Repost: Stuck or Unstuck in Grief? Who Gets to Decide?

If, as a culture, we don’t bear witness to grief, the burden of loss is placed entirely upon the bereaved, while the rest of us avert our eyes and wait for those in mourning to stop being sad, to let go, to move on, to cheer up. And if they don’t — if they have loved too deeply, if they do wake each morning thinking, I cannot continue to live — well, then we pathologize their pain; we call their suffering a disease.
We do not help them: we tell them that they need to get help.

~Cheryl Strayed, Brave Enough

Stuck in grief”-it’s a theme of blog posts, psychology papers and magazine articles.  The author usually lists either a variety of “symptoms” or relates anecdotes of people who do truly odd things after a loved one dies.  “Complicated grief” is a legitimate psychiatric diagnosis.

But who gets to decide?  

What objective criteria can be applied to every situation, every person, every death to determine whether someone is truly stuck in grief?

Read the rest here:  Stuck or Unstuck in Grief? Who Gets to Decide?

It is No Sin to Ask, “Why?”

Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.

C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Sunday I sat through what started off as a promising sermon.  

The text was from  Jeremiah when he was sent by God to the potter’s house for an object lesson.

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.”  So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.  

Jeremiah 18:1-6 NIV

This story hits home in so many ways.  

I identify with Jeremiah’s tears shed over the message he was called to deliver (Israel was about to experience harsh judgement) and the image of God as Potter and me as clay in His hands, to be molded and shaped according to HIS purpose and plan regardless of how I might like to be molded and shaped.

But the sermon took a turn that hurt my heart when the preacher began suffusing the message with personal experience.  It is absolutely his prerogative to relay his own life story as but it is another thing to draw general conclusions from HIS experience as being relevant and instructive for EVERYONE.

His wife had been diagnosed many years ago with a brain tumor.  She underwent extensive surgery and therapy but ultimately survived and is still living today.

Hallelujah!

I am thankful their story has a hopeful and happy ending (so far).  The problem came when the pastor said, “I never asked, ‘why?'”  and then proceeded to imply that asking, “why?” was wrong and the mark of an immature faith.

I’m delighted his faith was strong enough (or naive enough) that his heart never argued with his theological framework.  

That is not my experience. 

And it is not the experience of millions of faithful Christ followers who have been asked to bear up under burdens that do NOT have a hopeful or happy conclusion this side of heaven.

It took every bit of self-control I had to not stand up and shout, “REALLY?  What about Job?  What about Paul?  What about David?  What about JESUS?”

The Psalms are filled with questions.  

Jesus Himself asked, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” from the cross.

God invites us to ask.  

“Come now, and let us reason together,” saith the Lord

Isaiah 1:18 KJV

My faith is stronger because I have taken my questions to the only One Who can answer them.

He doesn’t always answer. 

But He always listens.  

He doesn’t give me reasons. 

But He gives me Himself.  

I am the clay-I know that.  But unlike dumb physical material that can be molded and shaped without feeling or self-awareness, I am a human being, created in the image of God Himself and endowed with feelings, knowledge and a heart that longs to understand.

So I must chooseas an act of free willto offer myself as a living sacrifice, to remain supple and malleable under the Hand of my Creator as He makes me into what He intends me to be.

But submission does not preclude my questions.  

I would argue that true submission insists on acknowledging and asking the questions and choosing to yield anyway. 

Anything less is not submission, it is simply fatalism. 

I serve a God Who is my Father, not my dictator.  I serve and worship a Savior Who is gentle, humble and kind, not harsh, proud and uncaring.

It is no sin to ask, “Why?”

In fact, it is exactly the kind of exchange relationship insists upon.

You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth of falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?

C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

 

 

 

 

Repost: A Fine Line

“Can you?”  ” Would you?” “We need you to… Help!”

You’d be surprised how soon people start expecting a bereaved parent to jump right back into the responsibilities and activities they shouldered or enjoyed before burying a child.

I know the rest of the world didn’t stop when mine did, but I was truly amazed that some people in my circle seemed unaware mine had stopped at all.

As I’ve written before here the funeral is not the end of grief’s journey, it’s quite near the beginning.  It took a year for me to just convince my heart Dominic wasn’t coming back.  It took longer to begin to understand how very different I am now and to embrace those changes.

I simply cannot do some things I once did.

Read the rest here:  A Fine Line

Don’t Let It Fool You

Whether the burden is child loss, abuse, chronic illness or some other ongoing and unchangeable hard circumstance, it’s easy to get so good at acting “OK” you can almost fool yourself.

But all that stress and struggle exacts a cost.

Pretending that it doesn’t is not helpful at all.

So it’s wonderful when people ask about it.

It’s a gift when they let us share.

Awhile back another loss mom wrote this and gave me permission to use it: 

In case you ever wonder, please know that it is always, always OK to ask me about [Dominic]. 

I love to talk about him.

No, I’m not OK.  I’ll probably cry, but it’s just because it’s under the surface always, not because you asked.

And I don’t really know what people mean when they say “she’s doing well,” because if you knew what all goes on in my mind and body from grief-well, frankly you couldn’t handle it.

But it’s OK to bring it up.

Talking helps.  ❤

im ok face fools myself

Repost: Displaying Our Scars

What if, instead of hiding my pain, I allowed others to see it and offer it as a testimony of the power and grace of God in my life?

What if, instead of pretending that “everything is alright”, I admit that it’s not, but that God is still on the throne?

What if, instead of creating a gulf between myself and others by walling off parts of my life that I deem too messy, I throw open the door and invite folks inside-mess and all?

Read the rest here:  Displaying Our Scars

When God Disappoints Us

I know many faithful readers who also follow Christ may gasp at this title.  But the definition of disappoint is most literally, “not to live up to expectations”.  And if we are honest, every one of us has expectations of how God is going to act in our lives.  I know I did!

Aren’t there promises in Scripture that declare good things for those who obey the Lord?  Aren’t there proclamations of protection?

So when Dominic died I was most certainly disappointed.  ❤

I can identify with the faithful among the Palm Sunday crowd- joyful because all evidence pointed to a happy climax.

Here was the Messiah entering Jerusalem just like the prophets promised.  Surely an end to this pagan tyranny was near!

“Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord!”

palm Sunday

Just a little longer and this heavy burden will be lifted, this hard life transformed.

A few days later this same crowd would choose a murderous rebel over the gentle Rabbi because He had not lived up to their expectations of deliverance.

jesus in the garden

I can identify with those folks too.

God most certainly has not lived up to my expectations. He has not fashioned my life according to my plan.

woman-grieving-loss

He has not delivered me from this body of sin and death.

He allowed death to enter my home and my heart.

I am tempted, in my sorrow, to shake my fist and demand an answer.  And then, in a moment of clarity I realize how foolish that is.  

“Where were you when I [God] laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels shouted for joy?

Job 38:4-7 NIV

I am in no position to judge God’s motives, His heart, His plan.  I am bound by time and blinded by the limitations of my flesh.  

I want immediate relief because pain is painful and sorrow is heavy and grief is unbearable in my own strength.  

But God knows the end from the beginning.  He is weaving all these things into a story that will be told for eternity.  He is creating masterpieces to declare His glory, His faithful love and His grace and mercy.  

For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago.

Ephesians 2:10 VOICE

So on this Palm Sunday I will join the crowd of worshipers shouting, “Save us!  Son of David!”  

I will lay my sacrifices at His feet and trust that He will redeem and restore what the enemy has stolen.  

I will refuse impatience when the time of waiting lingers long before me.  

wait patiently for gods promises

I will refuse despair when it looks like things are dark and may never be light again.  

light shines in the darkness image

 

I will trust and not be afraid because my King has conquered and is conquering every evil thing and every sad thing.  

in christ alone

 

Busy Doesn’t Fix Grief

I don’t know if this is the way of other mama’s hearts but mine always accuses me when I try to take it easy.

Maybe it’s a lifetime of a too long list of chores and a too short day in which to do them, but I’m uncomfortable sitting down, doing nothing.  

to do list

If I try to take a minute, my mind races until my hand reaches for a piece of paper and begins to jot down things I need to do.

Shoot-even as I fall asleep I’m usually planning what my day will look like tomorrow!

As I’ve written before, it is tempting to fill every minute trying to avoid the pain and sorrow of missing Dominic.  

But it’s not a healthy way to deal with grief.  

And moving ever closer to the anniversary of the date Dom met Jesus, the temptation grows stronger and stronger.

Just. stay. busy. 

Just. don’t. think.  

What I NEED is solitude and space.  What I NEED is freedom to cry (or not!).  What I NEED is less doing and more being.  What I NEED is to face my feelings, process my feelings, journal my feelings, pray through my feelings and to do the hard work grief requires.

sometimes the most important thing is the rest between two breaths

What I NEED is to treat myself the way I would treat one of my children in distress. 

I NEED tender loving care.  

But it’s just. so. very. hard.  

owning-our-story-and-loving-ourselves-through-the-process