What does it look like to walk with God through grief? Your feelings are the safest before God. You can be honest with him as his love will transform your pain inch by inch.
Below is the transcription of Walking with God Through Grief
Are you ready to start living by faith and not by what you feel?
Are you ready to stop running or hiding from your feelings?
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One of the first questions I really want to open up with is helping women, listeners’ process through loss and grief, as a child of God. As a daughter of God, I think so many times we hear things like, “Well, shouldn’t you be over it?”
You know, “what about God?” And “Shouldn’t you have this perspective?” And “we have to choose, don’t we?”
I know so many women think they have to choose between their feelings and their pain, or God or they feel like they’re letting God down because they’re in pain and loss and the grief of loss. Can you just speak to that, and how you began to walk through that?
Walking with God Through Grief
I will say I was so grief naive, I really did not know what to expect. But God is a good teacher. And the people around me were good. It’s so critical in grief. I always say that if we don’t grieve on our terms, now, grief is gonna come back on its terms later.
And that’s what we don’t want. We can’t push it away, or mask it or fake like we’re fine. Even if we know our loved one is in heaven. And that there is some solace in that. There is some comfort in that. But that does not take away the very real pain that they’re not here with us right now.
So I think just allowing ourselves to feel that full range of emotion, as hard and as raw and as painful as it is. If we have to experience it, if we’re going to process it, that’s the first step. We can’t just self medicate it away or shop it away, or any of the things that we would do to try to lessen it.
And then I think knowing that our emotions are safe with God. They’re not just safe, they’re safest with God. We never see him dismiss somebody’s pain or turn them away. We see all over in the Psalms, especially, but I think of Hannah.
In her infertility journey, and her brokenness, just going to the temple and just laying it all before the Lord and just crying her eyeballs out and giving God her deepest longings.
I think that, for so many of us, we kind of want to put it away as if what happened hasn’t happened yet. Tell us about the moment that you kind of came to, with your loss of your husband, that you realized that you didn’t deal with grief yet? How did you hear from God in those moments?
I thought that if we could just get through “a first,” that we would be okay. Then I’d be on my feet. And I didn’t realize the second year would hurt so much. It was really almost harder in many respects, because the fog of grief was gone.
And that soft landing was gone. And it was the reality every day that this is my life.
But every day, I would get up. I would write in my journal, this is too hard and I cannot do this.” I was very much confronted with the fact that there’s no way I can fix my broken heart. I’m overwhelmed by not only my emotions, but my fear. Just all the decisions, I’m having to make, all the things I’m having to handle on this. It was just too much.
And then on top of that I had seven children and thinking about their hearts. What heavy, heavy grief they were carrying, and I couldn’t fix it as a mom, that was hard.
I think that when somebody’s hurting, we want to fix them, because we don’t want to see them in pain anymore. What were some things that we can take away as listeners?
Words to Comfort a Grieving Friend
Yes, I think the things that hurt the most are the people who would say “call me if you need something,” as if I was going to do that. And it didn’t feel sincere. Honestly, you know, there were people who were well meaning who would say things that were hurtful.
I even had an older widow say to me, “well, at least you have children.” Now, she was hurting, she was also new to widowhood. And I knew the place it was coming from. She was extremely lonely in the house by herself. And yet her words to me dismissed my children’s real pain.
Because I would have loved for them to have grown up with their dad. I had a four-year-old and six-year-old and on up to 19 who are just grieving the loss of their dad. So I think those questions and then another is, “at least you you know you can get married, you’re young enough and can get married again.”
If we say this to anyone: at least you’re young, and you can have more children, at least you have….all of these, again dismissed the pain. I think the things that helped the most were people who just came in and were with me even that first day. They didn’t shy away from the suddenness of it, and the overwhelm of it.
When you have a family of eight, and they’ve lost somebody suddenly like that. It can almost paralyze you from stepping in, because you can’t fix all that pain. But man, people showed up, they brought food, they came in to our work in my kitchen. I had a friend that said, “we need some praise music”, and she put on praise music. I had friends that just sat with me and said, “you don’t have to be out here greeting everybody.” Let’s go in your room and have some quiet.
There were people who took over and planned his memorial service. And then the biggest love notes were those who kept coming. The ones who came the week after. The few months after, who remembered big dates. The ones who sent cards, who texted encouragement, who showed up at my kids’ ball games to cheer them on. Knowing that they’d look up the stands and dad wasn’t there. But it was whenever somebody did something that probably to them seemed small in the face of such big loss. All of it together felt like the hands and feet of Christ.
Can you look back and see the different phases of your healing that the Lord was starting to take you through and how you begin to see, maybe even some of your thoughts change a little bit and your hope comes back? Can you share what that began to look like in those kinds of phases?
I’d always heard about the stages of grief. I was surprised how it just felt like everything together, that it didn’t feel neat and tidy and sequential. It was not linear. I could have a good day, and then the next day, for no apparent reason, just feel like I was pulled down under this pit of grief.
But I learned to recognize those. I was very surprised that joy doesn’t come after the hard emotions of grief. But what I found was that joy comes in the midst of it. And there were little pockets of joy. They were great, they were like sprinkled in hope that I would feel good again, that everything good wasn’t behind us.
Then the other thing that really happened was this pattern of being triggered or pulled down. You’re having a good week, and then maybe having a terrible couple of weeks. It felt like sometimes one step forward, three steps back.
But I did realize when this would come, and I could fight through the lies of grief, and the lies that our emotions give us in grief, that life will always feel like this, and you’ll never feel good again, and everything that is behind you, all of those things.
And just just focus on doing the work of grief, processing that emotion, knowing that I would pull out of it. I would wake up one morning with that heavy despair lifted. And those times got less often. And they lasted less long.
I love you sharing that experience, because I think so many others can relate to that feeling like they were in the pit again, or maybe somebody feels in the pit right now. And they do believe “well, this is the way life’s always going to be and it’s not going to be able to change.” I love that you’re also addressing emotions and lies and truth. I wrote so much of that in my book “Face Off With Your Feelings.” But you have a book all about this. And what would you say your biggest heartbeat in your book is?
It came really in year two, it did not come early. And it was really a perspective shift for me. You’re just trying to make it through every first birthday and anniversary and Christmas and all these things and get your feet underneath you. The second year that fog is lifted. And it’s like Groundhog Day all over again. This is my life.
One day I was journaling with the Lord and I thought you know, “I don’t like my life. This is not what I ordered.” I began to realize that God was not consigning me to the leftovers of the life that I had planned. He does not give a second best, that he hadn’t turned his head and now everybody was going on with their best life and I was consigned to the leftovers of mine, that it was chapter two.
What were some practical things in the healing journey that you would encourage them right now that maybe feels in the pit or that has landed in the pit again? Or is this feeling that hopelessness? What would you encourage them to do right now?
One is to cultivate gratitude. And people had told me this my whole life. I had heard about it, but not until I was desperate in a life that felt bad to see God’s goodness, did I actually, begin to put pen to paper. And every day I would write one through seven.
I would pause and think back through the day before and look for the small ordinary, or the big things that God was doing that were just sweet delights: the rain on the roof, this provision that you brought us.
It helped me connect the dots. But it also helped me realize that the more we give God thanks for His goodness, the more he opens our eyes to His goodness. And so we really begin to see that he hasn’t left us, that His hand is all honest and around us.
On the first Christmas after I said, we are going to have days of joy. And every day, we’re going to look for somebody to bless. And I didn’t plan it out, I didn’t have some big 30 day planner. It was every day I kind of would look in my life and see where it was. Some days it was a coat drive at church or buying coffee for the person behind me or bringing in a wrapped gift for the toy drive.
I mean, they were all leaving stuff out for the postman, that kind of thing. But every day, focusing on that with my kids helped me see all the other needs and the suffering around me. Listen, we weren’t the only ones hurting. And just helped me turn my eyes off me. Because in places of suffering, we can get really self focused. And turning that outward was just so healthy.