I’m learning to give myself extra space to grieve in all its stages and forms.
Grief gives me permission to feel and experience life more fully, to process change with perspective, and show myself kindness when life takes sharp corners.
Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. The various stages of grief swirl around me at all times. I am learning to dance in their rhythms without trying to push them away.
I’ll never forget when I moved to South Africa, one month after my husband and I got married. Thrown into a new language, culture, and community, I cried nearly every day during our first year of marriage. No one ever mentioned something like this could happen when you marry your best friend and start your long-awaited adventure together… But I had a mentor who finally did.
She looked me straight in the eyes one day when I was rattling off my struggles and explaining all my heavy emotions and thoughts, “You are grieving, Charissa.”
Up until that point no one had ever given me permission to grieve. I thought it was only reserved for those who were walking through the unspeakable, the tragic.
How could I sit down amongst the dying, the terminally ill, or those who had lost a loved one?
My grief felt unwarranted. I felt like a wimp.
Why couldn’t I handle life’s ups and downs with strength and confidence? Why did I crumble in the midst of change, even happy change, like getting married?! Why was I as immature as a toddler at handling big emotions?
You could say that grieving is a kind of spiritual practice I’ve adopted through the years to make sense of life and all its craziness.
I’ve found, and not ashamed to admit, that on any given day I’m grieving a little. I’m in one, if not several of the stages.
Counselors understand the stages of grief are not linear, they are messy. We can be in denial about something, while also entering into the acceptance of another.
Grief is a part of my life now. And if you think about it, we are all among the dying aren’t we? We are all slowly coming to terms with our own finite existence on this earth. If we’re honest, the invitations to let go, give up control, and deny ourselves are too many to count in a day.
Grief, then, can become a gift to us. It is a sacred tool we can wield to move through life with wild hope.
Loss is a normal, every day occurrence, have you noticed?
We lose our temper on our children.
We lose our beloved flowers to a hungry bunny.
We lose contact and community with people whom we thought were lifelong friends.
We lose sleep.
We lose precious time to work towards a dream.
We lose a season of life with the birth of a new baby.
Or we know someone who is walking through an unfavorable diagnosis, a divorce, or a death.
Loss is woven into our weeks without our permission, isn’t it?
But what if we give ourselves (and others around us) time to walk through the stages of grief and probably get stuck in some for longer than we’d like, and then to cycle back through them in no particular order over and over again.
I know I’d like to put a period on the end of my grief, but loss turns up in every sentence of our stories.
Thankfully, whether we feel Him or not, Jesus stays beside us, processing with us.
He doesn’t rush us through, pushing us to learn the lessons from the hard times. He doesn’t gauge our losses either, as if some warrant more tears than others.
No, instead, God wipes every tear and holds our hand. He knows how to stay silent or offer encouragement depending on where we find ourselves. He gives His presence over precise steps. He is intimately acquainted with our unique grief.
Today, I’m writing my own tender reminder to grieve without feeling a shred of shame. But maybe you need to hear it too?
Grief acknowledges the sting of death, without succumbing to its power. Grief provides the backdoor to beauty, revealing life even in the midst of loss.
Facing and grieving the adversity you’d rather avoid means you are coming alive to your adventure. You are keeping your eyes open, choosing to keep going and filling your heart with unexplainable expectation and unruly hope.
Our humble pioneer, Jesus, mentioned dying as the secret to abundant life. Then isn’t grief one of the surest signs we are walking down the resurrection path, falling deeper into His love?
Don’t wait until trauma knocks on your door to welcome grief. Give it space to work in your life, notice its presence when you surrender to a few small deaths each day.
I hope you take a moment to allow the Lord to show you areas of personal grief. Identify the stage(s) you are experiencing (you can find a description of them here) And then, give yourself grace to grieve and gather the secrets to life few will ever find.