We're learning a lot about grief, Kathy. Run into it versus away from it has been a huge take-away for me. Yesterday, you introduced a few tactics for responding to grief once the shock wears off. You told us about the importance of "thinking" about our loss versus trying to block it out (which we can't really do, anyway). Then you mentioned writing, talking and weeping...
That's right. Beyond our need to THINK about the loss, we should WRITE about it, too.
Journaling is a tremendous tool for grief recovery. It is a place to voice anger, frustration, loneliness, and any felt loss. It is also very practical! Writing helps slow the brain down - you can't write as fast as you think. Writing also helps to lessen the pain that is felt when the writing first began. Just look at King David's psalms of lament in the book of Psalms!
TALK: here is where loved ones and friends can really help. Just remember: We are the listeners, not the advice-givers! Never be judgmental or condescending... simply listen. The more a grieving person talks in a safe environment, the more the pain will begin to lessen. Even if the same thing is talked about over and over, let it happen. Ask a grieving person to recall humorous moments. Laughter releases tension and improves health!
Also very important is that the grieving person has a safe place to talk about the negative parts of the relationship. Or admit guilt. Or admit hurt. Once these feelings are confronted, they can be analyzed and resolved.
WEEP: As I mentioned earlier, crying is a God-given release and it should happen frequently in grief! Weeping during grief is healthy! We need to be more concerned with the person who does not weep!
Kathy, this is so helpful. I absolutely agree that people who hurt don't want a lot of advice. They want someone who's not going to be overbearing or overly opinionated... just someone quietly "in their corner." But I think with what you've just mapped out... the need to think, write, talk and weep... you've given us something we can easily share with others... when the time is right... as people come out of shock and need to move forward in a healthy, restorative direction.
Yes, these tactics are easy to remember and extremely beneficial to share.
Question# 7: Is grief inevitable? Does anyone escape it? Is it possible for a super mature Christian to somehow be immune from all the pain?
Absolutely inevitable. I don't mean to be the bearer of bad news, but everyone you love will die. Many of them before you. And there will be grief involved in all of those situations. I don't know why we ever think anyone is immune to grief. It is simply not possible.
I was watching TV one afternoon when I was sick at home, and on a Christian station was a senior pastor from a very prominent, large church in Alabama talking about what he went through after his wife died (keep in mind that he had done grief counseling with people for 45 years). She died unexpectedly, and he found her dead from a stroke in the driveway when he returned home from a preaching trip. For a solid year, he talked to her out loud all day long, and "heard" her voice often. He went to her graveside twice a day. He wouldn't get rid of anything that was hers and left everything just the way it was. He felt like he cried all the time. He talked about her to everyone he could. He thought he would never get over it. He couldn't preach. He couldn't eat. He thought he was doomed. But then he began to realize that he only desired to go to her graveside once a day... and then only a few times a week... and then only a few times a month... and he began to desire to preach again, and he gained some weight, and he donated her clothes to a battered women's shelter... and he felt a strong desire to help other people through grief...and he realized that God had not only carried him through his grief, but had made him stronger because of it.
That can be the outcome for every single person...but we get a choice and we have to choose to face that grief. We can never run from it and get past it. It is sneakier than we are, and it won't go away.
Quick... think fast... word association... for grief.
Uh... messy! It is also unpredictable, it is painful, it is eye-opening, it is self-absorbing, it is a doorway, and it is just plain hard. But it definitely is messy. (That was more than one word, wasn't it?)
That was a good fusion of thoughts! I like "doorway" best. But messy is good, too. I've come to a place of peace with certain aspects of messy, actually. Let's face it, life is not neat. So why go around pretending that it's not messy when it is? You saw my notes on Monday! They were messy. I wouldn't know what to do with a day planner, really... set my coffee on it?
Coming Tomorrow: Next to last post in this series.
Grief in the lyrics...
The sun's still shining in the big blue sky
But it don't mean nothing to me
Oh, let the rain come down
Let the wind blow through me
I'm living in an empty room
With all the windows smashed
And I've got so little left to lose
That it feels just like
I'm walking on broken glass
--Annie Lenox "Walking on Broken Glass"
Kathy Padgett is the Women's Lifegroup and Pastoral Care Minister at 121 Community Church in Grapevine, Texas. Prior to joining 121, she served as a hospital and home-care chaplain. Kathy is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS).
(Photo by: this is your brain on lithium; see http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=101560333&size=m&context=photostream for restrictions)