If you’ve read my blog, then you know the primary purpose is an attempt to inspire others through sharing some of my own life experiences, as well as hopefully gaining some inspiration from others. This particular post may not “fit” that definition per se, but it’s one that I hope will give you an insight into the “grieving” process we all experience at some point in our lives. Before I begin however, I want to state unequivocally that I am neither a trained counselor nor do I propose to be. On the other hand, I would suggest that people like myself, people who have experienced this emotion first-hand, may be able to offer a unique perspective to this topic, unlike those of us who haven’t dealt with it directly.
When someone hears the word “grief”, or rather “grieving”, most people associate that term with the loss of a loved one who has passed on from an earthly life into heaven. As you might suspect though, grief can take many forms, even among the living. For instance, my own journey over the past few years in recovering from an insidious disease caused both myself and those close to me to experience all phases of this emotion. Of course, there's many types of grief; job loss, break up of a relationship, divorce, health issues, financial concerns, family issues, and so forth. People who grieve usually follow the 5 classic stages psychologists describe roughly as follows: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.
For years, I was stuck in the denial stage with my disease, primarily because of two factors, pride and fear. Once those walls of pride and fear were torn down though, I quickly worked through the final four stages, although I must admit, I lingered in the anger stage along with denial for quite some time. But once I reached the Acceptance stage is when I was finally able to start picking up the pieces of my broken life and start slowly rebuilding them.
Today, I’m still in that process. And that’s one of the unique things about “grieving.” In a perverted sense, it NEVER ends! And that’s okay! Reason being, we never reach a full state of perfection in life or ever fully “recover” from grief. That’s why we are called human beings. We are not God. But one of the most important things I’ve learned through this whole process, if not THE most important one, is that there are those I hurt emotionally that STILL, to this day, in spite of nearly 3 years of making my amends, have not ACCEPTED those amends. You see, though it is ME that has the disease, I learned that the people I loved the most in my life contracted it as well by virtue of my actions! Once I realized that when I was honest with them and made my amends, I could NOT control whether they would accept them. This had been a very hard lesson for me. My own father would hardly speak to me for over a year but thankfully, today we are back on good terms. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for others in my life whom I love dearly, the names of which will remain anonymous for now. Only time will tell what happens with them and that too is beyond my control. That’s God’s job, not mine. I’ve done what I could so it’s time to move on in with life in a positive way from this day forward.
Which of course leads me to what most people associate with this emotion. My own experience with the death of my mother nearly 39 years ago is something I still carry within me to this very day. I want to make this very clear though, I choose not to feel sorry for myself that she’s gone, but to rather USE those memories when she was ALIVE, in reaching out and helping my fellow man. Death of a loved one does strange things to people and many times, they stay stuck in either denial, anger, bargaining, or depression, and may NEVER reach acceptance. This is another cold hard fact of life.
But there’s GOOD news! All of this is simply a part of LIFE. Whether you’ve lost a loved one through death, experienced the pain of personal or professional tragedy, or merely going through “tough times”, there is always HOPE. Have faith in God and in yourself that eventually, all will be well in your life again. As long as you are able to recognize that grieving is a part of living, and to be aware of what stages of the grief process you’re going through, your life will be rich with joy and happiness once more. There are many tools and resources available to help you through this process. Allow me to tell you one that helped me.
When was in Elkhart, Kansas nearly three years ago, I read a book by Stephen Baldwin, youngest of the Baldwin brothers of acting fame (remember Alec Baldwin?) Anyway, the book is entitled “The Unusual Suspect.” In it, Stephen describes his life and how he happened to find Christianity. There was one part and quote I’ll never forget and it goes something like this:
“Each morning when I wake up I ask: God? Tell me how, what, when, or where I can be of service to you today.”
After I read that book, I began repeating that phrase every day when I awoke. Point being, it’s when we HELP others is when we find HELP for ourselves. Service above self. Being kind to people in your world, and everything that word means, in spite of all the GRIEF you may be experiencing, is one of the best ways to overcome it. That’s God’s gift to us as His children. Try it, it works!!