Dealing with Grief: Three Steps to Manage the Pain.
In January of 2015, I lost my brother-in-law to bladder cancer. He was in his forties.
In 2016, I went through a divorce I never saw coming.
In 2017, my father suddenly died of a catastrophic stroke. He was only 68 and in perfect health.
In 2018, Steven and I closed our community theater; an eight-year labor-of-love was over.
In January of 2019, my 38-year-old brother died suddenly of an ascending aortic aneurysm while working out at the gym.
The last five years have been years of terrible grief and sorrow, and frankly, it is more than I can bear. Grief makes me feel like a feather floating on the wind with no resting place in sight. Grief and sorrow can be the result of many different situations. Of course, we think of the loss of a loved one. But you can also grieve in the face of divorce or breakup, losing a job, being turned down for a promotion, and even losing who you are in the path of life.
After my father died, I remember taking a class called GriefShare at a local church. I don’t recall much of what was spoken about, but one thing I vividly remember was the discussion over the Five Stages of Grief.
THE FIVE STAGES OF GRIEF AREN’T ACCURATE
In regards to grief, one of societies most widely accepted concepts is the Five Stages of Grief. These stages are often contributed to death and dying expert Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. Books and articles have been written about the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But what you may not know is that Kubler-Ross did not develop these stages to explain what people go through when they are faced with grief. She developed these stages to describe the process patients go through as they come to terms with terminal illness. Sometimes, the family members of these patients also experienced some of the same emotions, many times they didn’t.
When all of these losses started coming into my life, I didn’t follow the Five Stages of Grief and knew they couldn’t possibly be the “right” way to mourn and grieve. I am thankful that my time in GriefShare showed us the real story behind these stages and why it is okay if I wasn’t experiencing them.
If you are going through a period of grief, I don’t know what your stages of grief look like. For me, it was different with each of the losses mentioned above.
With Rick, there was some relief as the poor man had battled bladder cancer for four years. He was in such pain, and I was so relieved that He was in the arms of the Father and out of the pain of cancer. Then came sadness that my sister, at 33, was left a widow. I mourned for her but rejoiced that Rick was out of pain.
With my Father, there was the shock. He was perfectly healthy, and then within two days, he was gone. There was an emptiness that our families anchor had been ripped away from us. There were stages of depression and anxiety that I am still overcoming.
With giving up my theater, there was a lot of anger. Anger at the time I missed with my family because I was always “at work.” There were feelings of sadness at the time I wasted. And there was even regret that accompanied that loss.
With my brother, forgive me, but at the time of writing this, I am still in a deep state of despair and shock. I feel like not only was my past taken away, but my future has been taken as well. I rejoice that Ian knew Jesus and is worshipping at the feet of God with my Dad. But still, shock and utter sadness fill my days.
As you can see, each of the losses produced different stages. If you are grieving, don’t fear the stages or worry about them. I have found that grief comes in waves. One day you are healthy and hopeful, the next you can’t get out of bed, and the tears continue to flow.
Grief cannot be conquered, the stages of grief cannot be neatly listed in a self-help book, and there is no timeframe on grief. But it can be managed. When my mom lost my dad, she kept saying, “Let me just get past this first year, and I will be okay.” The first year came and went, and my Mom still grieves her loss. It looks different than it did at the beginning, but it is still there.
There is no timeline when your grief will lift, and you will feel “normal” again. There is no such thing as feeling normal. I’m discovering that you just have to get used to living a “new normal.” So, let me list three ways that I am managing my grief and sorrow during this time. Perhaps they will help you and give you some insight.
1. FEEL THE GRIEF.
Isaiah 53:3 says, “He [Jesus] is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” We may stop here and think that it was Jesus who was constantly grieving and full of sorrow, but we have to read on to see the context of this verse. Verse 4 tells us that it was OUR griefs and our sorrows that He carried and felt. What a merciful Savior. He carried my pain, my grief, and my sorrow and He felt the pain it caused. He didn’t have to, but He did because of His great love.
We can see from the verse in Isaiah that Jesus felt our grief, but there was also times He grieved while He was in the world. John 11:1-45 shows His deep sorrow over the loss of His friend Lazarus. While Jesus knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead, He still allowed Himself to feel the grief and feelings of human sorrow.
It’s hard to allow yourself to feel grief, isn’t it? We want to run away from feelings that . . . well . . . feel bad. But it is essential if we're going to get through the grieving process. Note, I didn’t say get over. Grief over a loss, especially a loved one, is something that I don’t think you can ever get over. You can just get through.
I don’t talk much about my feelings except to my husband and therapist, but I journal quite a bit, and this helps me to feel the grief. Those unending streams of thought often turn into the most significant revelations and ah-hah moments.
2. GO TO THE WORD.
I feel like a broken record sometimes because my answer for so many things is “go to the Word.” The same is true for grief. In these past few days since losing my brother, the only hope I have found is in the Word of God. (I have included a special Inscribe the Word plan on Grief below to give you one month of Scriptures about grief and hope to provide you with the chance to open the Word and see what God says.)
One Scripture in particular that continues to stand out at me is Isaiah 55:8-9. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
This verse brings me such peace because I know that even in the things I cannot fathom or understand, God knows. He has a reason. He has a purpose. He has a plan. I have to put my trust in Him knowing that He works ALL THINGS . . . even my grief and loss . . . together for good because I trust and seek Him.
Go to the Word of God, dear Friend, if grief is your constant companion. Jesus promised us that He would send the Holy Spirit to be our Comforter. Find Him in the Word.
3. GET HELP if NEEDED.
Grief is nothing to be ashamed of. You may be thinking, “I should be over this by now.” I would urge you to get help if you need it. Don’t be prideful thinking that you can do it on your own. Some can, I can be honest and say I couldn’t. I am seeing a wonderful Christian therapist who is helping me in so many ways. She brings everything through the Word of God, and her counsel is helping me to heal.
Talk to your Pastor or Life Group Leader. Talk to a best friend or a spouse. But if you feel like your grief is more than you can bear, talk to someone. Find someone that will pray with you and study the word with you through your pain.
An excellent resource is GriefShare. Like I said earlier, my mom and I attended a session when my father died, and it did help. You can find them HERE, and they will help you to find a group in your area.
I PRAY FOR YOUR “REBEKAH.”
In Genesis 23, Sarah had died, and Isaac was left without a mother and Abraham without a wife. They mourned and wept over their loss. (Genesis 23:2) In chapter 24, Isaac finds a wife. But it is the last sentence of Chapter 24 that struck me. Genesis 24:67 says, “ . . . . and Isaac took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.”
My Dear Friend, I pray that you find your “Rebekah.” I am praying for that hope. I am praying for whatever will bring you comfort after the death of a loved one, a dream, a child, a marriage, or a job. I pray that God will bring you your “Rebekah,” and whatever it is, I pray that it will be something you love and something that comforts you. I ask that you also pray for my “Rebekah.”
There is no one way to manage grief. These are just three ways that are helping me through this season of sorrow. Please download this Bible Study on Grief. Whether you Inscribe the passages of Scripture or just read them, I know they will bring you hope in this difficult season.