Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Take Time to Grieve

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: ... a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance" (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4).

In the aftermath of terrible tragedies—be they our own or a nation’s—we cannot ignore or hurry grief.

Grief is a complex process that takes many forms. When a mass tragedy occurs, not only do we grieve for the victims, but we also re-grieve from previous losses we’ve suffered. And when a parent dies, we grieve the past that dies, too. When a spouse dies, the present disappears. A child who dies takes a parent’s future with him.

Some say that the passage of time is the great emotional healer. In fact, it’s what you do with that time that is important.

When my mother suddenly passed away in 1975 at age 48, I wanted to be brave. I knew Mom would not want me to be sad, so I did not even go to Hong Kong for her funeral. I focused on completing my studies at Berkeley. After all, that's our plan. Mom wanted me to be successful in a new world, and I dreamed of one day buying her a big house and traveling with her around the world. I tried to move on, but part of me died with her. It was years later when I finally took time to grieve my loss.

The Feelings
During grief it is common to have many conflicting feelings: sorrow, anger, loneliness, anxiety, even guilt. Experiencing waves of these strong and often confusing emotions can make us feel out of control. In an attempt to regain a sense of control, we may deny the feelings.

Well-meaning friends and family may suggest looking on the bright side, or that what happened was “God’s will” or “meant to be.” Or, in our efforts to make sense of everything, we may attempt to remain focused on the notion that “maybe everything is for the best.” Any of these suggestions, however, may lead the grieving person to cut off feelings or to feel pressured to hide or deny their emotions. This will only cause the grieving process to take longer and get in the way of healing.

In our culture, we often assume if something is painful, it must be bad. Yet suppressing these feelings and denying the need to grieve can be even harder on both the mind and body than going through the emotions. Pain is a natural part of the grieving process and, if we were to heal, we must allow it.

Seeking Help
We can help one another during the grieving process by talking about our feelings and listening to each other. Friends, family and especially support groups can provide invaluable comfort.

People need ritual. Lighting candles, gathering together for services or memorials, praying or singing together can provide an outlet for grief.

Spending time in nature can offer solace. Nature allows us to experience the ongoing cycle of the life/death process, and in this we may be able to connect to the larger divine purpose.

Writing in a journal or writing letters provides a place for us to set our feelings down in a concrete, physical way. Writing to the deceased allows us to say goodbye if we didn’t have the opportunity. Even though we may not have known them, writing letters to strangers for whom we grieve can be healing.

Ask for help. You may need the guidance of a professional grief counselor or therapist to help you work through the deep and sometimes confusing emotions that accompany the grieving process. The most difficult times may come months after the actual loss.

The process of grieving can be freeing. By embracing it we have the opportunity to grow stronger so that when we must grieve again we will not lose our emotional bearings or retreat in fear. We will be able to release our hold on the past and move more fully into the present.

As someone who has gone through major grief and loss in life, my heart goes out to you. Please take time to grieve. No matter how difficult it seems now, may you find comfort in having a bright future to look forward to, in His time.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)

Author's content used under license, © Claire Communications

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