This week my hometown said goodbye to one of its sons. A young Marine, who chose to make fighting for freedom his career, was killed in Afghanistan in the line of duty. His parents, family, friends, town and country mourn his death.
This week as I have followed the story of this mans death I was profoundly struck by how elusive and difficult grief can be.
In therapy we talk about grief all the time, but this week I came face to face with it in several different sessions with clients and in conversations with friends. All had different situations that led them to grieve, but their struggles were strangely similar.
I do not want to portray that I have all the answers here. I myself still struggle at times with my sister’s untimely death 5 years ago. So believe me when I say grief is something you grow into.
In our culture grief and pain are devalued. Grief means pain and pain is to be avoided at all costs. We don’t have room in our lives to slow down and address our pain, so we forge ahead like a lightweight boxer who is outmatched by a heavyweight opponent. We put on our gloves, a brave face and put up our dukes as we step into the ring for the next round with grief.
Some of us are able to go several rounds in this epic mismatch, while others get taken down in the first round with one single blow.
What is it that we need to enable us to go the distance with the heavyweight opponent named Grief?
If we step into the ring with grief and have no hope, we are going down hard and fast. Hope is what enables us to keep shuffling our feet, bobbing our head back and forth so we don’t get our teeth knocked out and is what ultimately keeps us alive.
Without hope in our corner, we are destined to lose. Hope coaches us and encourages us to keep our eyes open and to keep our hands up. Grief would have us believe we can’t get up when we get knocked down, but hope tells us we can.
This week one of the recurring conversations I had with people, revolved around the idea of surrendering what might have been, and learning to live in the reality of the present.
I think this is the place many of us get stuck. We wrestle with not wanting to move on with life as that symbolizes and finalizes our loss and leaves us one day further away from the person we are missing. Grief has us on the ropes of wanting to hold onto what was and afraid to look at what might be in the future.
We live in an instant society. Everything happens in real time. Well, everything except grief.
We can Skype with someone on another continent, we can transfer money with a click of the mouse and we can have our groceries delivered to our door in an hour without ever leaving our homes. What we cannot do is grieve instantly.
There are stages of grief, but there are no rules for grieving. For some that is a relief and for others that is a big bummer. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. There are some ways that might be healthier and more socially appropriate, but how we grieve and mourn loss is as individual as our fingerprints.
I recently started following a blog called “Confessions of a Funeral Director”. It is fascinating and filled with really helpful material and thoughts on life, living, death and grieving. In a recent post there was a mourners bill of rights. I have shortened it for the purposes of this blog, but am including the link so you can see it in its entirety.
If you are grieving:
1. You have the right to experience your own unique grief.
2. You have the right to talk about your grief.
3. You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions.
4. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.
5. You have the right to experience “griefbursts.”
6. You have the right to make use of ritual.
7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality.
8. You have the right to search for meaning.
9. You have the right to treasure your memories.
10. You have the right to move toward your grief and heal.
Remember, there are not absolutes in grieving. Others may not understand, and that is okay. They do not need to understand how you grieve; they just need to respect your need to grieve.
I have a dear friend who has been widowed now for almost 10 years. She was very candid with me and I listened intently for pearls of wisdom and answers to all my questions about grief. After all her pain and heartache her takeaway was this, “you need to live your own story”.
Her words were simple and profound. In honestly approaching grief, we need to feel the freedom to live our own story. This may be terrifying, as the storyline has been altered. Friends know that God knows and wants to honor the longings of your heart. He wants to be your hope, your healing, your comfort and the ultimate editor of your story.
Grief takes time. Grief is a process. Be gracious with yourself as He is gracious with you.
If you feel like you are stuck and need some help with where to go next, contact me via email on my contact page. If you are local and looking for some help moving through the grief process, call me for an appointment or check out my resource page for places that might be able to offer some support and encouragement.
Remember, you are not alone. You have Hope in your corner, and Hope’s name is Jesus.