Have you ever lost something or someone very important to you? A family member? A friend? A pet? A job?
Did you allow yourself to grieve?
Grief and loss are all around us, and we will all experience it at some time. Sometimes I think the best we can hope for is to “Grieve well.”
I was gently ushered to the dining room table in the wee hours of the night. As I took my seat, I saw my pastor and his wife, and soon to follow, my 10 year old baby brother. I remember thinking, “this is an awfully unusual time of day for a prayer meeting.”
Sometimes naivete’ or oblivion or just plain not being in the know is the most comfortable place to be.
It was then that I was told the reason for the gathering…
while I slept, my entire world and the rest of my future had changed without me being aware. My daddy had died suddenly and unexpectedly in the night. (He was much younger than I am now as I write this…way too young).
I don’t remember another word that was spoken. At that moment, words didn’t matter. Words couldn’t put my world back together again.
Within moments, the ambulance arrived with lights flashing, to carry him away and out of my life.
Sadly, my first thought went to what I needed to do as a young girl to help support the family. My mother wasn’t a United States citizen, had no education, nor a job. And in my mind, if my father could be taken from me in a blink of an eye, so could our home, our cars, my mother… I would do what it took to keep us together.
But my next thought was strong and determined, “This will never happen to me. If something happens to my husband, I will be able to support my family!”
And that set the course for the next several decades: strong and determined. And it would start immediately.
At the visitation and the funeral, I assumed the position: I didn’t cry, and I put a smile on my face. I took it on myself to make sure everyone else in that overly packed church was ok. I knew they would be watching us, and I wanted to be the “model Christian girl” so they would be attracted to Christ.
I was supposed to be happy, right? My daddy was in heaven, and heaven was a wonderful place. He would be happy there, right? And I was a Christian, so the idea of him being in heaven should make me happy right? Even though I was a little girl who no longer had her earthly dad… I believed it wasn’t ok to have the feelings I was having.
No one taught me that sometimes we have to give ourselves permission to feel the pain – as long as we don’t stay there.
So I didn’t…I shoved them deep down into a dark place in my heart that no one could see, including me, and threw away the key.
But that’s the thing about grief… Grief is a process. If we avoid it, He can’t heal it.
And avoid it, I did.
But I’ve learned some things about grief through the decades, having gone through it several times to varying degrees.
One lesson I learned is that new, fresh grief complicates old, unresolved grief. Allow yourself to grieve your current losses so they don’t become magnified later.
Just recently, I received the news I never imagined. Our sweet friend went to heaven today.”
I could not be hearing that about a friend who in such a short period of time had sewn such deep seeds of love and compassion into my broken heart that I was forever changed. And now I would be changed by her sudden, tragic death.
This time would be different. It had to be. It took too many years to heal from the unresolved grief of my daddy’s death to go through that again. But how?
As tears spilled from my eyes, and ran down my cheeks, I let God in. I couldn’t do it alone this time. I couldn’t deny how badly my heart ached. And I had to admit to God that I felt lost without my friend, my biggest cheerleader, my most fervent prayer warrior. How would I cope?
I’d never hear her infectious laugh again, or benefit from a timely spoken scripture or prayer over me. She’d never read nor comment on another one of my blog posts. She would never be.
How would I make it through this loss, loneliness and emptiness? This time had to be different. This time I cried out to Him, not concerned about not representing Him well, but needing Him to step in for me.
Grief is hard, but remember that our God is faithful. Cling to the One who is well-acquainted with our sorrow.
I sensed Him whisper to my heart. “I see and I feel your grief. You can’t really hide it from me, although in the past you tried. It’s ok to grieve. I will catch all your tears as I hold you close. Grieve, my daughter. Grieve well.”
In that, He taught me we never go through grief alone—God promises to catch all our tears (Psalm 56:8).
God and I had many “conversations” about the meaning of “grieve well.” I sensed that what He was trying to tell me was to go ahead and feel the grief, take it to Him, don’t try to hide it or put on the mask in front of Him or others, and let Him use the healing process for my good and for His glory.
God doesn’t expect us or require us to remain strong. He promises in our weakness, He will be our strength (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Oh how I wish we’d had those conversations when my daddy went to heaven. But it’s okay, because now I’ve learned. If we will just hang on, and cling to God, our grief will be redeemed. “Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy” (John 16:20).
As my children have encountered loss, I’ve also learned how to help them grieve well. When children are grieving, teach them to run TO God, not away from Him. Be an example for them to follow.
I’m thankful that God has taught me there it is possible to grieve well. I’m learning to trust God with my raw, honest emotions, and that He will bring good from our pain. He promises to “bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:3).
I’ve also learned that grief comes in multiple layers, not just the loss of the person, but also dreams and expectations. I’ve had to learn to be patient with the healing, which also comes in layers.
Unfortunately, grief is something we will all go through at some point. But we can choose to walk through it with the One who is well-acquainted with our grief, and choose to intentionally grieve well.
A friend of mine, Susan Mead, has done just that. After losing her son, she chose to grieve well, and let God come in and heal the grieving places. She has written the book, “Dance With Jesus: From Grief to Grace.” #DanceWithJesus #DanceWithJesusBook I am giving away a copy of Susan’s book. If you would like to be considered for the giveaway, please leave a comment below about your own experiences in grieving well, or something you will take away from this post.
Because of Him, Hope Prevails,
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