see it. . But sometimes, as I look at my own kids who are the age my brother was when he was sick and died, it hits me so hard.

    • @torybee I can't imagine. The grief. The questions. The what ifs. I will be praying for you.

  • Kerry Conley

    Lindsey your post was amazing and really spoke to where I am. Thank you. You are truly gifted and your blogs truly inspire and encourage me. Dealing with grief this devotional really spoke to me.

    I love you with an everlasting love, which flows out from the depths of eternity. Before you were born, I knew you. Ponder the awesome mystery of a Love that ecompasses you from birth to beyond the grave.
    Modern man has lost the perspective of eternity. To distract himself from the gaping jaws of death, he engages in ceaseless activity and amusement. The practice of being still in my presence is a lost art, yet it is the very stillness that enable you to experience my eternal love. You need the certainty of my loving presence in order to weather the storms of life. During times of severe testing, even the best theology can fail you if it isn't accompanied by experiential knowledge of me. The ultimate protection against sinking during life's storms is devoting time to your friendship with me.
    Jeremiah 3:1-3, Lamentations 3:22-26

  • As you suggest the why phase is terribly unproductive. My prayer for friends who are starting chemo for their six-year-old son this week is that they will not feel the need to understand why, that they will just trust God's love and plan for them. I know God's grace is sufficient because I've been through some tough times (losing my dad and my brother suddenly and two years apart) and I know the dead end named why all too well.

  • this post was just what I needed today thanks for sharing…God has been working something out now for a long time wishing I wasn't so dang stubborn !
    My recent post Letter’s from God

  • Thanks so much for your prayers. It's usually really good, you just happened to post that on the actual day my brother died.

  • Thank you for posting this…I just recently lost my dad and have been dealing with grief. I found this post and the comments very encouraging! (found you from your comment on Pete Wilson's blog.
    My recent post Good Morning!

  • Sheralyn Nobles

    Lindsey,
    Several times this morning I thought I should check your blog. I am glad I responded to the nudge that I now know was from God.

    My dad died in September. He was 87 and lived a long and wonderful life. He was a terrific father. There are only a few ‘why’ questions related to his cancer treatment.

    His final days of life were shared with family and friends and after he died we celebrated his life. I have experienced a few misty eyed moments in the weeks and now months since. That is to be expected, I know.

    After reading your post and the following responses I found myself crying and sobbing deeply and admitting to myself that I really miss Dad and it hurts.

    I was surprised by the emotiions. God, of course, was not. I am humbled by a loving God who knows what we need and when we need it. I am also humbled and blessed by all who responded to your post by opening their hearts so I could open mine and receive healing.

    • @sherry,
      It is so fun to see you on here. I had no idea that you knew about my blog. I shouldn’t be surprised, my dad probably sent you a print-out 😉

      I miss you guys. I hope our paths cross soon. Please send my love to all the Texas family…

      • Sheralyn

        Larry told me about “I’m Just Saying” when he came down for Aunt Rene’s birthday. He is proud of your gift of writing and communicating from your heart. I share that pride in you. It is not an easy thing to do. As I read through the responses yesterday, I realized how superficial most of our interactions with people are day to day. Of course, you can’t open your heart to just anyone. It must be someone you can trust. I just think with the business of our lives we don’t make time to do that near enough.

        I’ll pass on your greeting.

  • Alece

    if there is, i sure haven't found it yet.

    i've realized this year that i grieve more than i thought i did. that even small losses impact me greatly. i just never stopped long enough to realize what i was feeling was grief.

  • Great topic. Thanks for sharing your personal journey with grief.

    Btw, noticed that your comment counter on the homepage isn't picking up the # of comments here (or on any other blogs).

    • @Jeff I noticed that too. I am trying to figure out what is causing it. I appreciate the heads up.

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