Unexpected, Unwanted, Unbelievable … Yet Undeniable
by Judy Dippel
This March morning in Oregon, I woke to a light dusting of snow, along with thoughts of my friend and writing colleague, Marilyn, who lost her husband (and best friend of 40+ years) last December, at Christmastime. Obviously it was shocking; the enormity of the feelings and challenges listed above consumed for a time …and of course each day has brought more “firsts” for Marilyn to face! It’s a long process, with no quick fix to the grief that is inevitable.
Most of us have experienced loss; some of you may be experiencing it right now. If so, I am very sorry. We question how to get through it—my answer—the unconditional love of God, whose guidance and strength for us prevails, sustaining us one day at a time. That’s not a pat answer—it is Christian reality on a physical and spiritual level.
Marilyn lives in North Carolina, so we settle for phone calls and emails. I wanted to be there for her, listen, pray, and we did, just not face-to-face. What did I discover? In her grief and faith, through her, I have the opportunity to once again see the reality of God’s amazing grace, and His faithfulness to never leave or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)
“…indeed nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:39 (NLT) For all of us, this includes times of grief when we are consumed with denial, tears, anger, sadness…the harsh reality of living day-to-day life without this person! We are human, and must walk through, and work through, difficult feelings and circumstances, reminding ourselves God is ever-present, even when we may not feel like he is. Marilyn believes this completely, and she reminds me of this truth each time we talk.
In my book (co-written by Debra Whiting Alexander, Ph.D.), Friendship Interrupted, http://www.amazon.com/Friendship-Interrupted/ in the third chapter, ‘Anguish’ we list some of “what you can do” to allow expressions of sorrow, and to help yourself grieve. It is necessary. At the same time expect and receive the comfort and hope from family, friends, and God.
If this is relevant for you today, I hope it is helpful. What you can do:
- Remember death is a natural part of life, but it’s only one part. Like a book, your life has many chapters in it with more yet to be written.
- As long as you are not hurting yourself or others, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Everyone mourns at their own pace and in their own way.
- Don’t be alone if you feel better being around people.
- Lower your expectations of yourself for a time. No one functions in their usual way following a loss.
- Pay attention to your grief. Find a way to let it pour out. There are benefits to allowing yourself the freedom to actually grieve so that you can truly heal.
- Express your grief for as long as it’s there.
- Remember, “This too shall pass,” no matter how hard the experience. The loss doesn’t go away, but a new perspective of life does begin.
- Crying about something sad is a healthy way to release emotions.
- Find creative outlets for your grief. Create a collage or painting. Decorate a memory book or box with meaningful momentos; create a digital photo book, in which to treasure memories and photos.
- Write a letter about the person you lost and address it to him/her, or to God.
- Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings as you move through each grieving experience you encounter. Cry when you must, laugh when you can.
- Participate in rituals or traditions you find helpful. Avoid those that are not.
- Honor your loss in a ceremony or activity: a prayer vigil or remembrance circle. Share memories and celebrate the person—nothing will ever take that away.
- When it’s your turn to comfort a grieving friend or family member, remember what was most helpful for you. Simply be present. Your hope and encouragement for the future are usually best communicated through listening.
A word of encouragement from Marilyn: The four words in Judy’s title are accurate. Our loss was sudden and shocking. My husband was too young to leave us. It was beyond belief, but it was real. I also know that in my less than three month grief journey, my husband’s death came as no surprise to God, and that He is real too. His faithfulness shows up daily: in a scripture, in a text, call, email or card from friends, and in His very presence reminding me that I am not alone.
One day when I was reading a scripture that I have read countless times, the words popped up in a new way. (Don’t you love it when that happens? As I said, God is real.) The scripture: “He is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Is.53:3 Jesus experienced grief. It is not foreign to Him. He knows what it means to experience loss and pain. He grieves with me in the loss of my husband. I was compelled to write about that “revelation” on my website. Perhaps it will be an encouragement to you too.http://www.marilynnutter.com/page/page/3920294.htm