The Need to Fully Grieve-As-You-Go

I spent a recent sunshiny morning perched at my desk ... paying bills, cleaning out the inbox, checking off the to-dos on the ever-present list, sifting through mounds of random paperwork, filling the trash can with bits and pieces of no longer necessary information.

And finally facing the difficult task I had been putting off.  The writing of words on the stack of cards that had been repeatedly pushed to the back corner of the desk.  Sympathy cards.  One after the other after the other after the other.

In the process of scrawling heartfelt yet inadequate phrases, looking up addresses, and placing stamps on the upper right envelope corners, it hit me how great the numerous losses my friends and family and clients have suffered in recent months.

Death has come far too soon to those too young, leaving those in its wake reeling with numbing sorrow.  Scary medical diagnoses have been devastating in their stunning impact.  Unsettling mental health issues have required honest yet tender acknowledgement.  Cherished dreams have fizzled into thin air.  And excruciating decisions that nobody should ever have to make have begged to be cared for with a swift immediacy.

For some exhausted souls, it's been sorrow upon sorrow stacked up so high that they are just about undone with the enormous immensity of it all.

Last week, I was telling my husband that I'm learning that it works best for me if I grieve on an ongoing basis.  That's how I deal with life's messiness, fears, disappointments, and near catastrophes.  I've learned this the hard way.  Doing so keeps me fairly healthy and from pretending all is well when it most certainly is not.  It's the perfect antidote to descending into full melt-down mode ... and ends up allowing me to be more fully present for those around me.

This requires a willingness to be still in God's presence.  Repeatedly.  And sometimes backing away from business as usual, obligations, offers, and invitations that might keep me from going to those hard places.

What we grieve over might be fairly inconsequential in the grand scheme of things ... or it could be monumental.  Shaking loose the mantle of any kind of weird denial, acknowledging the truth of what's happening right in front of us, naming our emotions, doing the next right thing.  That's what we're talking about.

If it's significant to you, it's important enough to pay attention to.

To go there does not mean that we are perpetually maudlin about life or endlessly melancholy or morose.  Because grieving-as-you-go has the potential to release you just a bit from all that swirls in your heart, freeing you up so you can make your way through your days with a clearer acceptance and a deeper wisdom concerning those challenges and losses, that left untended, would threaten to undo you.

This is most certainly a layer after layer, wave upon wave process that may go on for quite a while.  This, the saying of a long good-bye to whatever has seismically shifted is necessary so you can, in time, embrace a new reality.

Grief is not a task to be pushed to the side or tucked away for a more convenient time.  For there's never a convenient time to mourn what's been taken or lost or stolen right from under you.

I don't know what's left you exhausted and spent, unfocused and unmoored, restless, or sad.  But if that's where you find yourself right about now, I encourage you to acknowledge what is most true about your burdened soul to the One who loves you best.

We do this not only for our own sanity's sake, but for the sake of those precious ones who look to us, depend on us, count on us to support and love them well.  If we're stuck mid-stream and can't move ahead, we're of little use to those who need us.

Healthy grief can't be boxed up and shoved to the back of the closet like last year's cast-off sweaters.  Left untended, all kinds of unpleasant physical maladies, serious relational and professional problems, unexpected over-reactions to daily events, and a stunting of our spiritual lives becomes more likely.

I've learned that joy does comes in the morning {Psalm 30:5}.  And in the actual process of mourning itself.  The fruit of God's Spirit dwelling deep in the soul of every believer never leaves even though all around our souls gives way.  All that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control don't simply vanish even when tragic circumstances leave us feeling like we're going off the rails {Galatians 5:22-23}.

Oddly enough, joy and sorrow are able to mingle well.  Peace and pain can surprisingly co-exist.  The Spirit holds us and supports us and comforts us in the brave messiness of tending to our broken hearts and shattered lives.  For Jesus has already borne our griefs and carried our sorrows {Isaiah 53:4}.  And He brings to His beloved children healing streams that leave us surprised at their intensity.

Even as sorrow upon sorrow rolls on in.