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,