Grief

Posted on Nov 7, 2012 in Conversations | 0 comments

On the day after a tight election, when about half the country is grieving that their candidate lost, it might be a good time to talk about the grief process. Let’s consider that the end of the grieving process is getting to a place of peaceful acceptance of the reality that we have lived and experienced. And remember, the most common way that people respond to grief is DENIAL.

So the first part of grieving is the actual loss. This could be a great disappointment or a physical loss or sickness, for you or someone else that you love. It could be a financial loss, job loss, death, or anything else that is significant to you that has been delayed or stopped. So naturally, the grief is on a continuum from mild to very intense. I think of grief as bitter water that is necessary to drink, but difficult. This is why so many of us want to deny it, or try to leave it behind. But it won’t go away until we face it.

So, we begin with the actual event or loss. After the loss we have trigger events that remind us of the loss—let’s say, a green pickup reminds me of my dad who died last month. When the loss is recent or acute, the trigger events seem to be everywhere. The trigger events are not your enemy, so please don’t avoid them. The trigger events give you a sip of this bitter water that is necessary to drink to get through the grieving. Jesus said, “Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” in the Garden of Gethsemane (the scene described in John 18:11). Grief is a cup that I must drink, but I can choose how to respond. Concerning death, one of the most difficult cases of loss to reconcile in this life, 1 Thessalonians says that we shouldn’t be ignorant “lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.” This doesn’t suggest that mourning isn’t integral. Even Matthew 5:4 says “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”

So after the trigger event reminds me of a loss, I immediately have a primary emotional response which is short but intense. This is largely involuntary and automatic but it only lasts for a few moments until the fourth or “evaluation stage,” happens. During the evaluation stage, I’m minimizing, maximizing, or somewhere in the middle. I promise you that the middle ground is the best choice here!

If I minimize, I will deny it, disrespect myself and the integrity needed for this grief and I will stuff it away for later consumption. Unfortunately, leaving it for later is like piling up a debt with interest. It’s always more expensive and takes longer to pay off then if I paid for it in its original form. Maximizing, would mean that I tell myself that I can’t make it or that it’s too much to take or I’m on my own I’m all alone…things like that.

The middle ground looks something like this: Yes, it hurts very much that I’ve lost this person for this thing. Yes it hurts, it’s okay to cry. Yes it hurts, and Jesus promised “I will not leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5). Yes, Jesus promised that I would be comforted if I mourn (Matthew 5:4). So I should cast my cares on Jesus because He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7).

If I find the ground of truth in agreement with God in this fourth stage, in the fifth stage, secondary emotional response is improved. I gradually get through that drink of bitter water and move toward peace.
For some, the pipeline for that bitter water is large and it flows quickly and intensely. For others of us, it’s smaller and it takes a longer time and more drinks. But remember that we don’t “sorrow as others who have no hope.” (1 Thess 4:13). We are a “peculiar people…..” (1 Peter 2:9)

Crying laughing and grieving are all essential parts of mental health and essential parts of the way that God made us. I pray for blessings in all of your grieving with the knowledge that the comforter is here for you. He said, I will send you “another comforter,” (John 14:16) and He, Himself, is “The God of all comfort……” (2 Cor 1:3).

Blessings,
-Mark

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