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Is Grief Work?     

Confusion.  Numbness.  Despair.  Anxiety.   Fatigue.  Sleeplessness.   Panic.  Irritable.   Dazed.  Mood swings.  Anger.  Rage.  Searching.  Unrest.   Any of this sound familiar to you?   Does it ever feel like someone has tied 200lb weights around your ankles from the moment you get up in the morning?  Do you feel like no matter how much sleep you get you are still tired?  Does it take all the energy you can muster just to put your feet to the floor and attempt another day? 

Unfortunately all of these things (and more), are a part of the grieving process.  Many people have the misconception that grief “just happens” to you, and if you wait long enough, it will eventually pass you by.  What most people don’t understand is that grief IS work.  For some with new grief, the task of getting out of bed is a struggle.  They feel they must save up energy for the mere tasks of the day such as showering or getting something to eat.  Others have gone back to work in an attempt to “get back to normal” or to attempt to be productive, only to find that they sit at their desks for hours unable to concentrate.  As one woman put it, “I was in the middle of a sentence and would forget what I was talking about.  I would leave my desk and forget what I was getting.”    Still others further down the road of grief will feel like they are finally getting themselves together when something simple as a song on the radio will put them down in the ‘the pit’ with a sense of panic that leaves them saying-“surely I’m not back HERE?!”   

The work of grief has no beginning and no end.  I know that’s not that encouraging to those currently experiencing grief… But what if we got rid of the unrealistic guidelines of grieving?  What if there were no timetable, no right way to do it?  Could we begin to realize that grief is an ongoing journey where no one gets an A+ for doing it correctly or within society’s acceptable time frame?   A poll once showed that most people believed that 3 weeks was the acceptable time for someone to recover from a loss.  Three weeks?!  It’s laughable at best.  Everyone you meet has experienced a loss—but there are a million different stages and phases we go through to work through it.  Be encouraged that if you’re reading this and you’ve experienced a loss, you won’t always feel the way you feel right now.  Grief is work, and there is HOPE.    

When we don't see grief as a problem to be solved, but instead as an experience to be supported, loved and witnessed-then we can really talk about what helps. When we stand on the same ground together, our words and actions can be truly supportive and useful.

-Megan Devine

And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

-Romans 8:26

New Articles

What is grief work and how do we do it?

  “Working through your grief” is a great catch phrase-but what does it mean? …

What is grief work and how do we do it?

  “Working through your grief” is a great catch phrase-but what does it mean?  Most people in grief have such physical manifestations that the thought of ‘working’ through anything is paralyzing.  Many can’t get out of bed much less get to ‘work’. 

  So let’s look at what work is… We call it WORK because it’s hard.  It takes effort. It’s taxing.  We usually don’t want to do it.  It’s something that, given the choice, many would avoid.  It’s physically exhausting and mentally draining.  Many do work because someone else tells them to do something.   Does that sound a little like grief to anyone else?

   The term grief work is appropriate-because for many it is all of the above.   It’s hard and takes effort. It’s taxing and we don’t really want to do it.  If we could, we would avoid it.  It’s physically exhausting and mentally draining.  Some do it because others tell them they should be doing it and ‘getting over it.’ But if we really dug in to grief work—what is it?  A better question may be, what is our desired outcome after having worked through grief?  That could be difficult to verbalize for many.  What is it you want?  You can’t have your loved one back, so aside from that what do you want?   Things cannot go back to how they previously were-realistically.  So what else do you want?

  I think many would say that they want the ache in their chest to resolve.  They want to wake up and not feel the despair and loneliness.  They want to think of their beloved and not weep uncontrollably. They want the socked-in-the- gut feeling to go away.  They want to make more memories with their loved one.  They want the lump in their throat to release. They want their legs to not weigh 200lbs a piece.  They want to WANT to get out of bed-because right now they don’t. They want love. They want peace. They want solace.   And before they can fathom JOY they want the desperate hurt to release, to dissolve, and give way to feelings of peace and tranquility. 

  It is so tempting to stifle grief because it is work.  But it’s more than that… for many the stifling is a coping mechanism.  The mountainous waves of grief threaten to overtake us if we face all of our grief at once, or look straight into the face of grief.  By evading some of our new reality it helps us survive, at least for now.  The realness of what has happened waits just around the corner so if I don’t make the turn…

   To change the way we grieve, maybe we can change our language around grieving.  Instead of grief work maybe it’s a grief journey?  Have you had the opportunity to grieve?  Doesn’t sound like much of a blessing does it...  I’m going to suggest that maybe grieving is a privilege.  It’s a sacred privilege given to those favored enough to have loved another person so completely. 

  By committing to a grief journey, your mind may respond with fear and resistance.  But If you allow the resistance and fear to overpower you, you cut yourself off from the very power that will ultimately aid in healing.  Denial is also a powerful and seductive force, but feeling the feelings of grief allow you stay connected to your deepest self.  Being in touch with your deepest self allows you to access all of the tools you need for healing. 

  When my grandmother was dying in the hospital I took the opportunity to write her a letter telling her everything she meant to me throughout my life.  She insisted I read it to her out loud.  I could barely get out the words through my tears.  After I finished, she very softly but deliberately said, “Your tears are like jewels”.   So it is with you my friend. Your tears are like jewels.  Each tear is precious, and a precious reminder that the love you felt cannot and will not be stifled within you-it is literally bursting out of your soul.  If you are in grief, you are in transformation.  You are new; you are changed; you are reborn.  Don’t turn away from this opportunity for growth.  It is okay to embrace the preciousness of your sadness. 

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