Resources for Living with Grief

Grieving is passage through the space between what we used to know and love and when we can know and love again. No one ever enters this space gently or by choice; grief comes to us in ways that feel like being hit with a brick or hurled into an abyss. 

Friends, we have started talking about what we are experiencing, the social separation, the effect COVID has had on life the way we knew it, disorienting, frightening, stunning, and we are trying to figure out ways to manage our feelings which we still feel. We had no idea it would go on this long and we have no idea how to navigate our way through it. Grief. The thing about denying feelings we don’t like is they seem to find a way to come out.

A lot of people say very odd things about grief and so I am going to spend a few days dispelling and clearing out some of the mythology around grieving. I don’t really want to offend anyone, but here goes. There is no such thing as and you are not in a process of grief. 

The message of Psalm 23 is that the only thing that makes a difference in the valley of the shadow of death is presence. Today I invite you to look back at other times you have been in a rough patch. Darkness did not conquer you and you were not alone.

Sometimes we can see the presence of God in another person. Presence makes a difference. And noticing how God is present to us can be helpful as we think about inviting someone to be present with us in our grief, or us being present with someone in theirs.

Grief is overwhelming, and it is easy to confuse our attempts to manage our own discomfort with grief, for help. One of the most effective ways people who feel out of control can feel in control is to say helpful words, giving advice.

Fog

Grief is like deep fog that invades our existence, limits our senses, disorients our perceptions, renders us lost and powerless, which, naturally, we do not like and so when we grieve it is normal to go looking for answers. But it is not possible to get over fog, or power through fog. Grief is more an overwhelming mix of emotions than a linear progression of neatly differentiated stages. Today I invite you to let go of the self-criticism that you are “not doing grief right.”  You are doing your best, and best is good enough. 

Today I invite you to give up the idea of getting grief out. Counter intuitive, I know. Grief is hard. Lasts a long time. How I wish I had easy steps to follow. Anxiety comes when we expect something other than what is, so we must let things be as they are.

When the body is injured, healing can take a very long time. There is not a way to accelerate healing of the wound except to keep the body healthy. When the body is injured part of the healing can include physical therapy, beginning to move and use where the body was injured, and years later you may discover there were tears and bruises and breaks that didn’t heal or won’t heal and require some attention, and there is pain.  I’m not sure I believe we heal from grief. Like any simile it has limitations. I offer it to you for consideration.

Today we are moving into…I don’t believe strategies is the best approach. Strategies are numbered steps for getting control of a situation and enforcing healing. Maybe the right way to say this is today we are moving into how to address grief when it enters your life.

Today I invite you to take up the counter intuitive idea that addressing grief begins in being powerless.

Friends we are talking about how to address grief and I have suggested a counter intuitive response of admitting we are powerless in the face of what overwhelms us. Being powerless is the practice of learning again and again, catching ourselves trying to establish and assert and force that we are once again in control.

We are talking about addressing grief and have talked about the counter-intuitive response of being powerless over grief. This idea came from listening to Jesus, who seems to be counter-intuitive on just about everything. Enemies? Love them. People curse you? Bless them. People hate you? Pray for them. Choosing a way forward. Take the narrow, difficult path. It seems the way of God is not avoidance or denial but is turning toward and embracing everything we would intuitively avoid, including grief.

 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” I wish I could tell you I know how that works.

This week we are moving into five things we can do in response to grief in our lives. The first thing we are going to discuss is becoming intentional about taking care of our bodies.

Figuring out how to cope when grief has invaded our lives is highly personal, there is no one size fits all, and may vary day to day. What worked yesterday, may not work tomorrow.

Number 3, we humans have our rational organizations of how we think things will work. The expectation is the world around us is logical and what happens to us is well within reason and any feelings we have are wrong responses to perfectly normal situations. Just thinking about it, we know this is not true. Grief has invaded our life, with an invasive, disruptive situation. 

One response to grief is to try to keep a stiff upper lip, say everything is ok and hold back all of those emotions. That can work for a while, but it is a little bit like trying to hold back a river of water with a broom, and real quick it became a lot of work. Emotions and water are similar in that they both are heavy to carry and create a lot of pressure, and they find a way out. Dammed up emotions have a way of uniting and coming out sideways. Today I encourage you to find your safe space and let it out. 

Friends, most of us treat grief the way we treat a head cold, suffer reluctantly, seek remedy and try to hurry it out of our head. Which, gives grief great power. We push, it pushes back, we yell loud and it just stays, we call it a monster and it becomes monstrous, and all of that effort keeps us occupied and saps our energies. The alternative is making the choice to embrace life as it is, no longer pushing, instead observing, feeling, accepting without judgement, all that is life.

I hope you will utilize the resources on the grief resource page of the church web site. Last time I suggested allowing all of the emotions felt in grief to be present to us. At first that is a real effort, we are so destabilized, so disoriented, to simply permit them will require all of our energies. Over time we will notice that we have survived them. We cannot say we are better for the experience of grief. But we can say experiencing the emotions of grief is better than trying to keep them all locked up inside and feeling like we are going to explode.

What if, grieving, over time, permitting ourselves to feel all of the emotions that come with grief, what if we begin to regard them as old friends to be acknowledged, maybe even welcomed.

Grief teaches us loss is inevitable, and not to take loved ones for granted. Grief teaches us the value of memories Grief teaches us to be honest about how we feel and reinforces the validity of our feelings. Grief teaches us self-care and patience. Grief teaches us that pain and joy can co-exist. Grief teaches us how to talk about what we are feeling, and we can learn how to be far better listeners. What have you learned in grieving?    

Friends, in this conversation about the place of anxiety around grief we have recognized how hard and how long is the grief. It may be with us so long that we grow weary of it, so any sign of respite can be huge, getting up and realizing at lunch time that it’s been half a day since we cried, so we must making progress, getting better.

The final message is from me. Grief is hard and lasts a long time. It makes us aware of our imperfection. I think we would do well to stop striving for perfection and instead strive to be present in our grief. Blessings to you.

Focus on Scripture

Hearing & Believing

Lessons learned from scripture

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Man turning pages of Bible with light coming from pages.

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Stress and anxiety are normal. We can either figure out effective ways to manage them, or they will manage us.

We are working on our imitation…most of the time when he speaks Jesus is brief and pointed. 

The Big Top on Human Sexuality

We walk through a very deep examination of what the bible says about all of human sexuality… and surprise… it doesn’t say what our cultural religion says it does! The willingness to do violence to the biblical text to make it support an extraneous agenda is also addressed.

When we start a conversation about race, we are constrained to question ourselves. We do not see ourselves as racist; in fact, we deplore racism. But what if, despite all our best intentions, we don’t realize that some of our ‘givens’, some of our core beliefs about people and the ways of the world and some of how we understand ourselves are tinged with racism that is so familiar it has eluded our awareness?

Sometimes words familiar in the church, like unending, without end, forever and never ending, can lift our spirits and comfort us. Yes. But not always. Unending is a long time.

Having our lives radically changed and even threatened allows us to be engaged by scripture on a deeper level, particularly the stories around the birth of the Messiah. Our focus this year is paying attention to all of the details told to us in scripture in hope of seeing the whole picture and coming into a new understanding of what Christmas means.

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Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:9

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