It Will Be

Today is World Mental Health Day. And unintentionally, this afternoon I finished a book on the subject of overcoming grief. As I reflected on the book, the intersection of those two moments didn’t go unnoticed.

Pastor Wright gifted his book to me about this time last year. It’s his personal story of moving through the grief journey after losing his 32-year-old son in an accident. Knowing that context, it’s not a book you just read for fun.

It sat on my desk for much of the year, waiting for the right time to read it. I can’t say what that trigger was, but it came. Sixty-five chapters later, I’m glad it came now. I could make a lengthy list of reasons why, but here are a few:

  • Just last week I sat with a couple who will soon be experiencing the second anniversary of their son’s passing. Listening to them, it feels like it was only last week. Pastor Wright’s book helped me help them. And now I’m passing the book on to them for their journey to hope.
  • Speaking of sitting and listening, although I knew this already, this book has shown me how much room I have to grow in being empathetic. It’s probably true we never arrive at showing empathy right all the time, but I’m not where I want to be either.
  • I may not be where I want to be in the empathy realm, but I can say that I am much better in the grieving realm. In the last year, I’ve engaged grief-some by force and some by choice. Embracing communal grief due to the pandemic and other happenings along with the loss of a friend to suicide has deepened my appreciation and desire to let grief do its work.
  • In June I blogged about Ungrieved Loss. As I read this book, I engaged my own ungrieved losses. Some as far back as childhood and some as fresh as 2021. Some I didn’t know needed grieving; some were top of mind.

What I believe with Pastor Wright is that those who mourn are comforted. The timing will be what it will be, but it will be. On this October 10, if you find yourself in the throes of grief, know that hope is possible. And I echo Pastor Wright’s prayer to end his book:

Dear God, it was only through the dark night that we came to find your light. Had we not stumbled through the cold dark, we would not have come to the warmth of your hearth with frozen hands and hearts. We are grateful for your comfort especially as we have experienced your love through those who have journeyed with us. May your grace and compassion fill us. May we sense your hand in ours. May your tears blend with ours. May we be willing to walk alongside others. Thank you for the promise that one day you will wipe away our tears and that death and mourning will be no more. Amen.

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Loss Ungrieved

Every loss in life deserves an appropriate season of grieving, whether you’ve lost your favorite person or you’ve lost your favorite pen. Grieving is a way in which we take the emotional upheaval and bring it up to the Lord…If we don’t let emotions up and out before God, those emotions internalize. They give us physical, psychological, and spiritual problems.

-Terry Wardle

Wardle calls these problems ungrieved losses. I heard him say this today in a podcast episode with ChurchPulse Weekly Conversations. It took me a long time to learn this, but I can definitely tell you he’s right.

Sure, we all grieve differently. But grieve we must.

Sure, we all attach in different degrees which determines our level of loss. But lose we do.

I didn’t grow up grieving well. And the biggest opportunity to improve came at age twelve (still growing up) when my father died. And for at least the next twelve years, I needed to let it up and out. The only avenue I took was the piano. I see it now, but I didn’t know it then that the hours I spent at the piano were hours of grieving.

What I know now that I didn’t know then was the sooner you grieve the better, the sooner you allow the emotional upheaval the better. Healing begins. The weight lightens as you name the loss, acknowledge the emotions attached, then invite God into your grief (read this blog post by Joshua Reich).

In the last year, we’ve all lost. Have you considered naming your losses? I encourage you to name them. They may feel obvious and unnecessary to name, but you may be surprised the longer you sit in them the more you have to name. And those internalized emotions will start rising, inching up and out.

Fear. Loneliness. Sadness. Disappointment. Confusion.

Meanwhile God doesn’t move. He stays with you. He begins to touch and heal your wound-that loss ungrieved.

Photo by Yanna Zissiadou on Unsplash

“They Changed My Life”

Twice in the last 24 hours I’ve heard the same accolade given to a man: “He changed my life.”

One was in an episode of “The Good Doctor.” A character, grieving the loss of a coworker, said he had changed her life. Her grieving caused her to see it.

The other was in a devotional. A high school senior gave this praise to a teacher. Many teachers get this opportunity-to change a life.

As you read this, I’m guessing someone in your past comes to mind. A teacher? A coach? An employer? A family member? A pastor? A friend? A coworker?

This person, although living their life with purpose, most likely didn’t look at you and determine, “They need changing. I’m going to change them.” Not that literal. What they most likely did was simply see you. Listen to you. Answer you. Value you. Honor your place in the world. Give you a place in their world. And it was enough to foster change.

May we all see, listen, answer, value, honor, and give enough to foster change. May we all have said of us, “They changed my life.”

Photo by Zazen Koan on Unsplash

Thankful for Re- (2)

Everyone experiences loss; it’s part of life. To live trying to avoid loss is futile, even unrealistic. However, not all losses are the same. 

For the purpose of this blog, let’s categorize losses in life under two headings: uncommon and common. Uncommon loss refers to loss that is traumatic, unforeseen, you might even say unnatural. The events of loss in Orlando in the last week are in this category. It’s difficult to imagine being thankful for uncommon types of loss. Common loss, on the other hand, refers to loss that can be expected, foreseen, you might say natural to life. Common losses include financial investments, jobs, relationships for various reasons including death to illness and natural causes. Once you’ve grieved a common loss, it is most definitely possible to be thankful for the loss. How might that look, being thankful for loss?

With a loss comes the opportunity to fill the space vacated. A door is open. A chance for re– to occur (see blog Thankful for Re- 1)

  • When a home is lost due to fire, you can be thankful for the chance to rebuild. Ask Job.
  • When hope is lost due to a leader leaving, you can be thankful for the chance to rethink the mission. Ask Peter.
  • When your whole world seems lost due to God’s judgment for man’s actions, you can be thankful for the chance to rewrite history. Ask Noah.
  • When your future plans are lost due to your husband’s death, you can be thankful for the chance to redirect those plans. Ask Ruth.
  • When a friendship is lost due to jealousy and mental instability, you can be thankful for the chance to redefine friendship. Ask David.

In your common loss, look for the open door. Look for the re-. Be thankful for the re-.

What common loss have you grieved and can now find the re- to be thankful for? What got you to that place of thankfulness?

Unselfish Grieving

Matthew 14 records the death of John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin and forerunner.

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Verses 13-14)

  • In his grief, Jesus sought solitude. Normal.
  • Regardless of his loss, people still were seeking Jesus’ touch. Reality.
  • In his grief, Jesus saw the needy crowd with compassion and not with frustration. Supernatural.
  • Despite his grief, Jesus chose to heal, to give, to continue, to refocus. Unselfish.

Sometimes the best healer is healing, giving, noticing, and choosing to take your eyes off yourself. 

Unselfish sacrifice. Unselfish grieving.