Acceptance

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When I look back at my journey, the driving force behind my grief  is control. So much happened to me in a fairly short time. Over the last 18 years I have grasped to control anything I  possibly could. Jobs. My health. My reputation. My emotions. My friendships.

I was pretty good at it. I am very persistent and can be very convincing.

Then I met my match.

Her name is Piper. She is my daughter.

We had a rocky start. After my transplant, we had decided to adopt instead of having kids biologically. I was scared. There was so much unknown around my health and so many babies out there that needed homes. Then I had a dream. The dream that changed it all. I don’t remember much about the dream, but I knew that when I woke up we needed to try and have a baby. I couldn’t make a decision out of fear. I gave God a month. If I didn’t get pregnant in a month, we were moving forward with adoption.

I got pregnant.

As I have shared, my relationship with God at the time was transactional. If I was obedient, God should give me what I want. That line of thinking led me to believe that if I was obedient and got pregnant, being a parent was going to be easy.

Just in case you don’t know, parenting is super hard. And when two strong willed, feisty people create a human, it tends to even be harder.

A couple years ago we were deep in the trenches with Piper. I was working through deep resentment towards God and Piper. She was so hard. Piper was mirroring the anxiety I had spent my whole life battling and had tried so hard to hide. I blamed myself, God and her. When she wasn’t weeping, her anxiety manifested in anger and rage. We were walking on eggshells. We didn’t want to upset the beast. We sought peace at all cost. We tried all the tricks. We did all the things. Nothing seemed to be helping. Our marriage was suffering as we sought to survive the storm.

We were defeated. We didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t do it anymore. Nothing was working. It was a fight we couldn’t win.

Right around the same time, I was struggling professionally. I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing, but I sure knew what I wanted to do. So I pushed. I tried to control my circumstances and convince the people involved that my plan was right. On a conscience level I didn’t realize I was doing that, but I knew something didn’t feel right. I felt like I was trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Those around me saw beyond my arguments and confirmed what I already knew, the job was not the right fit. I was the square peg that didn’t fit in the round hole. Although in my heart, I knew it was the right thing, I was angry. I was lost.

On top of that, my friendships were changing. I had had hip surgery and recovery was much harder than we had anticipated.

Everything around me felt so out of control.

I could no longer steer my ship.

I had lost.

I was broken.

I couldn’t control my friends.

I couldn’t control my body.

I couldn’t convince anyone that I was the best one for the job.

I couldn’t change Piper as much as I tried and tried.

I couldn’t fight it anymore.

I slowly began to surrender.

I waved my white flag.

I finally accepted. I began to accept the fact that 18 years ago, my life changed forever – even though I never did anything wrong. I began to accept the fact that my body does not have the same capacities it used to have. I began to accept the fact that God never promised that we would be shielded from pain, only that he would be there. I began to accept the fact that I am going to have a lot more things happen in my life that are super hard. I began to accept the fact that I have an anxious, defiant daughter, whom I deeply love. I began to accept the fact that I am not going to always get what I want when I want it.

I began to accept reality.

I have never been so relieved. Feeling the need to control everything is a heavy burden to bear. One I was never designed to carry.

I literally felt my heart begin to melt. I felt all these layers of grief and confusion begin to shed. And with each layer, I felt lighter and lighter. The Lisa that God created began to resurface again.

I have wondered over the last couple years why these circumstances in particular brought me to a place of surrender and acceptance. I’m not really sure. After everything I have gone through, why my anxious daughter and a failed dream were what brought me to my knees remains a mystery. But I’ll tell you this-I am eternally grateful. As I continue to cease to try to control my life and everyone involved, I am in constant awe of God’s presence and provision. Breakthroughs in my faith have been accelerated. I have grown more in the last two years then I did in the previous 15. My relationships have gotten so much sweeter. I can make decisions faster and with more confidence. I can hear God’s voice more clearly and discern his path more quickly. I’m becoming more grateful and less discontent. I am becoming more graceful and less judgmental. I am much quicker to see my pride and confess my desire to control.

Acceptance is so peaceful. Fighting is exhausting.

I have said so many times that grief is designed to be a pathway to healing, not a way of life. If you allow the current of emotion that I have learned to call grief carry you, you will end in the ocean. A place of freedom, adventure and awe. But if you try to stop the current, it will buddle up and you will drown..

Do you feel like you are drowning? Look up and breathe deeply. Acknowledge that life was not what you expected. Invite God to join you. Get angry. Just make sure it isn’t pointed sideways. Bargain. Just don’t let it be your foundation in which you build your faith. If you feel depressed or anxious, don’t be afraid of it, it’s normal. But try to keep perspective on the driver behind the emotion. Seek outside help. Never feel ashamed. Then surrender. Surrender daily, Surrender hourly. Because please, learn from my mistakes…

In Matthew 16 Jesus says to his disciples “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

Let me take the liberty to paraphrase…

If you try to control your life, you will lose it. But if you surrender your life to him, he will save it.

This is the end of my series on my grief journey. Stay tuned for what is next!

Lisa

 

 

 

Anxiety

Woman Praying In A Dark Place

Usually if I was at home, watching a movie, with Bryan-I would be okay. Not this time. None of my tricks were working. I was curled up in the fetal position. Sobbing. I had never felt so desperate. At the time, there was a popular worship song that had repeating lyrics that said “I, I, I’m desperate for you.” In that moment I thought, “This is what it feels like to truly be desperate. All those times I had repeated those words were just lip service.”

It was the end of a 5-day mission trip. I had taken 8 girls to an Indian Reservation and all of sudden I felt sick. I was exhausted and I was sure that I was going to throw up. I ran to bathroom and nothing came out. I began to panic. I had a full out panic attack in front of hundreds of people, and I didn’t stop panicking until we arrived home. Four hours later. I have never been so embarrassed.

I would find myself rushing home to curl into a ball and cry in between meetings. And just as I would reach to my phone to call and cancel my next meeting, I would somehow muster enough strength to get up and make it through the next hour.

Anxiety.

It all started when I was asked to travel for work. When I first heard that I would be gone for two weeks for training in Colorado, I was excited. But the closer that I got to the date of departure, I found myself feeling really hesitant to go. My “what ifs” spoke louder and louder and I became very anxious about the trip.

I went on the trip. I survived. I did it, but it was hard. And I came back different. Something shifted in me. Life all of a sudden felt less certain. I felt a lot less safe. I found myself a lot more cautious. Up until that point I had prided myself in how independent I was. That was no longer the case. All of a sudden, I really liked being with Bryan. A lot. Okay, all the time. He was my rock. He was my safe place.

I had dealt with separation anxiety as a kid. We moved to the Twin Cities when I was 12. Everyone was worried that I would react poorly. I did great and it was almost as if I was miraculously healed. For years I lived with no fear. I traveled all over and made bold, risky decisions. I didn’t even experience anxiety for several years after my transplant. After the suddenness of my transplant, no one would have blamed me at the time if I put myself in a glass container and stayed home for at least a year.

But it wasn’t until 5 years after my transplant that it hit me. It really caught me off guard. It took the wind out my sails. It cost me a job that I loved. It cost me relationships. It cost me credibility. It was an incredibly painful time in my life. It wasn’t just painful for me, it was very painful for Bryan and those around me.

Before I move on, I want to clarify something. I am over simplifying my anxiety for the sake of making my grief journey relatable and understandable. My anxiety is much more complex than I am making it sound. Although I do believe that where I was at in my grief journey was the catalyst to re-introduce my anxiety, I also strongly believe I am predisposed to anxiety and have a chemical imbalance that is also at play.

In the midst of all the pain, I kept wondering, “Why now? Why not five years ago when everyone would understand?”

I wish I could tell you with great confidence why I didn’t struggle with anxiety 5 years earlier when it would have felt acceptable. I don’t know exactly why taking a trip, when I generally loved to travel, was the tipping point for me. I don’t know for sure, but I think I understand at least a part of it…

Life had become a bit more normal. It became more predictable. I didn’t feel like I was at death’s door anymore. Bryan and I were married. I was doing what I felt like God had created me to do. I was growing up. I was still angry at times and I continued to bargain with God, but I actually kind of felt like a normal person, doing normal things.

It was no longer just about what happened in the past or what I wanted God to do in the future. I was here. I was alive. And for the first time in a long time, I thought that it was going to stay that way.

I was here…

I was alive….

It seemed like it might stay that way….

That felt very unsettling.

For years I had spent my energy outside of my currently reality. Denial had allowed me to believe that things were not different, I could stay in a world that had not changed. Anger had pushed my emotions out on to the people I loved. It wasn’t about me. Bargaining with God gave me an illusion of control. It kept me in the future.

Anxiety anchored me to today.

anchor

An anchor is designed to secure your position. It’s designed to keep you in place no matter what is going on around you.

Before I knew it, I found myself anchored to anxiety.

I felt it. I experienced it. It had an all-consuming grip on my reality.

And while I could write a whole blog, even a whole book, about anchors, I will spare you a sermon, and maybe years of heartache. Anxiety hooks are deep and ruthless. I can guarantee your position will be secured. I’m still digging myself out.

I know I don’t belong in denial, which made me long for the past. I don’t belong to anger because it allowed me to ignore my today. I don’t belong in bargaining because it kept me trying to control my future. But I also don’t belong anchored by anxiety today.

Hebrews 6:19 says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek”

That is where I belong. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Not today.

Anchored in hope. Anchored in forever.

This has been a long journey for me, one I am still on. But these days in those moments where all I want to do is curl up in a ball and cry, God has given me a new song to sing. It has taken me awhile, but I’m finally starting to whisper……

I have this hope                                                                                                                                   As an anchor for my soul                                                                                                                    Through every storm                                                                                                                             I will hold to You

Anxiety is not for the faint of heart my friends. May God give you a new song….

Lisa

 

Ps. Traditionally people recognize depression as the 4th stage of grief. The woman that coined the 5 stages was referring to people that were on their deathbed. The more I have researched I think that there is something to be said about that it would make sense for people to feel depression with a hopeless diagnosis. People who have experienced loss and have to create a new reality may experience higher levels of anxiety as they try to make sense of their new world. I identify anxiety as my 4th stage of grief. Just a thought…

Bargaining

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Bargaining is a time of grasping. You are grasping for things to be what they once were. You reach for any sense of control you can find. You are no longer blinded by your anger and reality begins to surface.  Being in the present is too hard. You fruitlessly reach into the past and beg to change things, “If I had just done this..” “If we had not gone on that walk..” Or people look to the future, “If you just make my mother better, I will be a good person for the rest of my life.” The present reality is too hard, so we either reach forward or send our gaze backwards.

As I have read about grief, people say that often times bargaining is the shortest phase in the grief cycle. Some people don’t even include bargaining in the grieving process. When I started looking at my own grief journey I thought for a moment that I had bypassed that phase.

I was very wrong.

My bargaining was not the shortest phase in my grief cycle and I certainly did not bypass it.  No, I bargained hard. I dove in deep and stuck in it for the long haul.

The problem was that the one that I was bargaining with was the creator of the earth and sky. My odds were stacked against me from the beginning. Even knowing that, my hardened heart approached the throne of grace.

I had demands.

It sounded like a lot like this. “If you love me, you will not let things like this happen again (reaching forward). I am a faithful follower. I have always done what you asked, crazy things even (reaching into the past). I will continue to follow you on my terms. You must protect me in the way that I feel protected. I will take care of myself and you can fill my life up with blessings. I have done my share of suffering. Take it or leave it. That is my deal.”

Let me spare you of YEARS and YEARS of heartache.

We don’t get to bargain with God. At certain places in my faith journey, hearing that would make me mad. If you are there, know that I have been there. I’m with you. I get it. Please continue to read and learn from my mistakes.

I spent 16 years bargaining with God (in fact, I’m still pretty good at it).  Bargaining with God became a key pillar of the foundation of my newly rebuilt faith.

In Words, I talk about a conversation I had with a friend. The condition of my heart and the innocent question he asked turned into a perfect storm that shattered the faith I had built my life upon. I was grieving, bargaining with God, and rebuilding my faith at the same time. It was not a good combination.

Let me explain.

My faith crumbled within the first year of my transplant. I couldn’t handle it all. The God I knew was good and safe. He loved me and I loved him. That had all suddenly changed, yet the depth of faith that I had wouldn’t let me walk away from God. I’ll tell you one thing for sure, things were different. I had come to the bargaining table and freely shared my demands.

My demands became the foundation on which I rebuilt my faith on. IF you protect and bless me-the way that I want you to, then I will follow you.

Matthew 7:24-27 says “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

In that season of rebuilding, I read the bible. I read these particular verses many times. In fact I got a double major in bible and ministry. I had read the words, I knew God that never promised that we would be without struggle. I knew that I should expect suffering. I knew that in my mind, but not my heart. And whether we realize it or not, the foundation upon which we build our faith is based on the condition of our heart, not the words we speak.

 Needless to say, my house crashed a lot.

I have had some really hard things happen to me since. And because I built my faith on the idea that if I took care of myself and continued to follow Jesus, he would protect me in the ways I wanted and bless me in the ways I wanted. But then something bad would happen that was out of my control and my faith would crumble. I couldn’t accept the reality that bad things would happen, so I would reach into the past. I would remind God of all the things I had been through and how faithful I was. Instead of sitting in acceptance, I would reach into the future and think,  “Okay God, lets try this again. This is the last time. Next time I’m serious, I’m walking away.”

Unfortunately, God doesn’t work like that. When it comes to bargaining with God, we don’t get to set the terms.

Isn’t that truth so unsettling?

That is the thing that I hate the most and love the most about God – he’s in charge.

Like I mentioned earlier in my post, I bargained with God for 16 years. I built my faith upon the truth I was willing to accept, even though it never worked. Trusting God fully again felt too scary. I didn’t care that my house continued to fall, at least I felt in control as I built it back up again.

About two years ago a few things happened (which I’m sure I’ll share about soon) and my heart began to melt. My bargaining chips had never really worked and I was exhausted by continuing to build my house back up. I gave in and approached the throne of Grace. I did not come with terms or stipulations for my faith. I came broken and humbled. I accepted the truth.

God may never protect me the way I want him to. Really hard things are probably going to happen to me. God never promised that I would be safe.

But when I met him there he reminded me of his truth.

He reminded me that he is on my team. He reminded me that he will make good where there is bad. He promised that he will carry me when things are hard. And that he will protect me, but not necessarily in the way I want.

I began to rebuild my foundation. Not on my terms, but on the truth. I take one step forward and two steps back. But I know from years of experience that if I don’t build my house on the truth of God’s word, I will continue the cycle of crumbling and rebuilding. It’s exhausting.

Let me encourage you. Since I have accepted these truths, my faith has accelerated. I have had more breakthroughs in my faith in the last year then I have had in 20. The lies that I had believed created a barrier between me and God. I am truly becoming a new person.

I encourage you to take note. Take note of when your faith begins to crumble. What truths have you built your house upon? If they are not from God, I promise-your house will crumble.

The good news today is that God’s not leaving his throne of grace. In fact, he is graciously waiting for you there. He is there waiting to remind you of the truth. The truth that life is going to be hard and that a lot of times there is nothing you can do about it. The truth that protection will look different than you want. His purpose is not to make you feel safe. But he will also remind you that makes good in the midst of the bad. And even in the midst of your pain, he will remind you that his is on your team. And then he will help you start to rebuild. And together as you walk in the truth, you can rebuild your foundation.

Because there is more,

Lisa

Anger

I’m sorry its been awhile. My life took a different (good) direction than I expected this fall and I’m just finding my footing. There are so many things in my life that often don’t feel clear, but there is one thing God has made clear to me over the last few years- I need to write. Not for you. Not for me. But because God asked me to. I want my pain to matter. I want my story to impact other people. I want people to learn from my mistakes. And if there is one thing I have not done well is grieve.. If you haven’t read any of my blog posts before, stop reading. Go back and read Transplant, maybe a couple posts in between and then read Denial.  Meet me back here. Not much I will share today will make sense without context.

Denial was exhausting. From an outsider’s perspective, I was thriving. Below the surface I was  constantly pushing down the current of emotions that was just waiting to burst through the surface.

Then Bryan…

Bless his heart.

I mentioned in Denial that I had a lot of coffee friends. Most of us can rally for an hour or two. But when Bryan and I started dating I couldn’t fake it anymore. We spent more than 2 hours at a time together. We traveled together. We had class together. We studied together.

We ran together.

My lifelong dream prior to my transplant was to run a marathon. We had recently started dating. Bryan and I were in the library at school. I saw something about the Twin Cities marathon and I nonchalantly said to Bryan “Do you want to run a marathon with me in October?” Without much hesitation Bryan said yes. He is generally game for anything.

So we ran together. That’s how we got to know each other. That’s how we dated each other for the first months of our relationship. At that point after my transplant (I was about 3 years in) I went in and got my blood drawn every month. As Bryan and I continued to run, my liver enzymes continued to climb (they are supposed to be low) and they couldn’t figure out why. I was put on a few new medications and you cannot even imagine the fear I was experiencing. My recent episode of rejection was still so fresh. I could not, would not, go through that again. But as much as I was full of fear, there was a bigger force at play. A force that had become my shield and my sword – it was denial. I didn’t care if liver enzymes were rising. I was going to run a marathon. I was not sick and I was going to prove it. To myself. To my doctor. To my family. To God.

I will spare you all the details. But I will tell you one thing.

I didn’t finish.

I was angry.

anger-inside-out_tn2

Let’s pause for a minute. I do recognize that running a marathon is not an everyday thing. Being able to run the marathon is not a good measure of whether or not one is healthy. But prior to my transplant, this would have been a very attainable goal.

For me, the marathon represented so much more than the miles I ran.  It represented control. Somewhere along the way I had decided that if I was able to run a marathon I was in control of my body. It represented health. It represented a life that I had lost on August 13, 2000, a life that I so badly wanted back.

And  when I did not finish the marathon, it represented a loss of a dream. A loss of control. A loss of the life I had known and the one I had dreamed of. My body, mind and soul were not the same and would never be the same again. I couldn’t deny it any longer.

The thin layer that was keeping my emerging emotions cracked. I was no longer in denial. I was angry. I was angry at God. I was angry that God didn’t stop this. I was angry at my classmates whose biggest problems revolved around a recent date or exam. I was angry at everyone around me who was healthy. I was angry at people who would tell me that God had a plan for me. I was angry at anyone who would try to comfort me.

I was angry because I was grieving.

But I didn’t know that was what was happening.

I knew one thing, I was angry. I have always been intense and I always will be. But this level of intensity is like nothing I had experienced before.

I yelled a lot. Bryan and I fought all the time. I was mad about something all the time and he was my person. He couldn’t do anything right. He was my safe place and my punching bag.

Like any respectable person would do, Bryan broke up with me.

I would have broke up with me too.

Our grief journey tends to be tough on the people we love. Because we often times don’t understand that grief is the driver behind our outbursts, we search for someone to blame. Not only do we blame people we love for how we feel, but they also get the worst of our emotions. Our anger comes out sideways. Instead of acknowledging our grief, our anger is projected on the people around us.

We yell. We scream. We blame.

We don’t mean to. We feel guilty. But we do it again. It feels as if it is happening to us and we have lost control. We suffer. You suffer. And then we do it again.

Does that sound familiar? Is there someone in your life right now that is angry all of the time? Are you angry all the time? Do you make small things big or big things small?

Could it be grief?

Don’t try to evaluate whether or not your loss deserves grief. It’s not about the experience itself, it’s about how you internalize it.

Just go there.

Examine your heart. Do it for the ones you love. They don’t deserve your misplaced anger. But more importantly, grieve because you can. God never promised that our lives would be without pain, but he promised to meet us there. He created a beautiful pathway for you as you process loss; it’s called grief. He will walk with you along the journey. Your process may take a while, but I promise you in the end it will be worth it.

Just ask Bryan. Your family will thank you.

Lisa

 

Denial

 

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Disclaimer: I’m in the midst of telling my story. Currently one blog post does not stand alone. To fully understand this post, I would encourage you to read a few of my past blog posts.

I spent at least two hours this morning researching about denial. I wrote a post full of facts about denial; the role it plays in our grief process and how it often manifests.

I wrote about the mother who refuses to change anything in her son’s room years after his death.

I wrote about the alcoholic who denies his addiction, claiming he could stop at any time.

I wrote about the women who is told she is on the verge of Type 1 diabetes and yet refuses to change her lifestyle.

I wrote about the man who continues to go back to the same woman, again and again…

But was reminded that I’m here to tell you about what it looked like on me…

I had just finished a conversation with my friend Chris. We were walking on campus and talking about my transplant (More about that conversation in Words.) He suggested the possibly God had orchestrated the events in my life over the last 6 months.

WHAT?!?!? The God I knew and loved would never do that….

For whatever reason, that idea took me over the edge. It was TOO MUCH! I just had a sudden liver transplant, my body had rejected my liver – now this! God could have orchestrated all of this?!?! (I’m not speaking to my current theology, but to the state of my heart at the time.)

As humans we have incredible survival instincts; both physically and emotionally. When our reality collides with something that we cannot process, our defense mechanisms kick in.

For me, that defense mechanism, was called denial.

At the time I didn’t even know I had entered denial. Defense mechanisms are incredible protectors. Denial allows us to get through the first few days after the loss of loved one. Denial is the fuel that allows us to plan funerals and get out of bed in those first few days. Denial allows us to ease into our new reality. Denial is designed to soften the blow; however, it was NOT designed to be a way of life.

The confusion, the emotions, all of it – I didn’t know how to deal with it. So I stuffed it. I stuffed my emotions. I couldn’t deal with my new reality, so I created a new one. My new one would acknowledge my transplant with my words, but would not process the emotions attached.

The hard thing about emotions, is if they aren’t properly processed and put in their place, they rise up when they aren’t welcomed.

On the outside, it may have appeared as if I were thriving. God was using me to reach high school students in ways I had never experienced. He was using me in spite of myself. I had started college and had a lot of friends.

A lot of coffee friends.

We can all rally for a few hours. I would sit down, catch up with a friend and get into the car. I would crash. I was always emotionally exhausted regardless of my external circumstances. Things would feel big, that were really small. Small tasks felt overwhelming. I was quick to judge. I lived only in the black and white, the gray felt scary; too confusing for me. I would go from 0-1,000 within seconds. Very little was thoughtful, I became very reactive.

A friend of mine explained it well. He talked about when we are in denial, it’s like we are living in two different planes. In our physical reality, we look fine. We appear to be adjusted and thriving. But if you take a moment to look below the surface, you feel the undertow. It’s as if below the surface there is current of emotion just waiting to break the fragile barrier we desperately protect. They take on a persona and recognize they do not belong there; always looking for a crack to break through.

It was so exhausting living like that. But the weird thing about grief and survival is we will do whatever we can to remain at status quo.

As I’ve shared in previous posts, I feel a calling to share about my grief journey. I believe one of the reasons is because it didn’t always look like the typical process. I was not mourning a death of a loved one. I did not deny my new reality with my words. I did not play the victim. But I grieved and I didn’t do it well. I didn’t embrace the process, I let the process overcome me. So as you look at the first part of my grief process, is there anything that resonates with you?

It’s normal to feel emotional and at times to feel exhausted. But it’s NOT normal to feel emotionally exhausted all the time.

Are you emotionally exhausted most of the time?

Do displaced emotions rise up at inconvenient times? Seemingly out of nowhere?

Have you created a fragile barrier to separate your physical and emotional reality?

Remember grief in not just necessary when you lose someone you love. Grief is the process that helps us navigate change and accept our new realities – big or small. But we need to embrace the process.

Your emotions are looking for a place, their proper place. God has a place for them. Denial is a gift in the first moments of survival; it is not a way of life. I know those emotions feel scary, overwhelming and when we face them we have to face the fact that nothing will ever be the same. Learn from my mistakes, go there. Create a space in your life to allow those emotions to surface. Sit there. Ask God to meet you. He will be there. Experience Him. Cry hard. Write about it, talk about it.

And buckle up, the journey is just beginning.

We were made for more…

Lisa

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.