A Challenge from a Grieving Father
This blog has been long-neglected. Not for any lack of thought on my part, but because much of my thinking has been going on in the background while things that required doing demanded my time more urgently. I am pleased to have the desire and the time to be back at a keyboard and writing this morning.
Lord, may I be single-minded, sincere, and constant in my love and service for you. May I teach your way diligently to my children, and may we all never stray from it.
The Process of Grief
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."
2 Thess. 1:3-4
My mother is a psychologist. A helper. She has counseled countless people, and so many of them are ‘secret’ from anyone because of confidentiality laws. But beyond her paying clients she has also privately counseled many Christians just because… that’s what she does. She listens and she helps (my dad, a minister, does his share of this, too). Thus, I sometimes forget that not everyone has a psychologist in their family, so not everyone grew up with copies of the DSM-IV sitting around, or being gifted the now-defunct board game “Therapy,” and that not everyone knows the terms that we have always thrown around in conversation. Yes, I grew up with words like “behavior modification” (using systems to increase the desired behaviors and/or decrease problem behaviors.), “projection” (assuming other’s view of the world is the same as your own), or “FOO” (family of origin) rolling off my tongue. (You didn't?!?)
I realized this week that a lot of people don’t know about the stages of grief. And I’m around a lot of grieving people this week. So I wanted to throw them out there in case knowing about them might be helpful to anyone going through this process. And it is a PROCESS.
Process (pros-es): n. a continuous action, operation, or series of changes taking place in a definite manner: the process of decay.
So, I hope you take away from that that it's not necessarily going to happen overnight. It may take time. Sometimes it takes a lot of time. I am not saying that it's right to wallow in grief (that would be ‘grieving as the world’ 1 Thess. 4:13), but it’s okay to recognize what’s happening. God gave us emotions, and we are capable of controlling them (Eph. 4:26). Often, if we will be quiet and listen to them, emotions serve as warning signs. Knowing those signs can help you to pray more specifically to God about His help. They can also help you articulate what's on your heart to a caring Christian who can help you, too.
So, without further ado: The Five Stages of Grief. My non-psychologist brain remembers that not everyone goes through these at the same time or in the same stage; apparently there is no real timeline. And isn’t that also a blessing? We can give each other some perspective as we go through this since even those of us mourning the same thing will be in different places in our grief.
Here are the stages of grief, as described by WebMD:
May God bring us swiftly through the stages that leave us so foggy and to a place of acceptance and joy in His care. Lord, keep us ever-mindful that there are "No tears in Heaven."
"And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. "
I have been in a fog for the last 10 days or so, ever since receiving the word that a dear friend, sister in Christ, and mentor was nearing the end of a long battle with cancer. She left this earth on Monday and I confess I am in full-on Grief Stage 1-Denial & Isolation. I can’t adequately express what Mary meant to me; not sure I fully grasp the loss yet, even. She was a constant in my life for over 10 years. But more than a simple constant, she was an unwavering rock, the very definition of perseverance. She served, and served, and served others till the end.
She was not old, but she followed the Lord, and so because she was older than me, she taught me to love my husband and children (Titus 2). She showed me how to serve (endlessly, tirelessly. I’m still trying to learn this lesson). She modeled self-control, purity of heart, the joy of making a happy home (that was open to so many people, so often). She was kind. She was submissive to her husband, who valued and respected and loves her so much.
Mary was so many things that the world would not value. Not in the least. “Just a housewife,” they say about women like her. “Just a mother,” the smirk. She lived a quiet life. Had no fancy titles or letters behind her name. No, she just did a lot of work. Worked with her hands, did hard spiritual work on herself and for others—oh, how she worked.
But Mary wasn’t here to impress the world. She was dedicated to being everything that God values. A true servant. A pure heart. A beloved child. She mothered four sons, plus three daughters-in-law, several nieces and nephews and a slew of friends and loved ones. I don’t think she had a grand master plan to affect so many people. I think she woke up in the morning, studied her Bible so she would be ready, then opened her eyes to what was around her. She saw the next thing to do for the Lord, and did it.
Now so many of us are left, like the mourners of Acts 9, fingering the figurative tunics and other garments that she left for us. Weeping. Wondering how to fill this void. There will be no miraculous raising of our beloved Tabitha here on earth—and for that, we are so thankful, since her raising will be done for eternity in Heaven.
I suppose that one by one, there will be those of us who were touched by her who will pick up a little bit of service here, a good deed there. God’s will will still be done, it will just look different. The beautiful thing is, it’s not the life, or even the death of Mary that compels us to service—and she wouldn’t want it to be. It is the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus that drove her to show love, and compassion, and to do good for others. May I be so moved, every day.
P.S. Oh, and in the notes about Mary’s funeral service, this woman that surely would not impress the world or make a lasting mark? It says the service had to be moved to a huge church building because the funeral home is “anticipating a larger crowd than they can accommodate.” All because she served. Lord, make us pure-hearted servants.
Encouragement Spoken Here
"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." Proverbs 25:11