Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Need to Fully Grieve-As-You-Go

I usually love writing end-of-the-month newsletters where we chat together about all kinds of fun and interesting happenings.  But because of a string of recent unrelated events, I'm compelled to pen a completely different kind of post as this topsy-turvey month winds down to a close.




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.

Here's a bit of my own personal grief journey.  Maybe it will help you or someone you know ...

What losses are you grieving today?




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34 comments:

  1. What a beautiful post. Grief has a life unto itself. AND somethings will always be grieved--though the pain will become bearable--the loss is ever present and becomes part of who we are.
    Thank you for this thoughtful gift for us all.
    Blessings, My Friend!

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    1. You are absolutely right, Lulu. There are some tragedies that will always have a very tender spot in our souls, and occasionally, often at the oddest times, we'll be called to take them out, grieve them afresh, and tuck them back into His tender keeping.

      Yes, the losses become part of the weaving of who we are at the core. The scars remain.

      And so does the Comforter.

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  2. Believe you and I have been sharing the same kind of month Linda. Death. Cancer diagnoses. Watching marriages fall apart. People just giving up on caring. I like your "grieving-in-process" idea. I cannot stop to grieve as I might like to. Especially since I am the one who is to pastor these devastated people. So I "grieve as I go.' I'm praying May has a different look to it.

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    1. The stories of pastors who have no choice but to wade right into the middle of others' grief even while bearing their own heartaches are soul-wrenching indeed.

      And yet these ministers are flesh and blood and all too human. They need our continued prayer support week in and out. For only God knows the burdens they bear.

      Your reminder is well-taken, Bill.

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  3. Wonderful post, Linda; I'm sure you've helped many, many people with these heartfelt words.

    I've found that living in the shadow of death, I'm also living in the sunlight of Eternal Life; the presence of the transcendent is so strong that grief seems unnecessary. As Richard Bach said, "What a caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly." Of late, I have learned the truth of this.

    That knowing has been sharpened by going through death's door last week, and returning. I wrote down what it was like as soon after as I could, and if you'd be interested, here it is:

    https://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2018/04/your-dying-spouse-465-near-death.html

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    1. That you continue to record your searing journey and choose to share it with us is an untold legacy, Andrew. The shadow of death can sometimes linger on without seeming end, can't it.

      I'm off to read last week's unsettling story yet once again, friend. And encourage my readers to join me there ...

      Praying for you and Barbara even as we speak. Jesus loves you so.

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  4. In 2 weeks it will be the 1st anniversary of my mom's death. I thought I was doing well until I had my physical on Friday and my doctor asked me how I was doing. I promptly burst into tears. I know I haven't grieved well. It's my nature to make sure others are doing ok (like my dad) and push everything to the back burner. I guess it's time for me to focus on my own grieving.................

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    1. Dear Valerie, Where did the year go?

      Tears will often come at the mention of my Dad and little Tyler, even though it's been almost three years. I think that's ok. Be gentle with yourself even as you pay attention to those things that still might need tending.

      We honor our loved ones with our tears. For some reason, God saves every one in a bottle {Psalm 56:8}. Someday I'm going to ask why.

      Bless you, sweet lady.

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  5. You have such wise insight into this grieving-as-we-go process, Linda. A way we can better function in life and be more present for others. I'm so sorry for the numerous losses your family, friends, and clients have experienced. It's hard to imagine we can experience peace even in the midst of pain, but God is good and gives us sufficient grace, doesn't He? God bless you and yours and give you peace and strength! Love and hugs to you!

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    1. You're right, Trudy. God DOES give us sufficient grace. We never fully realize that truth until we walk through the shadows and find that He is still very much with us.

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  6. You write what is in my heart. I am always amazed at how connected we are as we share in our respective corners of the writing world. I also adhere to grieving-as-you-go. When my mom passed away four years ago, I found myself trying to pick myself up quickly because I was now responsible for my dad. It seemed to work at the time until it didn't and I slowly began to fall apart after my dad died. Now I give myself all the grace if I need to pause and let the tears come or step back because taking of myself is important. It has been a process and one that grief continues to revisit but it has made a difference as I was forward from here.

    I pray your friends receive your kind words knowing that you understand deeply a piece of what their grief is all about. Blessed to join you here! Love you!

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    1. Our intentions are usually beautiful and gracious as we step up to care for others in the wake of death. Picking ourselves up quickly does have its downside and you have clearly and simply spelled out what that looked like for you.

      I'm wondering if the older we get, the more we lend ourselves grace? Just thinkin' ...

      And appreciating you from afar, my kindred spirit friend.

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  7. Wow, Linda!

    Was just checking your recent blog post, and saw the title about grief. My estranged husband passed away this past Friday ... Appreciate prayers for our family ... I am definitely not a bridge-burner, and that has been a comfort in this life. I treasure fond memories, and trust God to wash away any hurts.

    Thanks for the godly timing of your post.

    {via email}

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    1. I'm so very sorry for this deep grief, my friend. I'm so very touched that you have chosen not to be a 'bridge-burner' and have cherished memories despite the difficult losses along the way.

      Praying for you and your family even as we speak ... and will continue in the days ahead.

      xo

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  8. "Grieving as you go" is an interesting thought, Linda. Just as God made everyone different, we all grieve differently. Recently, other people's loss' have triggered my past losses and I realize that some grief I will never get over until I am in heaven.

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    1. You're right, other people's losses do trigger our own, most especially if they remain untended and unresolved. And yes, I hear what you're saying about grief that seemingly lasts forever.

      And all I can say is how sorry I am for this life's losses yet once again.

      xo

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  9. Linda, there is so much wisdom in your words. As I grieved our miscarriage, broken dreams, heartbreak caused by children, I discovered the grief would hit me at unexpected times. Sometimes, I was fine talking about things (especially the miscarriage and follow-on infertility). Other times, certain things were said or done that broke loose the dam of emotion. What you share, to grieve as you go, makes a lot of sense to me. Being real with where I am in the grieving process in a given moment is helpful for healing. It also helps to have a safe person to be real with.

    I'm sorry you have so many around you grieving right now. I'll pray God shows you how to be there for them. Thank you for this post!

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    1. Being real with where we are in the grieving process in any given moment. Yes, there's the key, Jeanne.

      Being real right where we find ourselves. Not where we wish we were ... or where others wish we were {so maybe they'd feel less helpless in trying to fix us?}

      Miscarriage and infertility are each a huge sorrow ... one on top of the other seems like more than a woman could bear. Yet here you are, telling your story, sharing what God has done in the midst, impacting other women who bear the same sorrows.

      Redemption.

      Bless you, girl ...

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  10. Powerful...sitting still before God and asking He guide me through an honest accounting of my feelings/emotions. I think I tend to simply move on to what is next; sometimes before fully experiencing, acknowledging, grieving and receiving peace.

    Contemplating and prayerful...thanks friend!

    {via text}

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    1. It's easier to move on to what's next, isn't it. Less complicated, less messy, less demanding.

      Praying you through that honest accounting with the Lord. Trusting for Him to hold you tenderly close in the process, friend.

      xo

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  11. Hi, Linda, thank you for sending this along. These are definitely words of wisdom and I will also pass them on...As you say, joy and sorrow mingle during these times and it's important to recognize the blessings.

    {via email}

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    1. Joining you in praising God that the love, joy, and peace don't completely vanish when we're in the midst of the sorrow ...

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  12. Waves of grief do come and go and can rise up out of seemingly nowhere. I know pretty much everyone who reads this will nod in agreement, so thank you for sharing your heart, as always.

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  13. What a healthy perspective on grief here: grieve as you go. That helps me to breathe a sigh of relief when all of a sudden a wave of grief hits when I felt I was "done with this already." Thank you. Grieving anticipated loss as we pack up and leave our overseas home of 17 years this coming June. Some unmet dreams along the way, but mostly blessing.

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    1. Yes, sometimes we feel pressure to be 'done with this already' ... often, sadly, in Christian circles. But the reality is that grief lingers over a long and winding road and is different not only from person to person, but also what each individual loss entails. It's so complex, isn't it.

      What a transition you have coming up! I'm guessing you have mixed emotions on all kinds of levels. I look forward to following your journey if you choose to go there on your blog.

      Bless you as you begin to wrap things up on every level. I'll be praying as God brings you to mind.

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  14. Such wise words, my friend! I must admit I'm a -shove it to the side until a full blown meltdown takes over- kind of girl ;). This is never good... Thank you for this solid advice. I love the phrase grieve as you go. I'm definitely taking that with me today.

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    1. Ah, the full-blown meltdown. Been there, done that.

      Here's an unraveled story for you -
      http://www.lindastoll.net/2017/10/on-being-unraveled-and-re-knit-together.html

      Sometimes I have to work very hard not to head in that direction. Continuing to work through things as they come up has been helpful for me to keep things on a relatively even keel, even when there's alot of unsettledness going on.

      I hope it eases things a bit for you, Candace ...

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  15. As I read your grace-filled words, I couldn't help but think that often joy does comes in the mourning. Thank you for these tender words of release today, friend. Blessings on your day.

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    1. Who'd of guessed how powerful God's indwelling presence can be ... until you actually experience the awesome miracle for yourself?!

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  16. Ack, I know the place you are writing from, and just this year, I was going through the cards in my desk--I used to by "all occasion" assortments, so there are STACKS of wedding and baby congrats cards and nowhere could I find a sympathy card. This is, of course, because they get used up so fast in this phase of life.
    And words are so inadequate that we hope a picture and some borrowed words from Hallmark or Dayspring will do the trick. Thanks for this encouragement to let ourselves live nearby to the place where we feel grief so we can more effectively enter it with our dear ones.

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    1. I like that you bring the subject of greeting cards up, Michele, because this is a waning gift to offer others in our digital age. There's nothing quite like a lovely square-ish, handwritten envelope in our mailbox that says someone cares deeply enough to pick a beautiful image, the perfect sentiment, and take the time to share their love in pen and ink.

      I'm a fan. Still.

      My mama taught me well ... and at 88 she still tries oh so hard to remember others through the mail.

      Love that legacy.

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  17. This is profound, Linda. You've put a name to something I think I have been doing for quite awhile when it comes to my mom. She's still here, of course, and she still knows me. But even before she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's--back when my biggest fear actually was that one of my parents would get Alzheimer's--I think I started grieving the loss of how she used to be bit by bit. It ebbs and flows, of course, depending on what's going on. I know very sad days are ahead, but I've accepted where she is and am able to enjoy the time we have now, such as it is.

    I think I'm rambling here, but what you've written really resonates. And I'm so sorry for the many griefs that led you to write this, dear friend.

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    1. Alzheimer's is such a long, wrenching goodbye, isn't it, Lois. The stories you've shared with us along the way have captured your loving commitment to your mom ... and the impact it's had on your life and soul.

      You've said it so beautifully, in 'grieving the loss of how she used to be bit by bit,' you've come to that grace-filled acceptance and are able to enjoy her in this season right now.

      I admire you so. And I appreciate your sharing just a bit of your story here. I'm guessing that others will know exactly what you're saying.

      Bless you, friend.

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