Webster defines grief as: deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement (the state or fact of being deprived of something or someone)
In the past, whenever I heard the word grief, I would think of mourning over the death of someone. I am learning, however, that we grieve not only over the death of friends and family, but sometimes also the loss of jobs, relationships, dreams, abilities.
And grieving doesn’t have a time limit or rules. No one gets to tell us when grieving should occur or when it should be over or what it should be about. Grieving is a process as individual as each of us. We all grieve, we just may not recognize it as that.
Grief can be overwhelming, especially when those around us do not understand. Oftentimes there is no safe place to share this grief and it gets stifled and bottled up. But, it can’t stay there. It won’t stay there. Grief must be released in some way or it will consume us.
For those of you who don’t know, I’ve suffered many losses over the past six years. First, my father was diagnosed with ALS and four short months later that ravaging beast took him. So devastating. Too quickly. I wasn’t prepared. Then I lost my beloved dog of 12 years, Claire. I was awoken at 5 am to her convulsing…..I rushed her to the hospital to learn she had a brain lesion, was blind, and there was nothing that could be done. I sat alone in that room and had to make the awful decision to let her go. I left that place without my best friend. Then along came Ginger. The dog I rescued who was skinny, scared, starving. I nursed her back to health. She loved me so endearingly. I only had her a short time. She was a bonified scaredy cat and during a walk one evening, was scared away, leash still attached, as Jesse fought a dog off of Zeus. She disappeared and was found two weeks later by a hunter in a field a couple of miles away from our house. My poor baby died alone on a cold November evening. Next, my mother’s devastating cancer diagnosis. The 11 weeks she lived are filled with precious memories. I was not ready to lose her. Why, oh why? Then last December, my beloved surrogate dad, Frank was diagnosed with cancer and passed away within a couple of weeks, followed by my own ALS diagnosis. April rolled around and my beautiful grandma Beulah went to be in the presence of the Lord. The loss of my job, social interaction with co-workers, friendships I thought existed but are no where to be found, my voice, my ability to eat certain foods…..
So much loss. How much more can one handle? Just when I think I have a grip on my grief, a conversation, a thought, a memory, a new loss……. and it all rises to the surface and I become a blubbering fool. But….I am so thankful for those safe friends who are able to withstand the wave of grief that comes crashing down on me at the most inopportune time. For the friend who does not retreat, but listens without judging. The friend who offers prayers without ceasing and let’s me feel the grief that washes over me. The friend who is unwavering, nonjudgmental, loving, and kind. The friend who doesn’t think in their mind, “get over it already” or try to give me a solution.
I don’t even understand my own grief. I’m not asking others to either. I don’t know when or if it will ever end. And it doesn’t matter. Because today I may be okay and tomorrow I may grieve over the fact that I can’t eat soup anymore. Or that I can’t visit people as much as I would like because it’s just too hard to talk that long. Or a song reminded me of my mom. Or that I can’t call my dad and ask him for advice. Or Facebook pops up with an old picture of my faithful canines-Claire and Ginger. I know I have so much to be thankful for. I do have joy and peace that comes from God amidst this suffering. But having joy and peace does not mean that I still don’t grieve. Because I do. Everyday.
Just remember–let people feel what they are feeling. You don’t have to have a solution. Just lend an ear. Pray a prayer. Send a note. Give permission to grieve. Grieving is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength. It means we are PROCESSING what is going on and that is healthy. If I cry, I’m crying because I’m processing my feelings, it doesn’t mean I’m feeling sorry for myself. If we allow ourselves to process our feelings, the waves begin to calm and reside and a bit more healing is realized.
The Beast is real. It serves it’s purpose. So next time you encounter that grieving friend, acquaintance, co-worker, family member….don’t minimize the grief. Just let it be what it is.
2 Corinthians 4:17
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.