Grieving Is About Letting Go and Forgiving

One of the first things most people do when a loss happens is they go through the stage of “why.” 

“Why did this happen to me?”

“Why did this happen to someone so young?”

“Why did they have to die?”

And then people go through the “if only stage”

“If only I would have seen the signs.”

“If only I would have not lost my temper the day they died.”

“If only they would have told the doctors sooner.”

All of these stages should not be suppressed and all of these stages are actually needed to get though grief. Why? Because asking these questions are part of the process of working through grief. The things that we think and the things that we feel in grief doesn’t always make sense but that is not the point. The point is to let things come to the surface. The “why’s” and the “if only’s” really have to do with our hearts being hurt and  being in pain.

Too many times I see believers skip through acknowledging the pain and go straight to praising the Lord that their loved ones are not suffering and they will see them one day in heaven.

It is great to know that we will see our loved ones again but it is not truly comforting to our hearts when we miss our loved ones. We miss having their presence in our lives and we miss the ways they were a part of it. And grieving this part matters! These stages need to be processed and they need to be grieved. Acknowledging these things are needed to work through the chaos. We have to start somewhere and sometimes that means being really raw for a period of time

But eventually grief takes on a different stage. There is a part of letting go. I had to come to grips with how much I was not in control of. Yes, I can get to make my own choices but I have no control of the outcomes or the other people around me.

For me, I felt angry I didn’t see the signs of how sick my late husband really was. When I think back on our dating and even early marriage there were little warning signs that seemed more like personality traits than major health problems. I thought it was just a personality trait of his when he would sleep so much during the day. I thought it was because he was such a chill guy that liked to relax. I thought all his stomach pain was because he stuffed himself too much at meals.

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My late husband’s nickname was BBQ Ben because he loved to BBQ meat so much
My late husband chose to not find out why he slept so much throughout the day. He chose to ignore his stomach problems. He chose to ignore problems with his bowel movements. He chose to ignore and suppress his emotions that caused harm to his body. He chose to ignore a lot of other things I probably was not even aware of leading up to his stage 4 colon cancer. The doctor said with Ben’s condition he probably had the cancer for about 10-15 years. All of these things and countless other things that led to his death were his responsibility NOT mine.

Grieving is not only about letting go it’s also about forgiving.

Forgiveness is about bestowing grace upon another person and to stop feeling angry or resentful for a flaw or a mistake they made. Forgiving another person is to give grace to the things you couldn’t control and wish the other people who you felt wronged you well and give grace to that debt.  If your loved one had an addiction they died of you eventually have to let go of your own anger toward them so you can be free of resentment and accept that they chose into it not you . If a doctor messed up with a surgery that may have saved your loved one’s life you eventually have to wish them well and bestow grace and peace upon their future. If after your loved one died there were friends that stopped inviting you to things you have to forgive the fact that you couldn’t control their choice they made and wish them well. You can still acknowledge how people hurt you and still forgive them and then wish them well.

But sometimes the hardest part of forgiveness is about forgiving yourself and giving grace to yourself for the choices you made or the things you were unaware of but not responsible for in your loved one’s death.

And for me, I am the hardest person to forgive. I realize now that most of the things I’m angry about  Ben’s death are things that were never my responsibility to keep or to hold onto.

I had to sort out what my husband was responsible for and what I was responsible for. I let go of things that were out of my control and responsibility and gave it to the Lord. The things I was responsible for, the Lord and I worked on together. And we continue to work on as they come up to the surface. The Lord calls me to be diligent with what he puts before me and accept what I can and cannot control. And to me, that has been so freeing and so comforting in my grieving process. It takes the burdens that were not mine to bear off of me and the ones that are mine can be  joined and worked on with the Lord.

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Our responsibility is to find out what hinders or blocks us from the Lord, have space to process it, and eventually be freed from it. Because of the Lord I can be free from the guilt I felt of maybe not doing enough when Ben was alive. I can be free from hiding how I really feel from the Lord. I can be free of carrying burdens on my own. I can be free to face all that life throws at me with the Lord. We have faced one of the hardest things life can throw at us and we have gotten through it together. It has given me hope on my hardest days of being a young widow and raising a son on my own. It has given me strength when I feel like I have none. And to me, that has made all the difference.

 

 

Someday But Right Now

Sometimes I feel like when I share my story about Ben’s cancer and death it makes people feel that what they deal with in their own lives is nothing compared to what I went through or continue to live. And then people feel they can’t complain or can’t be sad about what they are going through.

However, the reality is, that whatever struggles you are  going through, big or small, doesn’t make it any less of value or importance to God compared to mine. How we feel and  what we go through ALL matters to God!

God gave us emotions NOT to ignore but to bring to him. When we ignore how we are really feeling we are really ignoring how God wants to help, heal, and come alongside of us. God wants us to overcome whatever we are facing but MOST IMPORTANTLY he wants to be in the midst of our mess with us because we are all so precious to Him. The safest place we can process our feelings is with God. He can handle our curse words, our depression, our anger, our frustrations, and so on. It doesn’t phase him. It doesn’t make him shake his head at us or say to us that we should know better or do better. When he looks at us, it is through a lens of grace and love NOT of disfavor and condemnation.

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Just as my son is hiding in his little hiding spot, God wants us to hide all parts of ourselves and feelings in Him because he longs to heal, mend, and replace our wounds and hurts with His truth and His love

I thought I would express some of these thoughts in a poem about not minimizing or ignoring my emotions as I continue to have ups and downs in my grieving. I have already seen inner healing in myself and received new dreams and new hopes but I wanted to express that it is a constant roller coaster of: grieving and receiving comfort then receiving new dreams, getting hit with new grief and receiving comfort then receiving new dreams, and so on:

There are nights and days when the tears don’t end.

There are and nights and days I miss my best friend.

Beneath the surface, my true emotions lie-

Beneath the skin and muscle

my fragile heart begins to cry:

Like a waterfall of tears

it recalls all the years

the joys and the fears

the happy and the sad

the things that made you mad

the things that made you you

the things you use to do

the things that made you mine

the things that made me yours

the things that were entwined.

Now forever-

torn apart.

And my heart?

Will it start?

To beat-

again?

Or will it forever hold its breath?

Crying and grieving your untimely death.

 

My heart longs for hope and my heart longs to see,

the silver lining that will one day be in front of me.

But in this moment?

It just needs

To be:

Sad.

And needs to be mad.

And needs to be broken.

And needs to feel everything unspoken.

Everything not expressed.

Everything not at its best.

Everything as it is.

Everything not addressed.

Everything that use to be-

his.

 

One day, I know deep down, good will come out of this.

But right now my heart is plunged into this deep dark abyss.

And there in the depths of my soul and the depths of my sorrow,

is the One embracing my heart AND my tomorrow.

He joins me as I re-live the past and present feelings,

until I’m ready for new hopes and future healings-

that will outlast

and surpass

all that I can grasp

in the years to come.

Someday.

But right now?

I am undone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Switching the Why to What:The Battle of Logic and Heart

The reality is that we live in a broken world. Nothing is perfect. Life is this intermingling of pain and joy; disappointment and fulfillment; death and life. We may try our hardest to shield our children and loved ones away from as much grief and pain as we experienced growing up or have seen others experience but we cannot protect them from everything. And when something or someone hurts or shatters our reality of innocence or level of comfort we almost always ask, “Why God?” We might do this unconsciously but when we ask “why” we are actually coming to this conclusion of thinking that it is God himself who wounded us NOT the person or situation. That is one of the downfalls of free will.

People and situations hurt us but it is the person or situation hurting us NOT God. For example,when a parent is not emotionally invested in their child the child begins to think that God the Father is like that too. They believe things like God is busy and he and already knows what I’m thinking so why do I have to tell him what he already knows? So, without even realizing, coming to conclusions like this actually begins to shape our relationship and understanding of God that is actually NOT true at all.

The reality is that God IS emotionally invested in us and cares about how we feel. He is NOT too busy for us EVER. And yes he knows what we are thinking but that is not the point. The point of having a relationship with him and praying is all about CONNECTING. He longs to connect because he knows we need and crave it.

We are wired for connection: to be heard, to be seen, to be understood, to be loved, to be cared for.

And going back to the “Why God?” question. That question is actually an intellectual question and it is expecting and intellectual answer. I think because we live in such a broken world sometimes there are no reasons why things happen. And even if there is a logical reason why something happened what we really need in times of hurt or loss is not a logical answer. What we really need is a HEART answer. More than anything our heart needs: comfort, to be heard, to be valued, to be seen, and so on.

When there is a hurt or loss it will ALWAYS come down to what we need from God and are not getting.
Let me give an example of this. My husband dying of  stage 4 colon cancer at 29 years old is a time most people would ask, “Why God? Why would you take him when he was so young? Why do I have to raise my son without my best friend and love of my life? Why couldn’t you just heal him? I want him back.”

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Let us say God miraculously raised my husband from the dead and healed him of cancer and he was given life again.  In essence, I would be getting the answer I wanted and asked for. But is it what I REALLY need when I am hurting?

But I think what happens sometimes there has been so much hurt or loss in our lives that even if we wanted to we still can’t accept or receive what our hearts REALLY need.

That is where inner healing work and counseling can help unravel the inner struggle of what keeps us from being able to receive from God. In order to receive we need to clear away the walls or ways we try to guard or protect our heart. And there probably is a good reason why it’s protected but instead of hiding it away from others and ourselves it really needs to be hidden away  IN God. He is the safest person to guard our hearts because he not only wants to guard it but the one who knows how to tend, mend, and fix it.

A few months before Ben was diagnosed with cancer I was hitting a wall where I couldn’t receive from God so I began to see a inner healing counselor who began helping me unpack why I couldn’t receive from God and why he felt so far. As the walls or “debris” as she calls it began lifting I began to hear from God and was able to feel, see ,and hear where he was in my life more clearly.

She also taught me how to pour my heart out before the Lord when I began to feel angry or overwhelmed during intense times during Ben’s cancer.

Some of these periods had screaming and cussing and everything ugly you could think of before the Lord. Not at him but WITH him.

I beautiful image a friend got for this “pouring out” was breaking plates with God when she was angry. Not physically, although that would be cool to do one day in a safe place, but in her mind when she needed to work anger out with God. I never realized we have that much freedom with God to be able to do that.

But that is the beauty of a patient and loving God. He is not in a rush or afraid of what I needed to express first. He met me where I was at. And it was in those times  I eventually could begin to unravel what I REALLY needed.

I began  to learn how to switch my question of “why” to “what.” “What is God doing?” and “What kind of people are going to come alongside of me in my time of hurt and loss? “and “What do I need to receive from God in my time of loss or hurt?” and “What does my heart need?”

I think there are times that God does satisfy that intellectual question of “why” but I love how he cares about the “what” as well. As I have said before many times he cares about our WHOLE being.

Are there places that you need to go back to that you missed out on the “what” and having your heart tended or cared for? Are there conclusions you have made about God or yourself that you are beginning to realize are actually not true  but actually more about the person or situation? Are there places where you still need to struggle with the “why?” Let me know your thoughts or if I need to expand on something more.