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Grief Comes in Different Packages

When I was a young adult and wise in my own eyes, if you had asked me to define “grief,” I would have said something to the affect of “feeling sad and crying when someone you love dies.” Young, yeah. Wise, not even close! My “wisdom” was one of the reasons I had such a hard time with the grief process. I learned the hard way “grief” is so much more than being sad and crying! It includes a whole host of emotions. Yes, sadness for sure, but also anger, frustration, confusion, helplessness, despair, resentment, fear, hopelessness, loneliness, depression, anxiety and the list goes on from there. I was shocked to discover grief involved such a vast assortment of different emotions, coming in varying degrees, at any time, with no rhyme or reason. I also learned grief comes in many different packages and is not just what you feel and deal with when someone dies. Grief can result from the loss of a job, divorce, loss of relationship, dealing with an illness, a move, mistreatment/abuse by another and, again, the list goes on. Grief is a rather complicated process. Even more so if you are dealing with an accumulation of losses over time or multiple losses at one time.

I don’t think I’m too far off base to say, in the midst of dealing with a worldwide pandemic, all of us are experiencing some form of grief right now. Life as we know it has been completely interrupted, forcing us to adapt to very abnormal circumstances with no end in sight. We are also coming to realize there is no “getting back to normal” but trying to figure out what the “new normal” is going to be. As a result, we have all experienced loss resulting from the pandemic. Yes, in varying degrees to be sure, but the truth remains that we have indeed lost. Sadly, for far too many around the world, grief is the result of a loved one dying from the corona virus. Then, to further add to the pain and suffering, is being limited in how funerals and services can be handled right now. There are also many, many others who have battled the virus, or have had loved ones who did, which caused a form of grief in riding it out. More than a few have had to separate and quarantine from family because of exposure to the virus, compromised health concerns or because of the work they do. Graduations have been cancelled, weddings postponed. For all of us, this pandemic has impacted almost every facet of our lives to one extent or another. We have had to alter how we work, how we play, how we do school, how we do church, how we shop, even how we operate in our own homes. There is almost nothing this pandemic hasn’t touched in our daily lives! And the result…grief.

So, what do we do? The first thing we do is quite simple. Acknowledge the loss and its impact on your life, owning what it has cost you. Then, express it. (Here’s where I will add a little disclaimer: While I agree we need to be fully aware of the incredible suffering going on around us, this is not a time to conclude your “grief” is silly in comparison to someone else or to minimize it. If you are bothered by something, feel weighed down, if you are overwhelmed, if you are struggling in any way because of the circumstances you are living in, then it’s time to own it and begin to deal with it.) After we identify and own, then we need to find ways to express it. Talk with a family member, a friend, a pastor or a counselor, even if it has to be virtual. It’s important to not just own it but to share what you are experiencing with another person. Bringing it out in the open is such a release and a relief rather than keeping it in or, even worse, hiding it from others. Journaling is also very helpful. Again, the whole goal is to find ways and means to get out what you are feeling. Of course, praying is a great outlet. God already knows what you are feeling and thinking so there is no need to hold anything back or sugar coat it. I promise He is big enough to handle it! These various means of verbalizing your loss and your grief is to be an ongoing process. It’s not a “one and done” approach.

You will also want to include taking care of yourself by eating healthy, getting exercise, making sure you are getting good sleep and rest, engaging socially (being creative while distancing), investing time in something fun or relaxing, and, of course, spending time with God in prayer and in His Word. If this all-person approach still leaves you feeling like you are stuck in a pit of despair, contact your doctor or mental health provider and have an honest heart-to-heart to see what other means might be needed to move you through your grieving process. We will get through this, but not riding it out solo. Reach out for help, reach out and encourage. Let’s do this TOGETHER!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

(2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

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