Grief will not be solved in five stages.

What grief is not.

            While there is truth to the five stages of grief, it is not a long term solution or a formula for resolving grief. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that grief is unpredictable. Just like waves crashing on the shore, so are the emotions of grief. Unpredictable in impact, predictable in frequency. Grief can hit you in the midst of the mundane or be triggered by an important event. This past Christmas a friend of mine lost her son tragically. It was heartbreaking. No one should ever bury their child, and as a mom, it shook me to my core. What if this was my child? What if this happened to me? What if my whole world changed in a matter of minutes? You can’t help but play out the scenario’s in your own mind.

The heartbreak of loosing someone you love.

A group of friends and I decided to attend the funeral, to show our support to our friend during this tragic time. I was so thankful that I went, not just for her, but for myself. As odd as it may sound, funerals bring about closure and don’t leave things undone. Closure doesn’t equal lack of grief, but a grasp on the reality of the situation. As my girlfriends and I waited in the car for the funeral procession we shared our own experiences with funerals, tragic deaths and the unexpected. We all had attended our fair share of funerals. Funerals where there was no message of hope and an eternity with Christ.  Funerals where the loved one who was gone was never mentioned. Funerals like this can you leave you broken and battered.  For those who have never attended funeral, they leave more confused, sad or hurt than before. There are good funerals. Funerals, that celebrate the life of the loved one. 

             A couple days after the funeral I had my monthly check in with my therapist and it was one of those check in’s where you leave filling like life is a 10. Just twenty-four hours later the weight of grief was pulling me down like gravity. I could feel it. Grief feels like a fifty-pound weight wrapped around your neck; painful, heavy and burdensome. Grief is more than just an emotion, it’s a force.

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The weight of grief.

Twenty-eight years later, I can still be broadsided by the grief truck. It will run me over and leave me bruised and battered. My whole day can be turned on its head.  Grief is messy, it’s completely out of our control. We carry grief with us the rest of our lives. There is no escaping it. Grief is a process, and I’m not just talking about the five stages of grief. Grief is a lifelong process of mourning the dreams that never came true, the memories that were never made and the impact someone had on your life. 

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[a] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:3

Fellow warrior,

Sara

***I know I write this through the lens of a believer, and it is not lost at me that someone who is reading this may have lost someone with the certainty of their faith is unsure. There are no words, and my heart breaks for you and those around you.  

Why grieving matters: How our society embraces celebration but ignores grief.

When Grief Comes not if.

Twenty-eight years later I can still remember the day my dad died. Twenty-eight years later I grieved for my dad as though it happened the day before. Twenty-eight years later, grief is different, but it’s still there. I’ve avoided addressing this topic, because it’s heavy. It’s hard, it’s messy, it’s ugly and let’s face it no one wants to talk about it. We avoid it like the plague, but it is tearing us a part. Fortunately, I’m in a season of wellness. Writing about grief just seems counterintuitive, but here I sit sharing this with you.

After losing five members of my family by the age of 17. I’ve buried more than I count.  Burying my best friend, watching my friend bury her child, losing a co-worker to suicide, losing a childhood friend at 18.  By the age of twenty-five, I knew a lot about grief, or so I thought. If I’m honest, I knew a lot about funerals, and the brevity of life, but not grief. Grief is more than an emotion; grief is a process. I used to think that you would age out of grief and eventually it wouldn’t impact you the same way it did in the beginning. I have learned this is false. Grief can with no warning and like a bullet train. It speeds up, and then crashes into you and leaves you shattered into a million pieces. Just when you think you have healed or worse moved on, you get a punch to the gut.

Why grief is necessary and how can we grieve well.

Over the next several weeks I hope to help you understand the necessity of grief. We have become so busy that we don’t even slow down to grieve. We don’t know how to help those who are grieving because we haven’t fully accepted what grief is. We may have mourned in the beginning but stuffed down so deep we no longer realize it’s there. For those rare individuals who have experienced catastrophic grief, I hope you can better understand how life altering it truly is. I want to equip you with ways to help those around you who are suffering. Most importantly what the Bible says about grief and how Christ modeled it for us.

Jesus gets it.

At some point in our life we will all experience an unexpected grief, or an unexpected loss. I pray that when that time comes you will be surrounded by those who can grieve with you, and help you grieve well.

Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Hebrews 2:17 NLT

This verse describes so vividly what Jesus did and who He is. We must remember that Jesus gets it. We have come to believe the lie that God doesn’t understand. We are made in God’s image and Jesus was made in every respect to be like us. Of all people Jesus gets it.

Have you experienced a life altering grief?

In spite of all the awareness why is suicide more prevelant?

The confusion of suicide.

Because today is World Suicide Awareness Day, I thought it only fitting to address the subject. This topic is never easy to discuss, is a hard thing to understand, and is always painful. I’m sure I don’t articulate well enough the darkness that was around me for so long trying to understand and wrap my brain around why my father chose to leave. I have reconciled to the fact that I will never know the answers.

Just this past month a pastor in California committed suicide and left behind a wife and three children. This just shocked me, but in some ways gave me hope that this gentleman’s story would be used to shed light on a topic so often ignored by the church.  Now people would understand that this isn’t exclusive to members of the church, or as some believe exclusive to non-believers. Depression which can often lead to suicide or thoughts of suicide can even happen to a pastor. Being a Christian doesn’t make you immune.

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Image credit: @kaylasteck/Instagram

The added grief of suicide.

There is added heartbreak that comes when you lose someone to suicide. The confusion, the shock. There is an added layer of emotions, on top of the natural grief of death. You can’t reconcile it. It doesn’t make sense, and those left behind are consumed with guilt. It falls out of the natural order of life. It’s something we can’t wrap our brain around, and honestly, I hope I never do.

You aren’t the only one.

Over the last several years as I’ve shared my story and sometimes with unbridled transparency and I have come to realize that so many people have lost someone to suicide, way more than I ever thought. The most startling aspect is that it seems to be happening more and more, not less and less. This should raise an alarm in all of us.

With all the technology, education, research, awareness, meds, virtual community and social media shouldn’t this problem be decreasing?

One thing, that I know many will disagree with is that we have spent so much energy teaching our children and ourselves independence that we have forgotten the power of community. We were created to live with others. The burdens the world puts on us were never meant to be carried alone.  The burden is too heavy, it is against the core of who we are created to be.

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When I look back at the early church and how they helped one another out I realize it’s such an example of how things should be, helping one another coming alongside one another to share in their burdens as well as work together to fill in the gaps, where you are weak I am strong.

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Real friendships, real community and real intimacy. 

And awe[a] came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47

Somehow we have lost this, we text, we Facebook message, we Insta message, we watch stories, we scroll the feed and think we know what’s really going on with one another, and yet we couldn’t be more disengaged, more lonely and more isolated than ever before. Real love, the love that Christ shows us and that we are supposed to emulate is the kind of love where you call someone, you bring them coffee, you offer to help them with their kids, you make time out of your schedule to meet them, you ask them about what’s going on with them, and listen, even if you don’t understand, even if it makes no sense to you, you listen.

           We are called to listen, to love and love without judgment, where someone is at, exactly as they are.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

We are called to love with every once of our being. So if you see someone hurting, even if you feel like you can’t relate, you don’t know what to say, lean in to God, lean on the Holy Spirit for understanding and let go of your own insecurities and show someone else the power of Christ’s love.

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19.

I stand with you,

Sara

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, contemplating suicide, or you just need someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

 

The heartbreak and confusion of suicide.

The heartbreak of suicide.

I spoke with two friends this week who had a lost someone to suicide. The heartbreak of their loss brought back a lot of memories for me.  There is added heartbreak that comes when you lose someone to suicide. The confusion, the shock. There is an added layer of emotions, on top of the natural grief of death. You can’t reconcile it. It doesn’t make sense, and those left behind are consumed with guilt. It falls out of the natural order of life. It’s something we can’t wrap our brain around, and honestly, I hope I never do.

Suicide is always a shock.

I remember all the emotions that I had when I lost my dad. I was in complete and total shock. I never saw it coming, not once.  I knew he was depressed, but not to that level.  My father was doing everything he could; meds, therapy, meeting with deacons, pastors, and he still felt this desperation that I couldn’t understand as a twelve-year-old, and still don’t fully understand today.  Before he died he seemed to be doing better, and my mom and I were encouraged, even hopeful. There were things that my mom saw, that I wasn’t privy to until I was older and ready to understand those things. I spent years trying to understand it, and to be honest I still don’t have all the answers, but I have resigned to the fact, that there will be things that I never will understand.

Why suicide isn’t like other deaths.

Like all death, your life is changed in an instant, but now you have to explain something to others, that even you yourself don’t understand. I remember people asking me when I told them my father had passed away. Once I told them how he passed;  what they thought  of his choice was written all over their face. Most people didn’t know what to say, or how to respond, which in turn made me all the more uncomfortable and I had to relive it over and over again. The horror, the confusion, the shock and all the questions that will never be answered, questions I didn’t have the answers to either.

Suicide doesn’t always happen the way people describe it. Sometimes it comes as a complete and total shock to those around them. They seem happy, good, life is good, but unfortunately there are things going on in their mind that we don’t see or understand.

Suicide and salvation.

I think the hardest thing was the confusion I felt about my dad’s salvation and was it lost; was he with God in Heaven? I didn’t even begin to know who to ask. I began reading some books, but none of them made sense to me, they were just disheartening and depressing. I needed encouragement and hope. I felt such judgment for my dad’s choices, that I kept quiet for so long. I had to learn for myself. Ultimately, I came to rest in this verse:

 “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from, Me.” John 10:28

God is not turning away from them. Their salvation isn’t lost. While I know that suicide is not what God wants for their lives, that He knows there is more, their salvation is not lost and I will forever hold on to this. I know my father and I will spend eternity together and will rejoice in the fact that God has not only healed our souls, but healed our minds. “Rejoice, again I say rejoice!”

Praying for my friends, and praying for those who are hurt. Please reach out, you are not alone my friend, you are not alone.

Sara  

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