Don’t Stuff It!

by Bob Dees

Let’s face it – we have all lost something in this COVID19 pandemic!  Maybe a job, a loved one or friend, a business opportunity, a graduation or prom event, a wedding, the opportunity to say a final goodbye to a departed friend, our own health, or simply personal freedom or future plans.  While some of these losses may be more serious than others, they are all painful.  We have often said that “it is all theoretical until it happens to you – then it is real and raw.”  Whatever the source of loss, it hurts.

While we don’t intend to wallow in self-pity, we must recognize how unhealthy it is to stuff grief about loss.  It is far better to recognize reality, grieve loss, and move forward from loss to a brighter future.  In fact, experienced counselors will tell you that “stuffing grief” only prolongs and deepens the impact of trauma on you and others.  The baggage you have stuffed tends to accumulate – stuff a hurt here, stuff a loss there, stuff bitterness from a frayed relationship, and all of a sudden it becomes an overwhelming mass of excess baggage!  It is critical to “keep short accounts,” dealing with hurts, conflict resolution, and the reality of loss in healthy and timely ways.

I recently conducted a three-hour Resilience God Style webinar for Hope for the Heart at the Hope Center in Plano, Texas.  While I touched briefly on the topic of “Grieving Well” as part of Bouncing Back, it quickly became clear from the questions that came flying across the internet that grieving is an important topic in these days of COVID19.

While you (or those you seek to help) may need to seek the assistance of a counselor in dealing with deep loss or if you are “stuck in grief,” here are a few key points:

Grieving is a normal, necessary, and healthy response to loss.  It is a reality that cannot be avoided, yet it is different for everyone.  We should seek to understand the process, but not seek to circumvent or stuff it.  When Jesus heard about the beheading of his cousin John the Baptist, Matthew 14:13 records “Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself.” Jesus was hit hard by the loss and he went to a secluded place, no doubt to pour His heart out to His Father in Heaven.

The problem with grief comes when one tries to fight the natural response to losing someone or something.  When we compound that with shame or embarrassment over grieving, we don’t let grief run its natural journey.

We do well to invite others into our grief journey, starting with God, then family, then close friends.  Others are essential in helping you navigate the grief journey.

According to the severity of the loss, grieving takes time.  The norm is one to three years for grieving over a personal tragedy, the death of a loved one, or the loss of a treasured relationship. The duration is partly a function of how the individual leans into it, seeking to determine new meaning and purpose in their pain. In Caring for People God’s Way, Dr. Sharon Hart May a key component of the grief process: “Identifying Biblically based proactive, and reactive steps towards trauma that lead to new meaning and positive contribution.”

Counseling literature contains many explanations of the grief process.  One of the most familiar is the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle which includes Denial – Anger – Bargaining – Depression – Acceptance.  As implied by “cycle,” the grieving person often revisits these steps.  Grief is like the waves of the ocean that roll to our emotional shore, and then recede – time and again until the waves become smaller and less frequent.  Periodically, painful memories will be triggered by external events, but it is helpful to realize that those waves will recede, the dark clouds will pass, and the sun will come out again.  We will never forget, but we can learn to process these moments of grief through the lens of God’s Word and His future purpose for us.

God’s purpose for each of us is to “comfort others with that which we have been comforted” (2 Corinthians 1:4).  While that is certainly possible even if we have not gone through a similar experience, it is particularly relevant when have also experienced pain like those we seek to comfort are experiencing.  Similarly, Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)   As we mourn and grieve deep loss ourselves, we are being equipped to enter into another person’s pain, sense of loss, and mourning.

While there is much more that could be said, let me close with a powerful video from Karen Koob, explaining the raw emotions that accompany loss and illustrating the need for and value of mourning loss, instead of “stuffing it.”  Here is Karen:

Finally, contemplate Paul’s words about the comfort that is surely ours in Jesus, regardless of what our loss may be:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,

4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that
we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction
with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance,
so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.

~2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Have a Blessed Week! 

Respectfully in Christ,

Bob

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