Grief: Sitting with the Pain

Grief shakes you to the core.  The feeling of sorrow that comes with a loss is a painful experience.  A loved one that is no longer with you.  Something you pursued that didn’t come to pass, and likely never will.  You invested your time, your emotional energy, your love into a person or thing, and now it’s gone.  That thought; that feeling.  There is hardly anything worse in this world.  It’s overwhelming to process.

Our minds can’t process all that information and corresponding emotions in a one-time crying session or conversation with a friend.  The best TED talk can’t help you reconcile the loss and the best sermon can’t give that person back to you.  Nothing can.  Grief is the journey of living with that absence, feeling its reverberating pain in the constant reminders.  The daily life that can never be the same.

“But at least __[insert silver lining perspective]___”  is what people say to try to help, and perhaps what we may try to tell ourselves to try to make life seem okay in the moment.  Proclamations like, “God uses these things to make us stronger,” or “you know you’ll be a better person because of what you’ve been through.”

True statements.  We need to have hope, and we need to keep going, but we need to do it in the present.  We need to sit with our pain.  If we don’t, we actually miss out on a growth opportunity.  If we try to jump to the redemptive ending while we’re in the midst of grief, we won’t be made stronger; we’ll just put on an emotional shell.  Western culture is always pushing us forward, and we always tend toward efficiency.  Whatever is the quickest fix makes the most sense to us.  Get a medicine, get a coping mechanism, and move on.  Have your catharsis so you can get back to business as usual.  We wish that was how it worked.

We try to skip to the redemption of the loss.  We like that part.  Realistically though, our bodies and minds require a healing process, and when it comes to grieving, this process looks so different for every individual.

We’ve all heard of the 5 stages of grief:

  1.     Denial
  2.     Anger
  3.     Bargaining
  4.     Depression
  5.     Acceptance

Of course, these stages don’t play out in the orderly manner we’d like (human beings, not computers…), but they are helpful to recognize as feelings you will experience on the grief journey, coming and going unexpectedly. Healing in a time of grief is all about self-awareness.  Recognize where you are in the process and sit with the pain, knowing this is the way forward.  Spend time lamenting.  This is about recognizing and experiencing the loss fully.  Don’t try to pretend it’s ok, because that’s not reality.  Even Jesus wept on different occasions, and his perspective was 100% Godly.

Lamenting will look different for everyone, so be aware of what you need.  Write about your pain.  Write a song, a poem, a letter to the one you have lost.  Exercise.  Vent.  Are you in stage 2?  Let yourself be angry.  Go for a run or use whatever physical outlet you use to express your anger.

Include someone else in your grief.  It’s so hard to heal in isolation, and sharing an experience with someone can be helpful in a variety of ways.  It helps us experience grief while receiving support.

More about Charis’ Grief Counseling Services

Our brains also need breaks.  You don’t have to face your loss every hour of every day.  If you’re able to do this, schedule times to really engage with your grief.  Not everyone is able to take a step back from dealing with the loss, but as you’re able, give yourself that rest.  Turn on Netflix, escape for a while, but don’t stay there.

So, if you’re walking through grief stay engaged. If you’re walking alongside someone who is grieving, keep listening, keep showing up. Their grief is a part of their story and not going away anytime soon. If you’re a person of faith, you’ll likely peer into eternity for hope, trusting that God will make things right in the end.  Keep doing that, but don’t ignore your present reality.  By sitting with the pain as it comes, you’re actually moving in the direction of healing and growth.  What a hopeful reality that is.

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