As I was trying, and failing, to write this week’s post I became aware that I was feeling frustrated and noticed thoughts like
I shouldn’t write about grief two weeks in a row. Anthony’s birthday and deathday are both past. I should move on to a different topic.
Well hello there, Denial. Didn’t I just write about you last week?
(Denial just ignored me. It hates being called out.)
When I focused on my frustration and asked myself what I was feeling angry about I learned I was still feeling a lot of pain and loss, a lot of grief. I wanted it to go away. I was tired, emotionally exhausted, from acknowledging it and feeling it and trying to grieve well. I wanted a break, and at the same time I was frustrated by the idea of minimizing or dismissing the pain in order to take a break.
The relief I craved was not to be found by hiding from hurt.
See anger has a job to do, and it’s stubborn so it won’t quit until it’s job is done.
Anger supplies the motivation and energy to take the actions required to prevent or end pain for ourselves and on behalf of the ones we love.
I was hurting and I was thinking about ignoring the pain, so anger stepped in and said, “No, you’ve gotta take care of this.”
Do you ever get angry “for no reason”?
Ask yourself, “What hurts?” and/or “What am I afraid will hurt?”
What images, thoughts, memories, people, or concerns come to mind?
Once anger has done it’s job it will dissipate. If you ignore it then it’ll just get louder and more aggressive until you face the pain it’s trying to help you deal with.
So, this time, I was still grieving and I was trying to ignore it.
Have you ever been to the ocean?
Stay with me… I promise I’m not avoiding pain by changing the subject.
At least, not this time.
I love the ocean. I was 8 years old when I first visited family in Massachusetts and learned to bob with the waves. I learned to feel them coming, push up with my legs a bit, and let the swell carry me up and down. I also learned if a wave has a whitecap, if it’s curling over at the top by the time it got to me, I was better off diving under/through it face-first. The consequence of not paying attention to the swells, or trying to hold my ground against the ocean, was a salty smack down, a disorienting tumble underwater that left me struggling to figure out which direction was up, and a mild panic that I might not find air again.
Grief comes in waves. Sometimes the waves are small and easily ridden out. Sometimes they’ve got whitecaps that’ll send you rolling if you don’t take them face-first. Sometimes they’re more like the devastating storm surge of a hurricane. Regardless of the intensity of the wave, trying to ignore the pain of loss is about as effective as ignoring waves while swimming in the ocean.
Remember, God doesn’t want you to ignore your pain. He wants to grieve with you and comfort you.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”Matthew 5:4 ESV
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”Psalm 34:18 NIV
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”Psalm 147:3 NIV
Don’t let Denial sell you the lie that you can ignore pain and be fine. Don’t worship being ever-positive or self-sufficient. God created us with the ability to feel pain and mourn loss as part of being made in his image. He also feels pain and grieves. And God lifts us out of the overwhelming surge and heals us when we let him. We don’t have to be afraid of the pain because we have such strong help.
“Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.”Psalm 30:2 NIV
“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. – He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”Psalm 18:16,19 NIV
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. “Isaiah 41:10 NIV
What hurt do you need to talk to God about today instead of trying to ignore? What grief can you invite him into and let him keep your head above the water?