Saturday, November 7, 2015

Good Grief, Charlie Brown!

This is a snippet. A small snippet. This is a piece extracted from writing I did for a small group retreat in 2006.

I did not even want to put it out here. Well, yes and no. However, having walked down Grief Road many times myself, I want to put it out there for several friends currently walking down this same road.

I've certainly had my share of grief. My parents passed away within three years of each other. I went through a divorce from my college sweetheart during my Mom's battle with Lymphoma. That divorce was a blessing in disguise, but it took a rear view mirror perspective to understand that. Anyway, grief is hard, it's tough, and it's magical in its own way. More than that, it is healing. It is a friend we have to allow to stay and bid goodbye when it is ready to go {or rather, when it decides we are ready}. It's not that I am an authority, but I am charged with passing on the knowledge I know or have learned. If I hold these little tidbits tightly in my hands, they will rot. If I give them away, they will prosper and bless others just as they blessed me.

A wise friend once told me, "take what you want and leave the rest". So, here's to grief. Embrace it and allow it to do its healing work. There is no magical timetable. Don't sweep it under the rug, friends. If you do, you are cheating yourselves and she will rear her head at a not so convenient time if you choose to forego her medicine now. Embrace her and bid her adieu when it is time. So here's what I know about Grief.

GRIEVE. “What am I supposed to do?” I asked my counselor one day in the midst of my divorce and in the middle of my mom’s battle with cancer. I had so many gaping holes in me that longed to be filled, I did not know what to do or which one to address first. My marriage was bleeding and dying, my mother was dying, my beautiful home had been sold, and my dreams were slipping right through my hands. I had cried an ocean of tears, I had journaled a thousand thoughts, prayed a million prayers. The burden is too great at times, the struggle too intense for us not to just let go. With the wisdom of Job, my counselor looked me in the eyes and placed a box of tissues in my hand and said, “Put your head on the chest of God and weep.” I could not have stopped the tears if I tried. I wept openly, out loud for a long period of time. So, my advice to you: Put your head on the chest of God and weep. Cry a river. Let it go! Take it from one who has been down Grief Road. The energy that it takes to hold it all together would be better spent on other things…like healing.  When I finally pulled myself together enough to speak, I uttered, “I think I’m dying!” He leaned in and responded, “I think you’re living.” I sat there for a moment. If this was living, I wasn’t so sure I wanted what this life had to offer. But then I recognized the gentle voice of my Savior, telling me that He would be with me in the deepest parts of my life. And has He ever. He has walked along beside me and carried me at times through some of life’s greatest sorrows. I’ve no doubt He’ll stick around through all the joyful times ahead as well. I don’t think Jesus named the Holy Spirit our Comforter on a whim. Only strong people can grieve. In fact, I believe it’s a weakness to not grieve. Until we grieve, we cannot be comforted. Until we lay our longings at the feet of Jesus, we cannot be ministered to by His presence. He will woo us, but He has perfect boundaries. Until I come to the end of “longings management” – holding it all together – I cannot trust Christ. But when I bring Him the longings I’ve held so tightly in my fist, He will hold them for me. He will be enough. So how does one survive the grieving process? By taking it a day at a time. Step by step we inch toward wholeness. Sometimes we take two steps forward and three backwards, but that’s part of the healing process, too. Every day will not be a good day, and that’s all right. Good days will come. Weeping may endure for the night, but joy will come in the morning. Reflect on that scripture for a while if you need to. It may not be tomorrow morning or the morning after that. But joy will meet you one morning. If you keep getting up.

The grieving process is a delicate one. There is a time for nursing and rehearsing past events. A time when every memory and feeling has been vented and exhausted. A season of silence. Resting. Allowing God to mend the heart. There will be times when grief will overtake you. Bowing you over, causing you to stop until its wave has passed. Then there will be respites when cool breezes of comfort will blow. The urge to rush the process of healing must be resisted. As one who picks at a scab discovers, trying to find the new skin only creates an unwanted scar. We must let air and time do their work in our wounded hearts. We must walk patiently toward healing. Sorrow cannot be hurried. If you hurry it, you will re-visit it at a less convenient time. You cannot leap ahead of it or hold it back once it decides its season is over. Grief is a friend that reluctantly bids you goodbye in its own time. It will slowly extricate itself from your arms, and kiss you farewell once you are strong enough to stand on your own. But, like any good friend, it will walk along beside you for a while. Allow it. But don’t count on it to remain.

When we cling to grief, it becomes bitterness. It will cloud our vision and make our ways difficult. Don’t go there. Don’t become attached. Don’t feel guilty about letting go when it’s time either. Don’t blame others or blame God (we’ll revisit that one). Release your grief as you walk into each new day. Release it like the many layers of clothing that have become too heavy as the day warms. Release it slowly, steadily until you find acceptance of your circumstances. Don’t blame life or adversity. Simply settle into the now and look toward the future. What is on the horizon, we don’t know; however, we will find it one step at a time. There’s only One who knows what is unknown to us. He has numbered our days, the good ones as well as the bad ones. He has spaced them out according to our ability to bear them. Therefore, choose to trust and keep moving. Don’t run. Don’t become impatient. You’ll only stretch out the process even further.  The pain will only come back to haunt you until you give into it and lie broken in its arms. Do not despise being broken, but extricate the good parts from your pain and brokenness. Brokenness increases our value. Remember, Christ was broken before we ever were. Here’s the good that comes from being broken: Compassion, passion for the causes of others, selflessness, greater character, humility, and finally strength. Brokenness is a beautiful gift. Yield to it. Remember, it’s a season just like anything else and it too will pass if you allow it to do its precious work. If you don’t, you’ll become bitter and repel anyone who comes near you. Allow others to comfort you and you will rise again. Talk it out, walk it out, journal it out (it's cathartic!) just don’t make it out (as in bail on it before it has time to do its work in you). Ask God to reveal to you the purpose of the gift you were privileged to have for a time, and accept it as such. Let that revelation equip you to embrace your pain for a season. Squeeze it. Learn from it. Drain it out. Sweep away the ashes and renew your strength. Strength begins with the decision to cling to the One who keeps it in reserve. In our weakness, His strength fills us in ways that will surprise us. Ask Him to give you strength, and drink deeply from the cup He offers.

Morning comes whether you are ready for it or not. Its light overtakes the darkness and forces you to face the day. And so it is with life. The bills are still due. People expect you to function. Your boss expects you to produce your work. Life goes on…one day at a time. It has a way of pulling you back into the reality of the present. Jesus said not to worry about tomorrow; today comes with enough troubles of its own. Do today well and deal with tomorrow…tomorrow. When manna rained upon the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness, God told them to collect only what they needed for the day’s food. Whenever they gathered more than they needed, it spoiled. Why? Because God was trying to teach them to depend on Him DAILY. Just like their fresh bread that arrived everyday, there's fresh grace to handle all that occurs within the space of twenty four hours. No more. No less. Why do we struggle to reconcile massive blocks of time in our minds? It is unnecessary and it’s impossible. Deal only with what you are able to grasp for now. That, my friend, would be today. You are only responsible for the moment you are in, minute by minute, step by step. God will be with each of us as we walk through our pain, wade slowly through our tears, and let suffering do its perfect work of mending our hearts.

Looking Within:

Ø  Are you taking one day at a time or worrying about tomorrow?

Ø  What things or persons from the past are you clinging to?

Ø  Why does looking back keep you from moving forward?

Ø  What is within your ability to do today?

Ø  What small step can you take toward healing today?

 Looking to Him:

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19).

As you journey down Grief Road, my prayer for you is that you open yourself up to the One who understands your grief and pain, and that upon walking beside your grief that joy comes for you in moments. That a ray of sunshine reminds you of your loved one(s) or friend, that a child's laughter brings you joy once again.

May His face shine upon you and bring you many blessings...


  1. Wow, there are so many times I could have used this. But I'll tuck it away to share and reflect on because no one can avoid grief but having the right tools and reminder to lean on Him help us get through.

  2. Toni1965,

    You are so right! Thanks for commenting and sharing.


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