This week’s Permission to Grieve guest post is written by my For the Love launch team “momma” and dear friend, Andrea Stunz, who shows us that we grieve because we love.
Permission to Grieve
Name it. Claim it. Grieve it.
We all have losses that we need to grieve. We all grieve differently and we all long for hope and grace as we navigate these unchartered waters. There really is no rulebook that gives us hard fast steps on how to grieve our losses. Some tips and pointers, yes, and our counselors can guide us through, but for the most part, we muddle through and do our next best thing.
In my 27-year-old marriage, through years of poor communication skills, some selfishness and some ignorance, there have been some losses. Some were minor losses and some rather monumental. I have spent most of my married years passing by many of the losses as mere annoyances. That was easy enough to do because for the better part of our marriage the good outweighed the bad. Losses don’t simply go away, though. Even the little ones. You can’t brush them under the rug. Someday, that rug gets moved and guess what? It’s all there waiting for you.
We all know that grief is a part of life but for me, the revelation in making any sort of sense of it came in naming my losses. From grieving death of loved ones to the death of dreams, it is not a fun process. Acknowledging the losses, seeing them, naming them and grieving them. One of the most helpful exercises for me was to make an actual list of my losses. I found there were more than I realized. It was painfully life-giving. It was also helped me realize that my “crazy” was justified. Physically writing out my losses helped me organize them. When they were just stuck in my head they rolled all over in there and added to the chaos.
“Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and the fingertips.” – Dawson Trotman
Throughout my journey, I’ve learned that grief will look, feel and sound differently for everyone. We simply can’t tell someone how to do it. We can’t tell someone that it’s time to move on. To the friend of the griever, I beg of you, please don’t ever do that. Get in there with us. Sit with us. Cry with us. Bring us chocolate and Blue Bell ice cream. Wallow with us for a while. Remind us that with each new sunrise come new mercies – all that we need for the next day. Remind us that we can do hard things. Tell us how brave we are. Tell us we’re not alone.
“Don’t tell someone in a storm that it’s a sunny day. There will likely come a day when the clouds part, but it is not today. It’s not your job to pull them out of the storm. It’s your job to get soaked with them.” – Adam McHugh, The Listening Life
One of the greatest gifts my parents gave me was the ability to pick myself up by my bootstraps and keep going. “Get up, brush it off and get back in the game.” This gift has served me well in many areas of my life. But the flip side of that is that I wasn’t really taught how to grieve. I wasn’t told that it was okay to stay in it for a little while. I wasn’t taught that it was okay to be sad. I know there is a good deal of responsibility on my part to keep moving forward but I also know that Jesus understands grief. He wants to be in it with me and he wants to help me with my bootstraps. Grief does not equal weak. Quite the opposite. Those who do the hard work of grief are among the bravest people I know. Was Jesus weak? No way! He was the furthest thing from weak. Yet…
“Jesus wept.” – John 11:35
Two words that clearly show us that Jesus grieved the death of his friend, Lazarus. Take a look at the rest of this passage, “As they walked, Jesus wept; and everyone noticed how much Jesus must have loved Lazarus.” John 11:35-36
As they walked… there was forward movement. While we can’t wallow forever, we can and should wallow for a season. We need to take whatever time we need to acknowledge, name and grieve our losses. Our tears can be just as healing as our smiles. Neither should ever be discounted. But at a certain point we do need to start walking again – even if walking comes with weeping. Forward motion, remember?
Everyone noticed how much Jesus must have loved… Have you ever thought about how we wouldn’t grieve if we didn’t love? We wouldn’t be sad to lose something or someone if we didn’t love them. What beautiful irony.
So often we hear about the stages of grief. In Debra Laaser’s book, Shattered Vows, she discusses how grief is not broken down into stages as much as elements. As Laaser says, “Grieving is not a well-ordered process with a well-defined beginning and end.” As much as I love a good list, this concept is helpful to me to understand that I might experience these elements at different times, multiple times and in no certain order.
A Time to Be Numb
A Time to Deny
A Time to Bargain
A Time to Be Angry
A Time to Be Sad
A Time to Be Depressed
A Time to Accept
– Shattered Vows, Debra Laaser
“I’ve found it beneficial to think about elements of grieving rather than stages. I personally experienced many different emotions that seemed all mixed up at times – repeating themselves or even disappearing for a while, only to reappear at another place or time. Grieving was not a well-ordered process with a well-defined beginning and end.” – Debra Laaser, Shattered Vows
What you own can’t own you. Name your losses. Claim them. Grieve them. Then walk boldly in the healing. There is confounding beauty in the scars of a survivor.
From one griever to another, you are not alone. You can do hard things.
P.S. There is hope for the griever.
Do you know someone who has made it to the other side of grief? I do. I’m thinking of several right now. They’re smiles and beauty captured me before I even knew their story. The smiles on the other side of grief are wider, truer and richer. Colossians 1:17 tells us that “He is before all things. In Him all things hold together.” Lean into that promise of hope as you navigate your unchartered waters of grief. The heart on the other side of grief is strong, courageous and compassionate. The peace on the healing side of grief is sweet. Keep doing your next best thing. Whatever you are grieving is not a surprise to God. He knows, He loves and He’s going to hold you together. If you’ll let him.
Andrea Stunz at Empty Plate. Full Heart.
Andrea Stunz is a wife of 26 years (and counting), mom to three amazing gifts from God, a blessed mother in law and a ridiculously proud grandmother. She is a Christ-follower, storyteller, seeker, writer and a stumbling pilgrim in need of grace at Empty Plate Full Heart. Andrea loves cooking and sharing good food and capturing stories through the camera lens as often as possible.
She finds peace, comfort and hope in Colossians 1:17, knowing:
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.