Ambiguous Grief pt. 2

The old saying, “Time heals all wounds” is meant to be encouraging but sometimes it can feel like a very long time before our hurts can be viewed through different lenses. In part one of this post, I talked about a new kind of grief which encapsulates our feelings of loss in relationship with a person still living–either they are alive but not themselves, or perhaps, like my father-in-law, they have had a stroke and are alive but can’t communicate. He’s in there, but everything he says to us sounds like “No.” Or it could be the loss of something else such as a close friendship, our health, or a physical location we’ve had to leave. Today I want to focus on processing and moving past the acknowledging of our grief.

It is such a healthy first step to acknowledge our emotions, give them a name and give them to our Heavenly Father, our Abba, who cares deeply for us. He holds all our tears in a bottle. He is not indifferent to our pain. Secondly, we must have reasonable expectations of our grief. Grief looks different on everyone. You may stifle the urge to call your child every day or visit your parent’s bedside and this may be appropriate but you will definitely need another outlet! Journaling is a great way to express all those pent-up emotions. Or Vlogging for those who aren’t inclined to wield the mighty pen. We need to find outlets for our grief…baking, exercising (especially if you’ve taken up baking), gardening, tinkering in the garage or whatever suits your fancy…be kind to yourself. Indulge in your favorite things. Get more sleep. Eat well. And let the house go if you need to…I’m giving you official permission to leave dished in your sink overnight.

After you tackle these basics, seek out growth opportunities. Join a group of people with a shared common interest…I know all too well this is hard for introverts. But I am speaking from experience. I actually joined a community of women of faith who share my trait of high sensitivity and then shockingly, joined a small focus group within that large group. We encourage each other in whatever we are pursuing such as blogging, creating, speaking, writing books. I joined with fear and trepidation but it has been so good for me. And it has taken all of two months for me to see just how good it’s been so don’t expect overnight results.

My last suggestion is not given glibly. So please try not to sigh or roll your eyes too loudly: Practice gratefulness. Yep. There it is. I said it. It’s hard. Some days I just can’t do anything but be grateful for toothpaste and that my teenage child never goes hungry (on the contrary he’s eating out of house and home!) But I try. I need to write my gratitude down. Right now it’s jumbled all up in my head. I’m always grateful for family. Grateful my daughter lives with her best friend so she’s not alone in the PNW, grateful I had those years with my turtles, grateful I have had a wonderful, supportive husband since my own tender years. Grateful my preemie grandchild is out of the hospital and thriving.

God says there is a time for everything. He does not fault us for mourning. But we can’t park in our pain. As Ecclesiastes 3 tell us: there is a time to be born and a time to die. A time to laugh and a time to cry. He understands. He knows loss. He left a beautiful paradise to come rescue us, and in the process incur the wrath of the holy Father who loved us so much that He brought heaven down to us when we couldn’t attain it through our own obedience...He knows us. In order to dislodge ourselves (aka “getting unstuck”) we need to acknowledge our grief but we can’t stay there. We can try to cover up our feelings but He sees right through us anyhow. Why not get it out in the open and ask Him for help to be grateful in our day-to-day pain. Keeping our focus on Him, ask Him for opportunities to use our discomfort as a catalyst to bless others when we feel His gentle nudge.

What if we took those “empty nest” blues and reached out to other moms with young children who desperately need a mentor? What if we planted a garden in our own backyard to “carry the beautiful with us” as Emerson so wisely advised. And then in our bounty, perhaps we could bless others with our fruits whether that be a lovely floral arrangement or an extra zucchini squash? Finding meaning in our pain can be a rich and rewarding experience that will both help us to flourish and honor our Creator. It both acknowledges our pain and yet blesses others with our effort to rise above our temporary circumstances and focus on the eternal.

Ambiguous grief may sound like a formidable opponent but what if it’s really just the start of something beautiful? Our heavenly Father says, “[I will] give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…” (Isaiah 61: 3) He doesn’t say it will be easy, but He does promise He will never leave our side.

Don’t get me wrong– the pain is real. There are no easy answers. But there is always the tiniest sliver of hope. Sometimes mysterious hope seems to disappear altogether, but she is really just hidden behind a dark squall that seems to be forever brewing on the horizon. Professional help or medication may be needed and it doesn’t in any way make you a lesser person. I have used both and am presently in therapy again. No judgement here. If you had a broken arm, you’d let a doctor set it–if you are struggling with depression, and you aren’t making any headway–please seek help.

Slowly as we recover, focusing on the eternal, living in the moment, we will rise above. You might say we will “Rise up on wings as Eagles as the prophet Isaiah encourages. We may even be surprised to find ourselves climbing up a mountain when we least expect it. Ups and downs, ins and outs…life is an adventure. I want to learn to embrace all the moments, keep my eyes on my Savior and remember that eternity will be a pain free, perfect place where everyday will be a glorious day and He will wipe away all our tears and run-on sentences will be the norm…

We can do this together. Overcoming obstacles. Overcoming losses–great or small.

One day at a time.

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