Monday, November 28, 2011

When Will You Be Done Grieving?

When will the pain go away? When will life return to normal? When will you no longer feel like you're standing alone out in the cold?

The good news: Grief will not last forever.
You will laugh again. You'll find new balance and purpose. The initail raw pain and crying spells will ebb. You'll go from crying A LOT, to crying several times a day, to several times a week. Then several times a month, to every couple months and less as life picks up and you're involved again.
Time is liquid, though, and sometimes you'll experience the memories and grief as if you're still in the moment. I think that's ok. It means you're human; you're created in the image of God who is not bound by time. God transcends time and when we experience memories as vividly as if we're still there, we understand a bit of His character.
So lean into the memories, lean into the grief. Don't be afraid, this won't hurt forever.

The bad news: Grieving takes longer than we want.
In our push-button/instant gratification culture we hate to wait! We want quick relief! Grief doesn't work like that. Ancient Israel allowed 40 days for mourning--we're allowed a week or two off work or school. And there are social expectations. People in Bible times wore sackcloth and ashes. They wailed and mourned out loud in public. Today's widows look pretty good, they're complimented on "how strong" they are; they're shushed away and patronized to numb any pain with medications and pleasure because they "deserve to be happy." People! Listen! Can we let her just be sad for a bit?
It's impossible to put a timeframe on grief. Everyone's situation is so different; widows' range from teens to elderly, deaths occur instantly or with long anticipation, your loss may be contained or it may avalanche with a number of other losses. Some widows only need six weeks, most need at least six months, some will need six years. But we all only want about six minutes!
Widowhood is the hardest challenge and test many women will ever face. Ask for professional help if you think it's taking too long, if you feel "stuck," if you're falling into depression. It takes time, but making the effort to take the time to work through it will reap a rewarding and richly satisfying future.

More good news: Widows who take an active role in their grief can resolve it earlier than those who don't.
Facing into the storm of your suffering, intentionally working through it, and gleaning all the wisdom you can will help bring about your desired acceptance and closure.
In my opinion, when you're first widowed, you should allow yourself to experience the first year and all "the firsts" it will bring your way. Don't complicate it by adding a boyfriend, moving, or changing jobs unnecessarily. Use the time to become a student of yourself and your own grief. Attend grief seminars and support groups. Read!
Talk! Find a widow who can be your walking partner, prayer partner or mentor. Carefully check out widows groups on the internet, start a blog about your experience. Tell your story. (Stay safe, though. Be very careful and protect your privacy. Evil people who prey on widows really exist!)
And then allow yourself to ease into the second year with the realization that it will be very different from the first year. Note your discoveries, establish a foundation of wisdom and gratitude, develop an understanding of your new and special relationship with God.
Then, if you feel like you're done grieving, you're done! Of course there will be many days beforehand that you'll feel like you're done--and a few afterwards that knock the wind out of you and make you feel like a failure, but that's life--welcome back to the human race!

Where are you in your grief journey? Are you just starting out, do you see some twists and turns ahead, or are you sliding into home?

9 comments:

  1. I am in the early weeks of the second year,and so far it seems to be going well. I am making a choice to move forward with my life. I try to be active and do things which perhaps I would never have done before. All this is helping me to grow and find a new life for 'me'.So far so good and with the Lord by my side I will make it.

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  2. Thank you for this, Ferree. There are times when I wonder if it will ever end and if I'll ever feel joy again in my life. My grief is complicated by the loss of my husband and both parents all in the space of 4 months. So, I can't say that I am sliding into home plate after 2 years. But, I am not stuck and am still moving though it feels like it's at a snail's pace.

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  3. Thank you for this post. I'm in my third year with Earl's trip to heaven complicated by my daughter's homegoing less than two months later. I think this compounds the journey in so many ways. I have shunned the advice to handle this with "drugs" and continue to move at a pace that is probably comparable with Candy's. I appreciate your honesty about what happens in our grief journey.

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  4. I will reach the 6 month mark in December. Some days it feels like fresh pain and some days I think, "I have got this". Watch out......when that happens, something comes along and I realize it still has me. I am learning to surrender to the feelings without drowning in the groundswell of grief. God is good and will husband me through this.

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  5. I'm 5 1/2 months into my journey. Things are a little better than they were a few months ago, but that's not to say that I don't still have my sobbing/wailing attacks now and then. But at least they don't come as often. I just survived my first Thanksgiving without Ben and it wasn't quite as bad as I thought it would be, but now I'm worried about Christmas. Hearing Christmas music makes me cry and seeing my neighbors putting up their outdoor decorations does not help. I know I'll survive Christmas alone too, but I'm not looking forward to it. I have widowed friends who are 2 to 5 years into their journey and they all say it never ends.

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  6. Two and a half years in and looking back, I can see how far I have come with the Lord's help and with the love of faithful family and friends. My journey is still very up and down emotionally, but so much better than the first two years. The ugly cries are rare, but the leaky cries, as I refer to them still happen pretty frequently. It's okay though; as my daughter reminds me , it's just all that love coming out! That helps me, somehow!

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  7. These comments help others know they're not alone. Remember, the time frames and situations are different for everyone, and there's no right way because each situation is unique. Keep your eyes on teh Lord, and let's hear hear from others too.

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  8. I'm barely into my 4th month now. Thanksgiving was very hard and complicated with other family issues. Some days I feel it's getting better, and then something will set me off unexpectedly and it's all fresh again. I'm not into Christmas at all; it's hard to watch all the joyous festivities and such without my husband of 36 yrs. Yet the Lord is my strength and He's right here by my side and will see me through. I'm learning day by day who I am all over again. I'm scared, lonely, hurting and confused. But God knows that and He holds my heart and my hand...

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  9. One step at a time. I'm so sorry for your loss, dear Anonym . . . Many times it feels like two steps forward, three steps back, and the emotions are stormy and unpredictable. May you find some encouragement and more hope in the Lord here. God does hold your heart and your hand.

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