Dealing with grief - What are the ways?
Dealing with grief - what are the ways that work best? In Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare writes, "Everyone can master a grief, but he that has it." Whether our grief is the result of a death, divorce, or some other devastating life change, we want to know how to function again. Initial grief leaves us numb. Drugs or alcohol only prolong the numbness. We try avoiding people or events that trigger those painful episodes. Yet a permanent emotional/physical isolation from the world proves impractical. We must understand that grief is a natural process. Our life is now progressing on a different path.
When dealing with grief, what are the ways we are different on the outside? One woman described her life as running in slow motion. She perceived herself as lethargic. "When least expected, grief blind-sides me and sadness caves in upon me." A young widower described his loss as an emotional amputation. Each of us attempts to define our grief in some visual, tangible way for others.
In the Old Testament, it was a sign of mourning for men to shave their heads and beards to display their anguish (Isaiah 15:2, Jeremiah 48:37). Those grieving may debase themselves as a response. Thinking his son, Joseph, had been savagely killed, a father reacts: "Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth [a dark, coarse cloth made from goat's hair] and mourned for his son many days . . ." (Genesis 37:34). During grief, our very identities are altered, forcing us to find new ways of self-expression.
What are the ways we express ourselves when dealing with grief? During this difficult time, we become aware of our vulnerability. Never be ashamed of expressing your grief to your circle of friends. Showing grief is never a sign of weakness, but a positive step in the healing process. In the Bible, David was a shepherd, giant-killer, poet, soldier, and one of the greatest kings of Israel. He was well acquainted with successes and failures. When faced with the loss of their king, their friend Jonathan, and the other soldiers lost in battle, "David and all the men . . . mourned and wept and fasted till evening . . ." (2 Samuel 1:11-12). The grieving individual will find mutual support when they share their moments of mourning.
What are the ways we respond to others while dealing with grief? In our time of grief we may think others are forgetting too quickly about our loss. When someone asks, "Now when did he die?" it is upsetting to us. The paradox is that in our efforts to suppress grief, we are angered by others who seemingly aren't grieving as deeply. We must understand that the duration of intense grieving varies with each individual. A person's belief system and life experiences determine their reaction to loss. For example, an individual can acquire strength and hope in believing that death is not the ultimate end.
Suppose a dear friend hesitated to be at your side in a time of crisis. Jesus hears that His friend Lazarus is dead, but delays His arrival four days. When Jesus finally arrives, a grieving, yet trusting, Martha meets Him. With compassion He assures her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die . . ." (John 11:25). Despite sorrow, we can experience hope and make that choice to move forward, on a different path.
What are the ways to move forward while dealing with grief? Your grief experience can shape your future in a positive way. Margaret became a widow in her late 50's. For over 30 years she lived alone in her, wood-heated, cabin on 10 acres. But she was never isolated. Margaret challenged and taught herself to drive a stick-shift at the age of 60! She found opportunities to help others, devoting the next 25 years to her church's nursery. Then a stroke at 88 forced her to give up her cabin, independence, and her "babies." But at 91, Margaret and her walker give visitors "grand tours" of her nursing home facility. And with a twinkle in her eye, she always takes time to share, "Only one life, 'twill soon be past . . . Only what's done for Christ will last!"
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