I’m continuing to read Joyce Meyer’s book, The Secret to True Happiness, and I had to share this about this chapter about grief I read a couple of days ago. It’s probably the best advice I’ve ever read about grief.
Grief is not really a topic that you want to read about. I mean, really, who wants to pick up C.S. Lewis’ Grief Observed unless you really need to deal with grief. And then it’s hard to really absorb what you need. It’s kind of like getting ready for swim in the ocean. The time to put on your swimsuit is not when you are walking into the ocean. You’re going to get soaked! Grief hits you like a huge wave and can really knock you over if you’re not prepared for it. I know – it hit me hard 20 years ago when my mother passed away.
She had been sick for some time with cancer, but being the positive believing Christians that we were, we didn’t go there in our minds…at least I didn’t. When she died, I immediately went into shock. A normal reaction – in fact, a healthy reaction that God designed to keep us from being knocked over by the emotions of it all. It’s the numbness you feel after a big loss; the just-going-through-the-motions type of living. It’s healthy for a little bit, but will not last forever. Sometimes the shock happens directly after a loss and we see the person standing strong, believing God, and seemingly doing good. Then all the attention ends, life goes on, and people go back to their normal things. And the shock wears off.
This is where I detoured on my grief process as a teenager. After shock is the emotion, the feelings all come rushing back. The tears flow and the deep pain comes. Or at least it’s supposed to. For me, I bottled up those feelings. Sure, I had nights when I cried, but I stuffed most of these feelings deep down inside because I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with them. When you stuff anything, especially emotions, it’s like trying to bottle up shaken soda. It will look like things are calm, but it will eventually explode.
My explosion came along 7 years after my mother died, after some of the effects of having such pain bottled up had already done some damage on my young adult life. I was in college, just hanging out at the mall. I’m sure my emotions were already a wreck just because I didn’t handle stress well at all back then. I’m not so great now, but at least I recognize it better. While walking in the mall, I found a new book called Motherless Daughters all about women who had lost their mothers and how it affected them. I read the back flap and it pegged me totally. I was reading a description of my life. I could barely hold it together in that bookstore. I bought the book and immediately started reading it at home. And the emotions came – like a tidal flood. For about a week, I cried and cried. I remember talking to my sister and her saying gently – “I think you need to talk to someone.”
So I went to my college pastor and he directed me to a wonderful counselor. She helped my admit my feelings and deal with it instead of stuffing it down. She said great advice that I do today – when you find yourself dealing with emotions, give yourself a break and do something you love. Taking time to relax will give you the energy to deal with your emotions. None of us are super-human. Even Jesus – who WAS supernatural – took time to weep when he found that his friend Lazarus had died. He has experienced every emotion we have. He knows our weaknesses and can comfort us in the middle of our despair.
Joyce Meyer continues explaining the grief process – anger is the next stage. I don’t really know why anger is in there, but it’s part of the whole thing. Remember, the Bible urges us to be angry but don’t sin. Go to God with your questions, your crazy thoughts, and even your anger. He can handle it and He will help you through it. We can’t understand why everything happens the way it does, but we can trust in a loving God who is working even the cruddy bad stuff for our good.
The key to this process is the keep moving through the process. It make take weeks, months or years, but however long, I urge you to keep moving forward. Don’t stuff it like I did. Or think that you can bypass the process. Just let the Holy Spirit comfort you and be honest with yourself and God. Loss is a part of our life, but it doesn’t have to define our lives. God can bring us through it to the point we won’t recognize ourselves on the other side!