On Grief and Authenticity
We’ve all had times of grief. Whether it was over a parent, a friend, a divorce, or the loss of a dearly loved pet… we’ve all sensed the utterly overwhelming pain associated with loss.
And yet, we all grieve in different ways. God created us in such ways that, depending on the makeup of personality, experience, family of origin, and a variety of other factors, we would go through the grieving process in our own way. Some stuff their feelings, others express them liberally, and yet others are unsure of what they’re feeling altogether and if it’s even appropriate.
Many of us are familiar with the work of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross when it comes to staging grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. These have, since the 1969 publication of Kübler-Ross’s On Death and Dying, been expanded into seven steps: shock and denial, pain and guilt, anger and bargaining, one form or another of depression in coexistence with reflection and loneliness, an upward turn, reconstruction and working through the pain, and finally, acceptance and hope. I don’t believe everyone will necessarily fit into every category along the way to healing, but most of us will at least nod our caps to each stage at some point along the way.
We don’t fit in neat boxes; our grief, like and of our feelings, are not limited to the lists of other people. God made each of us in such a way that, eventually, we would not only find joy again, but that He would make our joy complete. He made us in such a way, that we would remember there is “a time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance” (Eccl. 3:4, NLT). We were created to experience the full spectrum of feelings, but to sin not in any of them.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy” we read in John 16:20 (ASV). God knows that we will be in deep sadness and sorrow sometimes; He’s built us for it. He knows the world is, at times, a cruel and crazy place. We live in a fallen world, where loss is all around us. Sometimes it’s personal, sometimes it’s more corporate, and other times, on a national or global level… but loss is there. And Jesus is the way back from the verge of that chaos; that loss; that pain. If we will allow Him to be. Furthermore, we are admonished, as people of God, to “be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15, (NLT). This is part of the healing process. I help you heal by crying with you; being with you in spirit over your pain and loss. You help me by being with me in spirit over my pain and loss. We remind one another of all the good God has done; we assure each other there’s a better tomorrow ahead, while allowing one another to grieve in the way we must.
In many, if not all cultures, bringing food for loved ones is one of the ways we help others cope. Sending cards; checking in with them. These are all good and wonderful things; thoughtful and caring. But we must still hold that shared, often uncomfortable space in order to allow the grief to come; to heal; for tears of mourning turn, in time, to tears of joy and thankfulness for what was; for who was; for how our lives have been blessed by the person or situation that has come and gone, touching our lives in myriad ways we don’t often realize until we can clearly see that, page turned, it’s a new day and we’re still here to write out the future. And we can be assured that we’re stronger for it, once the pain fades.
For some, it’s a very quick process, but I would venture to say that for most of us, grief takes much longer than the people around us often realize or remember from their own experiences. There are times it seems that, when it comes to someone else’s grief, we have amnesia regarding the reality of how long it takes to overcome the loss and truly see life through eyes of love and joy again.
Even when a death is expected, or we’ve seen a loss coming a mile away, we are not necessarily as prepared as we believe we will be, when that day comes. And that’s alright. Please, if you’re grieving, allow yourself that space to be authentic in your grief; don’t hide the stage of life you’re in to suit the people around you. Allowing yourself that time to feel and release the overwhelming and sometimes utterly speechless feelings related to loss can be one of the best gifts you can give yourself right now.
There’s a fine balance, though. Addictions, fears, guilt, and doubts crowd around us when we’re at our lowest. These parasites are what send us into tailspins more often than the grief itself, and force us to take the long way around to find joy again. Sadly, some never come back from the brink; they allow parasites to take over. It feels easier; simpler. Maybe we lie to ourselves and say it’s alright because everyone around us either walks in the company of parasites or seem to have perfect lives. But I tell you this: the people who seem perfect to you have also gone through the fire and endured; they may walk with parasites you can’t see. Those whose issues are clearly seen may have been fighting harder than you realize to become free.
Grief is like an octopus; many legs to it, and they can all entangle if we let them. But Jesus came, that we would find joy again. We are the hands, feet, and mouthpieces of the Christ. And when we know people are suffering loss, it’s within the bounds of our calling to bring them back to our Heavenly Papa so that the grief doesn’t take over; that they can heal, and in doing so, bring ourselves closer to Him, as well.
The fear of God is the death of every other fear; like a mighty lion, it chases all other fears before it. ~ Charles Spurgeon
God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what. Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help. ~ Hebrews 4:12-16 MSG
*Harmony L. Courtney (1977- ) was born in Portland, Oregon and has been writing poetry and short stories from the time she was seven years old. She is the author of The Angels’ Mirror series, and the Brass Mermaid Mysteries.
Ms. Courtney earned her Bachelor of English and Master of Religion degrees from Warner Pacific College, and has a background in design and creative communication. She enjoys poetry, singing, listening to the neighborhood wildlife, and doing research for future books. She lives in the beautiful Pacific NW.
You can follow her writing updates here at her Facebook page.
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