Let’s talk about grief….

 

grief1

As a writer I have been challenged to find my “nitch”. People have access to so much information, so many stories, all the advice they ever wanted and every opportunity to be inspired. So I’ve ask myself….

Why do I write? What unique perspective do I have to offer a world with all the inspiration and information at their fingertips?

Grief. Yup grief.

When I ask God those same questions; over and over again I have heard him say “Speak to people about grief.” I have had a lot of opportunities to grieve in my life and I have not done it well. When I began telling my story on my blog, I mentioned that I was going to tell my story through the lens of grief. I feel compelled to not only share my story, but also to highlight grief in different places and spaces throughout my story. I want people to have a better understanding of what grief looks like in real life. It doesn’t just look like a weeping widow or a desperate mother. If you are looking, you can see in a person’s eyes or hear it in their tone. You can observe it in people’s shoulders or how they hold their gaze. If you are looking, you’ll see it all around you.

One of my favorite things to do is to hear people’s stories. I love to learn about people’s beginnings, their today and everything in between. Once you hear someone’s story, so much more makes sense. Unfortunately a lot of people’s stories feel chaotic, un-finished and unsettled. Being familiar with grief, I can often sense when people have not grieved well and are paying for it in ways that they are unaware.

Continuing on with the theme of grief in my blog, I am now at the point in my story where grief and I collide. And like most people I didn’t even realize it had happen.

I will continue my story in my next blog. Before I do that, I want to share a few things that I have learned about grief.

It’s beautiful. I love talking about grief. It is universal. Every human experiences it, whether they realize it or not. It’s completely predictable and unpredictable. God created it. He created it as a pathway to healing – a pathway to wholeness. Because God created it, he will meet us there. Grief gives us a glimpse of clarity in the midst of chaos.

You can trust Jesus and still grieve. After my transplant I believed that I couldn’t be upset about what happened. I felt like grieving meant I wasn’t grateful. My world was black and white. When I felt sad, I felt like I was betraying God, Cheri (my donor) and her family. I was alive and someone literally had to die so I could live. What did I have to be sad about? I experienced incredible breakthrough when I realized that I can be sad and grateful at the same time; it does not have to be one or the other.

Someone dying isn’t the only cause of grief. Grief comes after loss. You need to grieve loss. Again, I didn’t give myself permission to grieve early on because I didn’t die. In fact, it was opposite, I was risen from the dead! But I lost so much that day. I lost my life as I knew it. I lost my health. I lost my innocence. I lost my memories. I lost my body. I lost my world that felt safe and made sense. Sometimes we experience loss and need to grieve, even if its our choice. Yup, I know. Mind blowing. I have just taken a position at a church and it’s a huge transition for our family. We are so excited for this next adventure, but there is some grief involved. Because I will be working at another church, we have to leave ours. We have been at our church for almost 10 years. We have raised our kids there. All of our friends are there. We are experiencing loss. It will be a fairly painless, swift journey-but nonetheless we will grieve. It’s learning to embrace the bitter with the sweet.

After encountering loss, you will experience grief whether you realize it or not. I want to touch on a few pieces here. Denial is the first phase of grief. It is our initial reaction to loss. It’s a defense mechanism. It’s also God’s protection. It can be visceral. It can cause us to go into shock. It’s the adrenaline that allows us to plan funerals and give inspiring tributes in front of hundreds of people. Like I said, grief is beautiful and I strongly believe God designed denial as a protection. It allows us to get through those first few moments, few days or even months. But the problem is, a lot of people stay there. People may acknowledge their loss, but in their heart they can’t let go. They refuse to redecorate. They will not change routine. In my case, when I entered into denial-I didn’t take care of myself like I should have. I wanted to believe I still had a healthy 18 year old body. I didn’t care that I was more susceptible to skin cancer, I wanted a tan. I didn’t care that I needed more sleep, I didn’t want to miss out. Denial is designed as a defense mechanism, not a way of life. And unfortunately many of us live there, although exhausting, it feels safe there.
I will share more of my personal experience in future blogs, but for those of us who move past denial – anger doesn’t look any better. But because so many of us do not recognize we are grieving, our grief comes out sideways. The people that are closest to us experience the path of our wrath. And again, although anger has its place, we stay there – become angry and before we know it we barely recognize ourselves.

Unresolved grief will quickly surface in the presence of another person’s grief. There is an appropriate sadness that occurs when we hear of other’s loss. Then there is the unresolved grief response. Have you ever heard a story of someone’s else grief and all of a sudden been overwhelmed with deep sadness? Have past painful experiences quickly risen to the forefront of your mind as you listen to someone else’s story? It’s happened to me, more than once. The person that is sharing doesn’t even have to have a similar experience that I have had. I have tried to ignore those feelings, push them aside; I’m just being empathetic, right? Nope, these feelings are deeper. They rise up within you from a deep, dark place. Sit there, don’t ignore those feelings. Something doesn’t belong, the experience hasn’t been processed and put in its proper place.

I want my pain to matter. I cling to the belief that God never wastes pain. But I know that I have wasted time allowing myself to sit in pain, when God has given me a clear path to walk through the chaos. My hope and prayer for you as you continue to read my blog is that you can see what unresolved grief looks, learn from my mistakes and clear a path through the chaos.

We were made for more,

Lisa.

Words.

words

Over my life I have found that communication is a lot like playing the game “telephone”. When you play telephone, one person starts with a phrase in their head. They whisper that phrase into the ear of the person next to them. It’s then that person’s responsibility to pass that phrase onto the next person in the circle and so on. The last person in the circle then tells everyone what he or she heard. Most of the time it barely resembles what the person initially said. There is always that kid that will intentionally pass along something completely different just to add humor. Other times the phrase changes simply because of how people hear it; what filter they are using.

We rarely see or hear the real truth of what is going on around us. We see and hear things through our filters. Most of the time we don’t even realize that we have them.

I remember exactly where I was. I was on a walk with my new friend Chris.

My body had just rejected my liver. We were talking about it and he casually said to me “Do you think it was a sin that you committed or a sin in your family that caused all this to happen to you?”

WHAT?!?!

“Well, you know God is sovereign, so you know He caused all of this to happen. “

I didn’t know how to internalize this information. I don’t know how I missed the word “sovereign” growing up. I did know the God I served and loved with my whole heart would NEVER cause all these horrible things to happen to me.

Now,18 years later, I could receive those words, appreciate his process and move on with my day. But on that day, in the midst of weakness, those words had a lot of filters to pass through before they entered into my heart

Pain. The filter of pain told me God if caused all of this then he must want me to be in pain. Without evening knowing, my guard went up. If God wanted me to be in pain, then I needed to protect myself. God was no longer safe. I had to take care of myself.

Exhaustion: The filter of emotional exhaustion told me to brace myself, this was just the beginning. I needed to be strong.

Trauma: My filter of trauma caused my face to flush and my blood pressure to rise. After all I’ve done for Him, all the hard things I’ve experienced were caused by God?! After all I have done for Him…..

I lost the God I knew and loved that day. The God I knew would never cause these horrible things to happen to me.The God I knew was safe and protected me. The God I knew had good plans for me. At the time “hard” and “good” did not coexist in the same sentence.

The God I met that day was scary to me. I felt unsafe and insecure to think about a God that would cause bad things to happen. I retreated inward and vowed to myself that I was the only one that would take care of me. I felt afraid of my future. If He had caused my transplant and then my rejection, what else could be coming? I had to be strong. I felt so vulnerable, so exposed. My heart began to harden.

My friend was simply trying to process my experience with me. For whatever reason, I took what he said as truth. I filtered his words through trauma, pain and exhaustion and it ended in a crisis of faith.

I read somewhere once that “perception is reality.” How we see things, what filters we allow our thoughts to pass through, is going to create our reality-whether it’s true or not. It often happens without us even realizing it. Innocent words spoken to a broken heart can bring miraculous healing or even deeper pain.

It was years later before I could articulate how his words affected me. I desperately wanted to know the God I once knew and loved. As I cried out to God, I was quickly brought back to that walk, that place and I could almost feel it; the day I lost my God.

Some words are meant to hurt us. But often times the words that affect us the most are not intended for harm. They are casually spoken as we process together, flippantly said in a casual conversation or said with just enough sarcasm to make us wonder the true meaning behind the words.

It’s often not really about the words anyway, it’s what stands in the way of your heart.

Learn from my mistake. It took me a long time to realize why my heart felt so hardened towards God. I didn’t understand why my God went from safe to scary, from loving to harsh; from comforting to exposing. When I realized how those innocence questions penetrated my heart, a journey of healing began.

It can be as simple as asking questions.

Ask God…

What did I receive that was true today?

What conversation do I need to return to in order to get clarity?

What filters are standing in the way of the truth?

Ask these questions each day because as Proverbs 4:23 says..

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Lisa