Monday, March 1, 2021

What I Have Learned About Grief

 Monday, March 1, 2021 Submitted by Lara Cook

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. I Thessalonians 4:13-14

What I Have Learned About Grief
All of us have our own grief stories. I grew up in an alcoholic home and watched my father, who I loved dearly, destroy his life. It brought me grief when he hurt himself physically, and it brought me grief when he struggled because he couldn’t do for his family what he needed/wanted to because of the consequences of his addiction. I lost him to liver failure when I was 30 years old, and my mother died 11 months later from heart failure. I had not even processed my father’s death when she died. I was young and married with 3 young children, and alone. I had friends and other family, but there is something about both of your parents being gone that makes you feel really alone. In 2016 my brother was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer, and almost one year later from the date he was diagnosed he passed away. That year was a hard year that completely changed me. I watched him suffer with more grace and dignity than I had ever witnessed in my life. It changed my perspective about what is really important, and it also made me more fearful of mortality. I am not afraid to die - I know where I am going and I know it will be so much better than I can ever imagine. It just made me feel with great heaviness the brevity of life, especially my own. The year my brother passed away, my older brother was also diagnosed with a tumor on his auditory nerve and the base of his brain. Thankfully he was able to have surgery to have it removed and it was benign. 

My story is not special but I believe that part of the healing process might just to be to write it down. It helps for us to realize just exactly how much we have been through that we sweep under the rug because we don’t want to deal with it or think about it. Sometimes it is just that we simply don’t have time because life goes on and we have responsibilities. We make ourselves numb to the circumstances and do what we have to do. Through these experiences there are two specific characteristics I realized grief.

Grief affects everyone differently. My experience and how I deal with it (or don’t) will be completely different from your experience. There are lots of factors that contribute such as: 

·      How much support you have or don’t have - Having a strong support system of family, friends, and church definitely helps when we are walking through loss. 

·      Stress levels and emotional atmosphere of your home - Living in a stressful environment makes everysituation exaggerated. Trying to deal with more heavy emotions and grief on top of what you are already dealing with every day feels overwhelming and impossible. 

·      Your own emotional state apart from this experience - If you are struggling already and then experience a loss, you are starting with a negative balance in the emotional bank. This is a hard place to start from. Support from friends, family, and church family can help, as well as counseling if needed.

·      The state of your relationship with the loved one or friend that has passed away - Was your relationship healthy or broken? The loss of someone we have a broken relationship with makes healing a little tough because of the unsettled status of the relationship - especially if it was a parent, child, or friend.

Any of these things can make the experience harder or easier for you at the time you lose a loved one. 

You cannot control grief. One thing became completely clear after my parents passed away. I had no control over when I would be overcome with grief all of a sudden. There were times it hurt so bad I wanted to cry but the tears would not come. Other times - the most inconvenient time - the floodgates were opened and I could not stop the tears. It doesn’t have to control you, but like Brother Van said yesterday, allow yourself to feel it. You absolutely cannot move through it unless you allow yourself to feel it. Some people deal with emotions different than others. Some may be very overwrought with grief and sorrow, while others may not experience such a flood. There is nothing wrong with either way. Everyone should be allowed to grieve in their own way, without judgement. 

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.- The only way we can make it through grief, or any other difficult situation, is by remembering what we believe and focusing on that. The promises of God are true. We lose loved ones in this life and the pain will come. We cannot get around it, but we can work through it with God’s help and love and find peace in the promises He has made. We can find hope again. Eventually we can find peace that they are in heaven with Jesus and they are rejoicing in His presence, and we have that same hope for ourselves.

What is your story? What losses have you had in your life and how have they changed you? Have you healed or are you still ignoring them? Sometimes we don’t realize just how much we have been through because we have avoided dealing with it. I encourage you to write it down. Put it on paper - just for yourself - so you can see what you have overcome with the help of God or give yourself some grace and start to deal with the grief you have experienced. 


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