March 3, 2019
A precious friend of mine is grieving the loss of her baby.
She knows my stories of grief, loss, and suffering so she asked me: "Do you have any specific things you did like journaling-wise? Or anything you'd say or do as you went throughout your day to help get the pain out? I'm finding myself slipping easily to depression but I know there is a difference in how I can walk this out."
With her blessing I am sharing my response here for you, too.
We both want you to have every bit of help and comfort the Holy Spirit may offer through our suffering.
Because dang - grief feels so, so lonely!
Because it is. Because in truth - no one else (but Jesus) can fully understand the aching, the breaking, the suffocating tears inside you. The lonely paths that pain carves inside of you are places only the Holy Spirit can go.
But I can walk "beside" you and listen, pray and share what God has comforted me with. I'm here for that.
We all need help to find a way forward in our grief.
It’s important to understand that moving forward is not the same as moving on.
We all have life experiences that leave permanent marks on us. Even in his glorified, resurrected, new body Jesus’ hands and feet bore nail scars (John 20:25-28).
So we don’t try to “move on” like our scars are not there. Like a cross or a grave didn’t happen to us. Like Love wasn't crucified or buried.
But we do move forward with the evidence of Love who is risen, alive, and greater than any wound or death in our hard stories.
I want to encourage you that you can move forward in your life, without moving on.
But how? What can you do with your internal hemorrhaging that makes even simple tasks or interactions feel utterly overwhelming?
How can you grieve well in the midst of daily life?
As I sat down to remember with the Holy Spirit how He comforted and strengthened me through several hard years, 7 things came to mind.
1. Make Space to Grieve. Then Don't Hold Back.
In the height of my grief I had several small children who depended on me all day long. I could not completely check out of life to address my own bleeding heart. But I found that if I did not carve out intentional space to grieve and process that I would randomly, uncontrollably burst into tears at unexpected moments and have a full-blown meltdown that I couldn't reign in.
In that life season the only sliver of time I could get alone was when the family when to church on Sunday mornings. I stayed home many weeks and poured my heart out to Jesus.
He met me in those times in a tender way unlike anything I know how to explain. He knew my need was deep and raw.
There is nothing like how close He is and how clear His voice is when you need it most and you seek His face. So carve out some time(s) to be alone with Him specifically to grieve and receive comfort. Time to pour out to Him all your thoughts, questions, and feelings, and to take His words into your broken open heart.
It's amazing how you can hang on if you know an outlet is coming. It's amazing how suffocating life feels when there is no relief in sight. So plan a time for relief.
And when your time to grieve in the presence of Love arrives? Let the dark clouds come up on your horizon and into view. Let the storm gather strength and crash and pour out.
It is brave to cry. To not stuff what you feel.
The Truth wants your vulnerable, unreserved honesty.
Tears are living water from God designed to deliver you into an awareness of His presence.
Tears are the river that carry your soul to a place where you find you are washed up onto the shore of peace.
That river may rage, tumble, turn or waterfall... but you will end up being held on the solid ground of Peace.
2. Praise is the Fiercest Battle Cry.
Songs have been a lifeline for me many times. They anchor me to sanity and Truth and Hope. They open a floodgate of joy I didn't know was possible to feel in the very heart of grief.
Songs are a way to tune into His heart towards me. They are prayers that help me respond in faith when I can't find the words to pray. Praise is an SOS to Jesus in the midst of the war of daily life.
Let His songs of deliverance and love surround you during this tender time.
Our enemy is a Strategic Discourager and a Merciless Liar.
In times when we are bearing a cross or kneeling at a grace he points out all the things undone and speaks fluent condemnation that we should be doing more or better even though our hearts are pierced through and just breathing takes all we've got. The Father of Lies blatantly declares that God is not good. That you are not good.
He will tempt you to surrender your day to him in a thousand ways. Your enemy's goal is to get you to quit. To give up.
But praise is the front-lines battle cry that leads your soul into the victory already won for you in Jesus' name.
Some days I start worshipping by barely mouthing words while laying flat on my back in bed. With tears stinging my eyes and pain choking my throat. Then I will let gravity help me slump down onto the floor to get on my face.
Praise flat on your face and you'll be given the strength to rise to your knees.
Praise on your knees and you'll be given the strength to rise to your feet.
Praise on your feet and you'll be given the strength to lift your hands, your shield of faith, for the battle in front of you.
Praise with your hands raised and you'll experience the power of the Warrior who destroys the enemy with the breath of His mouth and the splendor of His coming.
Praise is the fiercest battle cry.
In Jesus' name, praise.
The Lord will fight for you.
3. Books are Kind Companions.
Books are a safe way for me to process grief because there is zero chance of my rawness being misunderstood.
When I felt so exhausted and couldn't understand God in my own life, I'd reach for someone else's story of loss. Other people's process and experiences of God in hard life seasons provide the clarity that comes from looking at something from the outside. And being able to see a little bit of light and truth are like oxygen for hope.
Some kind book-companions I journeyed with:
I Will Carry You by Angie Smith
A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis
Through the Eyes of a Lion by Levi Lusko
4. Journal the Dark Out.
My thoughts and feelings stay so tangled up and repetitive if I don't get them out.
Journaling has been such a key piece to my mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
When I take a pen in my hand I can make that internal, invisible battle come out into the light. Then there it is, visible, in black ink on white paper. When I can see what's going on, I can make wise choices about how to respond.
One journaling practice that really helped me process and respond in a healthy way was to first write out all the thoughts, feelings, and situations that felt like a mountain looming over me, crushing me. Then I would let the Holy Spirit bring truth about God to my mind and I would write those truths as my response.
So 1st: Tell God all about your "mountain".
2nd: Tell your mountain all about your God.
The truths about God may come slowly at first because I'm practiced at focusing on all that is not right and good, but I find Truth gains momentum as I give Him space and my attention. I have a whole lot of joy, confidence, and peace by the time I'm done.
I shared an example of this kind of journaling previously in this blog post.
5. Reach Out for Prayer.
I have a whole group of trusted ladies at my church who faithfully pray for me when I need it. Corporate prayer makes a world of difference.
Pray about who to reach out to, then contact those prayer warriors who will faithfully stand by you and for you when you feel weak and beaten down. Reach out as often as you need. This will be a good example to them.
6. Less Intake and Output. Rest.
Do not apologize for needing to process, grieve, and recover. Take as much time as you need.
When I feel raw I drastically limit my intake of all things via the internet and relationships. I also limit my output in serving others and do only what I know God has given me to do that cannot be delegated or what He wants me to do.
God designed seasons into our life experience. In a season of grief, embrace less so you can receive much-needed rest.
Give yourself grace to accept more mental, emotional, and relational rest.
7. Let His Promises Carry You
"Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them." - Psalm 126:5-6
I don't know how I stumbled across this verse when I was grieving, but I heard the Holy Spirit whisper it to me as a promise.
I can now testify from experience that it is true.
He will bring a harvest out of this. Joy will return to you and song will overtake you.
Keep sowing in faith.
You may go out weeping - but you will returns with songs of joy.
Be gentle with yourself. He is holding you right next to His chest, your head is under His chin. His arms are enfolding you, His strong frame wrapping around yours to protect you.
You are never, ever alone.
And you are so, so loved.