We Grieve Because We Loved

Photo Credit: Unknown

Recently, I was asked to write an article about grief for my high school newspaper. Below is my article.

Over the last few weeks, I have been saddened to see an increasing number of alumni passing away.  As I read Alumni Director’s Facebook posts, I was reminded of the families of those who passed, the ones who knew the person the best and how their lives were changed because of the death.

November 23, 2015, my wife of 42 years passed away in her sleep.  On earth, she was my life, my best friend, my “everything”.  It was on the Monday of Thanksgiving week.  All the plans and events for the holidays were suddenly unimportant.  My attention was now on “what do I do now?” 

In the following weeks, I began to visit with others in my church, who had experienced the loss of a spouse.  After I visited with them, I began to look for ways on how to heal from my grief, what things were “normal” in grief (everyone had a different story, but the same conclusion: healing was a mystery).  So, I began to do some research in how to grieve.  I was reading a book written by H. Norman Wright and he wrote about a program that was developed to help grieving people.  The program is called GriefShare. (www.griefshare.org/findagroup)

Griefshare is a Christ-centered 13 week program used in over 12,000 churches around the world.  I visited with my pastor to discuss implementing the program in our church.  He agreed and I was named the director of our Griefshare ministry in my church.  We host two cycles each year (Spring / Fall) and are currently at the end of our 10th cycle.  I wanted to share some observations and things that I have learning in this ministry.

First, grief is unique, because your relationship with your loved one was unique.  The two of you shared something together that was different from others.  The intensity of your grief will correlate to how close you were with them.

Secondly, not everyone grieves the same.  Because we are all different, we are allowed to grieve in a way that suits us.  With this in mind, I choose to grieve for my wife based upon 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  I choose to “give thanks” for the 4 years of dating and the 42 years of marriage.  I choose to “give thanks “that from the age of 18 to 64, she had the most influence on me and helped make me into the person I am now.  I choose those things in lieu of being bitter because she was not with me anymore. 

While we are allowed to grieve as we want to, I would add if you are thinking of harming yourself or planning to end your life, don’t do it!!  Instead, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).      

Here’s another point, I would like to offer.  Moving On vs Moving Forward:  is there a difference between the two?   To the grieving person there is a difference.

Have you ever heard anyone say, “Why can’t you get over this? Why can’t you just move on?” Those are hurtful words. The phrase “Moving On” implies leaving all there is of your loved one behind (memories, loves, stories, etc.) and going on (abandoning) without them.

NO! You don’t get over it! Someone who was important to you died and left a hole in your heart. That hole takes time to heal and it can heal if you learn to cope with some very real issues.

Moving Forward says Yes, your loved one died, but you didn’t. You have to live without them. Bring your memories, your love, and your stories with you as you move forward with your life. It’s not healthy to stay in the past. It’s not easy going forward, but it is necessary.

Differentiating between the prepositions will help you go in the right direction. Let’s encourage others to keep moving forward.

In C.S. Lewis book “A Grief Observed”, he wrote of the loss of his wife.  It was a sad and powerful story.  In it, he spoke of emotion ambushes, when out of nowhere you get an emotional attack.  I call them “E-Bombs” (emotional bombs).  Early in your grief, they may fall frequently and with great intensity.  They may be triggered by a smell, or a song, or a location, but over time, as your emotions become less raw, they don’t fall as often and they are not as strong.  I am reminded that grief does not affect your emotions only.  It also affects you physically, spiritually, and psychologically.  It’s important for us to:

  • Drink –stay hydrated
  • Exercise – walking, riding a bicycle, etc.
  • Eat – properly.  Some eat too little.  Some eat too much.
  • Rest – getting the right amount of sleep will benefit you

I would suggest you journal your grief journey.  When my wife died, I was challenged to write a post once a month on my blog describing what I was going through.  The discipline of forming words to express yourself was very helpful to me in focusing on what I actually was feeling.  As you look back on what you wrote, you will see you are making progress and that is encouraging.

I wanted to offer a couple of tips for those who have lost a loved one and wondering how to make it through the holidays. I learned these from GriefShare and experientially:

  1. Give yourself some time to rest. You may need to take a break from being with others.
  2. If you are invited to an event, consider driving yourself so that you can leave if it becomes too much for you. You might consider using a pre-arranged code word.
  3. As the day approaches, ‘lean into’ the day emotionally. Just as you know a ocean wave will hit you, brace yourself through prayer.
  4. Adjust holiday traditions to work for you. You can omit, change, or add traditions that will enhance the day.
  5. Talk about your loved one. Share stories of what made them special to you. If you hang stockings, ask people to write something about them, put them in the stocking and then draw them out later to read and share. I would encourage you to write out important stories/events about your loved one. Your family will cherish those stories in the years ahead.

Will you heal from your grief?  Yes, but it takes time.  Your heart needs about nine months to process what your brain knew immediately, so it will take some time.  You can’t rush it, but you can begin to heal by praying and reading the Bible for words of comfort.  And one day, you will realize you can remember your loved one without hurting.  You have a love that you thank God for giving you your loved one to make your life better. 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NKJV

As you heal, turn outward to help others.  People tend to listen to those who have already gone through what they are currently going through.  You will bless them and you will be blessed as well.

You Matter!

My brother posted these two words on his Facebook page a couple of days ago. Since then, I have been pondering them and their significance in light of our world .   

It seems to me, these two words summarize a major problem we have in our society. 

 From my perspective, we as a society, are really self-centric!  We only care for ourselves!  Every thing must orbit around us and therefore the needs of others slide down on the list of importance.

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Memes – Ugh!

photo credit: Index-Journal.com

Memes are interesting to me. They can be funny. They can be satirical. They can be inspiring. They can be truthful or not. To be honest, for the most part, I don’t like memes. I prefer to read ones personal thoughts and experiences, but if they do use a meme, I would like to know why or how it relates to the individual. I like this meme because it demonstrates my point. Anyone can combine a photograph and a thought to create a meme.

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Harmony

As a teenage boy of the late 1960’s, I enjoyed listening to the harmony sung by the Beach Boys, The Beatles, and Simon & Garfunkel.  To know that two or more voices were singing together and it sounded as one voice to me, was amazing to me.  In the fifties, Doo-Wop music was popular for it’s harmonious sounds.   And I’m sure, with some study, we would find throughout history, harmony has been sung since there was a song to sing.  Now I’m not a musician or a student of music or music theory.  Continue reading

Commitment

I was praying on the way to work the other day and I thought about the word “commitment” and where I was regarding commitment in my life.

I like to have a common understanding of what words mean so I like to add a definition

 

com·mit·ment  /kəˈmitmənt/ noun

  1. the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.
  2. a pledge or undertaking

for the sake Continue reading

Scorched Earth

I have been hearing the phrase “scorched earth” since 1991 when the Iraqi forces set fire to the oil wells in Kuwaiti.  Black smoke filled the skies leaving an apocalyptic feel to the observer.

According to Wikipedia.org, this phrase is defined as:

“A scorched-earth policy is a military strategy that aims to destroy anything that might be useful to the enemy while it is advancing through or withdrawing from a location. Any assets that could be used by the enemy may be targeted, for example food sources, water supplies, transportation, communications, industrial resources, and even the locale’s people themselves.” Continue reading

A Greater Cause

Before the Apostle Paul converted to Christianity, he was a zealous and a devoted Jew.  The scripture says he was extremely devoted to following the Jewish customs.  A Jew among Jews.

After his salvation, Paul was a zealous, devoted, and bold preacher of the gospel.  He would reason in synagogues and many were converted to Christianity.  But there were many who did not accept his message.  He eventually expanded his message to the Gentiles.  As a result of his faithful proclamation, Continue reading

Surprised or Awed?

 

I don’t know which word describes how I feel.  Maybe it’s both.  When you pray for something and God answers that prayer with what you asked for, do you ever feel surprised?  Or are you in awe that He did it?

A week ago, we began another cycle of GriefShare  (www.griefshare.org) sessions at my church.  Interested people may pre-register online on our church website.  As of the eve of the first session, no one had pre-registered for the class.  That’s not too surprising because our society does not like to sign-up for things anymore.   I understand that, but it does make it difficult in knowing how to prepare materials, drinks, etc. for the class.

In the first session, I knew my facilitator would be absent due to a work conflict.  So, I went to the church wondering if I would be the only one there.  I was surprised when two young ladies walked in to join the class.  As I talked with them, it was apparent they were both hurting deeply and I was glad that my church has this ministry to help the hurting.

Last night was our second session.  I knew my facilitator would be joining me and a lady from the church said she would be there.  When they arrived, I was pleased to have them.  And then the two young ladies came and right behind them were two more people that was a complete surprise to me.  The last two drove about 25 miles one way to be there.

I was asked what was the minimum amount of folks required to have a class.  My answer was one, but even if no one signed up, we would be there each week to pray and to study and to be available if someone should walk in.

Is it a matter of faith or lack of faith?  Is it a matter of being available to be used by God?  Or is it an excitement to seeing Him in action?

“Jesus said to him, “If you can believe all things are possible to him who believes.”  Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”  Mark 9:23-24 NKJV

 

A New Taste

Yesterday, I had a most wonderful present! I was privileged to get to be with small children on Christmas day.

To you that may be normal or insignificant, but to me it was special.  It was a first for me.  It was something that always seemed to be missing in my life.

Oh the joy it gave me to watch and interact with these precious little ones as they showed me their Christmas gifts.  A shark boat, a magic set, special color art pencils, and an adorable Minnie Mouse dress.  They would say, “Hey, Steve, look at my…. Or Watch this!”   The shy Minnie Mouse would look at me from the top of the stairs with her little face between the banisters, with her blond hair and blue eyes only to say, “BOO!”  Baby brother was ready for a nap and preferred to be in his Grammie’s arms.

Why was this so special to me?  Because it gave me a taste of what it must be like to be a Grandfather.  Something that I never thought would happen and may never happen again.  But yesterday, I got the taste, the sweet taste of the joy of being with children on Christmas.  What a blessing!!