Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Grief * Emotional Health Series

If someone you adored has died, you know what grief is all about.

It surrounds, overflows, overtakes our very beings.

Sorrow is a nebulous and elusive companion, seeping into every crack, nook, and cranny of body and soul.  It stubbornly refuses to be neatly labeled into steps 1-2-3 or quickly placed inside a storage box for examination at a later, more convenient time.  

The oft-raging, yet sometimes oddly-at-rest emotions can't be separated from our beating hearts, our breathing lungs, our racing thoughts.  

Our very souls.

There is a great heaviness that descends, for grief is heavy laden and seemingly unmovable.  It lodges firmly in place, here to seemingly abide forever.  It crushes the spirit, dulls the mind, slows the body to a grinding halt.

There are no words, this is true. 

Loss comes in a myriad of forms, shapes, and sizes ... some grab us and shake us senseless while others subtly step in to make their presence known.  Yet to emerge from the ashes with some modicum of health and sanity, these losses must be acknowledged, named, honored, processed completely.

And wept over.  In the presence of our compassionate Father.

An abandonment.  A diagnosis.  A pink slip.  

A divorce.  An overdose.  An assault.  A miscarriage.

A cold shoulder.  A door firmly shut tight.  A transition.

A dream that's finally died.

A family member who turns their back.

A decision that makes you ache somewhere deep.

A final 'no' uttered once and for all.

Please don't let anyone tell you that there's some kind of magical three step formula to grieving well.  They're just kidding themselves and giving you false hope.  Yes, life goes on.  But grief is a very personal journey, a daunting, sometimes overwhelming task filled with winding bends, deep valleys, and yes, some mountaintop vistas.  And the whole process goes on much longer than you'd ever dreamed. 

We are blessed beyond measure if there is another soul to listen quietly, to affirm what is most true about us with the gentle touch of a hand, a silent tear falling, the simple nod of a head, a word of grace and consolation carefully spoken.  Tender friends who refuse to lob Scripture at us, preach unwelcome words, or share their seemingly endless sagas in an effort to make our hard-to-watch pain somehow magically vanish from view.

And Jesus.  Sweet Jesus.  By the presence of the Holy Spirit, He never leaves our side.  Having borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, He truly gets our misery ... yet gently, repeatedly offers a peace that makes absolutely no sense at all.

What amazing grace.

Every anniversary date and holiday makes us prone to ache deep yet once again.  I mean no disrespect, but I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that you might want to shake things up a bit as you gather with those you love.  Like maybe abandoning a well-worn tradition to embrace something fresh and unexpected.

Would you share your losses with us here?  What do you do with those dreaded anniversary dates and holidays?  Please speak of what you've found to be a comfort.  And what has not.  

You guys are fabulous conversationalists!  If you haven't read the follow-up talk to this series' posts, please head on over to the comment sections where you'll find lots of hard won wisdom, a number of 'oh-you-too?!' moments, and just enough humor to bring a smile.

Feel free to jump right on into the dialogue.  No, it's not too late.  I know that you'd bring a unique and needed perspective. 

I'm heading off to join the gang for the holiday.  I pray blessings for you as you gather with those you love ... or as you choose to bask in some much needed solitude.  Even in the midst of the dramas and traumas we've all encountered this year, God is incredibly faithful and strong, loving and kind.

Let the gratitude flow!


visiting with 


  1. The suggestion to drop traditions that bring pain is excellent, Linda. Having an empty place is bad enough without emphasizing it.

    Still, the loss of tradition can hurt. Barb lost her Mom in 2013, and last year her Dad had a stroke (from which he has very largely recovered, though he does not recall his wife of 50 years). The old tradition of Christmas phone calls is gone now (visits were hard to arrange), and I thin it hurts her a lot.

    1. You're so right, Andrew ... there's a fine line we navigate when it comes to tradition. What we've embraced and enjoyed in the past can be a great solace ... or can rub salt in an open wound. Each family, each event is an individual experience, yet another decision to make.

      Please give my best to Barb ... and know that I'm praying for you both even as I tap away here.

      Blessings, friend ...

    2. Linda, I'll let Barb know. That means a lot. She is blessed by friends who have invited her to join their Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. I can't go, but I'm delighted she can...and I shall stay home on Thanksgiving and, with the Pit Bulls, enjoy a Jane Austen Film Festival!

      For Christmas, Lord Of the Rings, I think...

    3. A Jane Austen Film Festival, huh?


  2. Yes, grief can be so heavy. It's over 11 years since my mom passed away. My heart is always more heavy for her around Thanksgiving, more than any other day. She loved it so when the family all came together. After she was gone, it ended. Every family went to gathering with their own immediate families. There are always various losses to grieve. But yes! Sweet Jesus! We couldn't get through it without Him, could we? This is such a great series, Linda. Your insight into emotions gives such hope and healing. I am so thankful for you. I love reading the comments, too. I love these sky views! They remind me that every day is a new day filled with God's beauty. :) Enjoy your time with your family! Thanksgiving blessings and hugs to you!

    1. Dear Trudy, I'm so very sorry for the loss of your mom. How beautiful that you remember her love of Thanksgiving, and yes, how sad that the family has dispersed over time.

      Change comes hard to most of us, particularly on these special days where we hold tradition in such high regard. I guess we're wise if we can somehow prepare ourselves so we're not blindsided.

      He giveth more grace through it all ... and may you find that to be truer than ever this holiday season.

      Blessings, sweet lady.

  3. Nothing fries me more than "easy answers" someone tries to give. Even the so-called religious ones are empty when someone is grieving. Good words Linda and very helpful. No stories here though.

    1. Well, you've said it all in that first line, Bill. You must be an incredible pastor, that's all I can say.

      How blessed your people are to have them shepherd their hearts.

      Thanksgiving blessings to you and Jo ...

  4. Your words are very timely for me, Linda. I lost a friend to suicide a month and a half ago. I hadn't seen him in many, many years but I grieved hard. I actually cleared my calendar last month and only dealt with urgent issues. It was much needed. You are so right. Grieving is different for every one and every situation and yes, Jesus truly gets it. Thank you for this much needed encouragement, my friend.

    1. Candace, I am so very sorry. What a searing loss.

      Clearing our calendars is an essential grace I've learned along the way. It's something I work on alot with clients. To be able to say, 'no, thank you' without alot of hemming and hawing is a fine art to learn.

      And a great freedom to claim.

      May you find peace during this difficult season, lovely friend ...

  5. When I lost my husband, John, many years ago, my grief was overwhelming. No one can tell you how or when you will "get over it." What helped me to move on, plodding through the dark days, was knowing how much my children needed me to be strong for them. And even though I was angrier with God than I'd ever been in my life, I realized that without Him, I couldn't face another day. What a desperate paradox that was! Looking back, I realize His strength and presence were what got me through it all.
    Yes, anniversaries of losses are heart-wrenching, but Jesus is there to get us through.
    Blessings, Linda!

    1. A 'desperate paradox' indeed. Yes, yes.

      And the children. Often that's what we go on for. One day at a time, by His grace.

      I appreciate that you've allowed us a peek into your painful experience. I know it will resonate deeply with others.

      Bless you, girl ...

  6. You had me at the title..........yesterday was 6 months since mom died. I can't believe the emotions and that they hit at the weirdest time. I'm also shocked how I "bottomed out" at 5 months.......I thought I would be getting better. My pastor says this is totally normal and that there is no "right" or "wrong". I'm also learning that I can't "plow through this" the way I usually attack things. I need to slow down, let my self cry and let myself feel. This is very new to a very stubborn German girl. I'm really hanging on God now that we are going into a big holiday season. I'm not sure how I'll do but I know I have a lot of support.

    1. Oh Valerie. Is it 6 months already ... what a year this has been for you. I absolutely hear what you're saying about emotions hitting at the weirdest times and I love that you have a tender, wise pastor caring for you {see Bill's comment above}.

      Please continue to gift yourself with grace and kindness and patience. This is a long and winding road, but you will travel through. And I know you won't let anyone try to push you faster than you are able to go!

      Please know that I'm going to be praying you through this season, even from afar.

  7. Six plus years later and grief still rears its head after my marriage of 40 years ended. I am MUCH better--with time and talk and talk and talk--I am living life again with a renewed vigor. The loss though, as Paul so aptly put it, will be a thorn in my side until the day God calls me home. Thankfully those great---tidal waves of grief no long wash over me and leave me struggling for breathe. Instead now the waves come as gentle reminders of what life was once upon a time. The story though is not over and life truly goes on.
    Blessings, My Friend

    Posting a link to this on Facebook--WELL SAID!

    1. Thanks for sharing with your Facebook fans, Lulu!


      Your words of encouragement are going to be a huge gift to other women who are reeling from a divorce they asked for and never saw coming ... and to others who knew it was only a matter of time.

      You are a H O P E-giver, pure and simple. And have shown us how to live a life of adventure, giving, and fulfillment.

      You sure are an inspiration, girl ...

  8. Walking through the valley of grief with my mom's Alzheimer's taught me so much. It opened my eyes to one of the things you point at and that's that grief isn't always in the form of death. I'm convinced it's a big part of our lives that often goes unnamed and untreated.

    Thanks Linda. May our holiday time be filled with blessings overflowing.

    And I echo my best wishes for a holiday filled with gratitude that makes everything enough.


    1. Good point, Debby. And when things go unnamed and untreated, there's no acknowledgement of how important this person truly has been in our lives ... and no healing for the loss.

      I love your final words, friend ... may our gratitude make everything enough.


  9. The month of December is hard for our family because both of my parents died then (several years apart, though) as well as my grandmother, a college friend, and our only long-time family pet. The hardest for me was my mom. I never knew until I experienced it that grief could be triggered by any innocent thing. The April after my mom's death, I was in a Hallmark store, and they had their Mother's Day stuff out already. That was hard enough, but they had several cute salt and pepper sets displayed, something she used to collect, and I had to leave the store with my business undone and cry all the way home. I've often thought of grief like a river overflowing its banks and affecting everything at first. The flooding subsides after a while, but the river is still there. The first year was the most intense, but even now I can be brought to tears by a memory or longing. Nothing helps like time and the grace of God. I was not entirely sure of my mother's relationship with God, but there was significant change in her life towards the things of the Lord over the last few years, so that gives me hope.

    It's a good point, too, that everyone grieves in their own way. I know a couple of people that seem to me to be....the only word that comes to mind is wallowing in their grief. I don't say anything, both because it wouldn't be received, but also because their process may just be different than mine. But I do think of what the deceased person would want - would my mom really want me dreading December and unable to enjoy the festivities 12 years after her death, or would she want me to enjoy them and my current family even while there is still a pang that she's not there to celebrate with any more? That helps me, but I don't know that I would say that to either of these people I mentioned. All I know to do is pray for them and try to be sympathetic.

    I don't hear this any more, but one thing that used to make me SO angry is when well-meaning people tried to correct the use of the word "loss" in connection with death - as in, you haven't lost your loved one; you know where they are. We haven't lost them like our glasses or the TV remote, but we definitely have experienced a loss - the loss of their presence and the ability to talk with them or hug them or see them. Even knowing they're in heaven and we'll see them again, we miss them just like we would if they were on a long trip - only more so because we can't communicate with them until we do see them again. Hopefully the reason I am not hearing that any more is because people realized how insensitive it sounded and stopped.

    I so agree about traditions. They're meant to enhance, not to dominate or tyrannize. When they've outlived their usefulness or cause pain, people should not feel bad at all about changing them.

    1. Good morning, Barbara. I am so sorry that December has been such a month of deep loss for you. Yes, it will ever be marked as such, but yet you seem to have found some sense of peace in the midst of it.

      I understand exactly what you're saying.

      And yes, it never fails to amaze me at the insensitivity of people as we grieve, but I do chalk it up to the fact that they really do care and they simply do not know how to show it. When our sadness makes others uncomfortable, they want to somehow whisk it away and it doesn't work like that, does it.

      Thank you for sharing your story here. I hope it's been a safe experience for you and has done nothing but added to the healing God has been giving you.

      Bless you.

  10. Linda,
    I have had a lot of loss and some of them coming one on top of the other...going through a divorce, losing my dad, my job, and my dog simultaneously plus being immobilized by surgery. That was a real whammy. I don't believe there is any greatness in being stoic through grief. God gave us emotions to be used. There is a catharsis in crying. Even Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus. I think the best thing we can do for others who are grieving is be there...hug....cry with...and do what needs being done without an invitation. Wonderful post.
    Bev xx

    1. Yes, Bev, yes. Sometimes when it rains it pours. That's been true in my own life ... and when you think you can't take one more thing, sometimes something else comes along.

      You certainly have experienced a whole series of losses one on top of the other.

      I'm with you on the whole 'being stoic' thing. Get the tissues out. That's my philosophy.

      Yes, God created tear ducts. It's ok to use them. And He never leaves our side as we weep our losses.

      Thanks for sharing with us, friend ...

  11. Hi Linda! I've had many losses in my life, from opportunities to the death of family (including both of my parents). And yes, there sure isn't any formula for recovery, and some things heal faster than others.
    I am so thankful for my family, specifically my sisters, who are always a safe place to vent, cry and laugh too. I have a friend who is that for me too. God gave us each other for a reason, and we should try to be that soft shoulder for those who need it. They may not choose it, but hey, it's there.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours my friend. May God's blessings be in and around your table as you lift up your thanks to him,

    1. That loss of opportunities is important, yet strangely unnamed and discussed, Ceil. I'm glad you've put it on the table.

      I think this reaches its peak toward the end of our lives, although those losses slowly accumulate along the way. And I'm not saying we're near the end {oh NO!!}, but I find myself doing that kind of reflection here and there in this season.

      And I think it's ok.

      Meanwhile, yes, let's enjoy our families, our sisters, the glory of laughter and celebration all tangled up together.

      I hope your holiday's the best ever, friend.

  12. I think the journey of grief is so messy and unpredictable, Linda. So I agree that trying to give advice or lobbing Scripture at someone in the throes of grief will only double their burden. I do hope that after the many losses you've had, you feel God's comfort and healing. But with the holidays near, I know you'll feel that ache so much more. So you and Tim are in my prayers, especially as you gather with your family.

    1. Ah ... we could all tell irritating stories of 'Job's comforters,' couldn't we!

      Instead, let's focus on that giving of thanks, the deep appreciation of all God is and all He has done ... even right in the middle of loss.

      He is so incredibly worthy to be praised!

      Thanksgiving blessings to you and yours, Beth. I hope your whole beautiful gang will be celebrating together!

  13. "Tender friends who refuse to lob Scripture at us, preach unwelcome words, or share their seemingly endless sagas in an effort to make our hard-to-watch pain somehow magically vanish from view." Such an important message Linda. My brother died just last month at 55 years old, and I was a bit fearful to tell some of my Christian friends for the fear of being preached at. Your list of the type of losses we may endure during our life time, and the words sharing that grief is individual is greatly appreciated. There are steps to the grieving process, but we all reach them in different ways and to honour each others journey along the way is so important for the healing process.

    1. Oh dear Lynn ... I am so very sorry about your brother's death. And so very saddened to hear that you weren't all that sure you could share your grief with your Christian friends without them responding in a way that would have only increased your sorrow.

      I'm praying for you even as we speak. I'm trusting God will meet you in an incredibly warm way, especially during these next few days.

      You have my deepest empathy, friend. I am so very sorry for such a great loss.

  14. One of the most eloquent posts on grieving, Linda that I've read. Everyone grieves so differently.

    I remember when my grandmother died, I was 15, and there were no tears. I felt as if everything inside of me had dried up and as I watched others cry it seemed my emotions got buried further inside and even though I wanted to weep, I couldn't. I had been so close to my grandmother, the hours we had spent together praying, reading the Bible, laughing, sharing together, they were all but a memory now.

    I asked for her Bible, and several months after her death, when I received her Bible, I sat down on the bed and begin to read it, her handwritten thoughts written throughout. The dam burst in my heart, as the Word and her written words unlocked the grief and I wept and grieved her loss then. This began the healing process for me and while I still miss her dearly, her Bible is a treasured part of her I'll always have.

    Conversations here always a blessing, and I have enjoyed reading the comments so far. I pray Linda that the Lord blesses your Thanksgiving in a beautiful way as only he can!

    1. Dear Marilyn, I am absolutely resonating with the relationship you had with your grandmother. That you have her Bible to hold close to you is such a beautiful consolation, a constant reminder of the faith she lived out in front of you in those very formative years.

      I can't think of a dearer treasure to receive than a copy of God's Word, well-read and well-marked by someone we love ... what a legacy.

      May you feel God's presence in a new and delightful way this Thanksgiving, friend ...

  15. What a powerful post on an important topic. Yes, grief is a deeply personal journey, as you described. In my own seasons of grief (mostly for living relationships, which is a different kind of grief altogether), I have found much comfort in the stories of others. Glad you are encouraging conversation here. Blessed Thanksgiving to you!

    1. Dear Sarah, it's those 'still with us' relationships that can bring a grief that never leaves, that's always in front of our faces. Closure and peace is harder to come by, isn't it.

      Praying for you in whatever difficult place you find yourself today. Peace, sweet peace to you, friend ...

  16. Many days there are no words for what grief does to my heart. Just when I think I am moving on one little thing will trigger a torrent of tears. A set of two green bowls that my mom used almost daily in her kitchen did that to me.

    But I also see all the healing that has already taken place. Thanksgiving could have been a time of deep darkness and tears for me but I spent time with my church family serving the homeless and it was such a beautiful time together. This is my favorite post in your series so far because I connect with grief so deeply. It is personal but it also is so healing.

    1. Oh Mary, I hear you about the bowls. Last week, I unexpectedly glanced at my Dad's handwriting on a Thanksgiving art project the family did some years back and the tears came so hard and fast that it took my breath away.

      And yet, you've said it so well ... we can reflect on all the healing that has taken place and rejoice in the people that God continues to bring so that our love expands and grows and reaches out.

      Bless you, friend ...

  17. I lost my husband 15 months ago. We have a 4 year old daughter and I was pregnant with our son when he died. I am 28 years old and have more knowledge and faith than I ever could have imagined. The tidal waves have lessened greatly. I know to get out there and live life with great passion and love. Easier said than done sometimes but something to live towards with God.
    I found your blog through Women Living Well and so many posts have been amazing to read. I had a realization that my latest step in grief was watching our dreams die, something I didn’t process a “title for” until I read it above. I never thought of that as individual grief but always grouped the steps together as giant grief wall to tackle. It’s easier if you view each step as a small chunk to grieve and then move to the next one.

    1. Dear Layne ~ Thank you for taking the time to share your heartbreak, your story. I hurt for you, yet thank God for how He is touching you in your loss and grief and pulling you closer to Him.

      I'm so glad you found us here yesterday, and grateful, too, that you found bits of hope and solace as you read.

      Welcome ... and blessings to you and your babies this Christmastide.