A note from Kelly King: Getting stuck in the mud or snow can leave you feeling, well…stuck. Most of the time, you need help getting out. Getting stuck in grief also requires help—help from the Lord and help from others. I found Kaye’s encouragement today very practical and applicable for many. This may be an article I bookmark as a favorite. I hope you do too.
Every Sunday in the summer I would visit my grandparents on their farm in Kalamazoo, Michigan. We would sit on the back porch, and my eyes would be transfixed on the sticky strip of paper hanging from the porch ceiling. Yes, it was flypaper, and it was always well populated with summertime farm flies. They were STUCK!
Our feelings around grief can get stuck just like those flies to that flypaper. As we navigate our loss, it is easy to become “stuck,” unable to move forward. We all get stuck sometimes. Perhaps you’re trying to help someone right now who is stuck, or perhaps you are stuck yourself. How do we know if we are stuck, and what can we do about it?
Here are some common spiritual, emotional, relational, and physical symptoms of being stuck:
- Anger or resentment toward God that is not evolving
- Unwillingness to be honest with God about your feelings
- Convinced God is unloving, apathetic, or punitive
- Convinced the problem is your lack of faith or faulty prayers
- “Overspiritualizing” your loss
- Unable to think, read, or remember after 6 months
- Actively fostering your unhelpful cyclical patterns of thinking
- Desperate to cling to (or avoid) physical items linked to your loss
- Unable to resume normal activities even after 3 months
- Not willing to seek professional help for harmful thoughts/behaviors or be compliant with a treatment plan
- Resorting to blame; lashing out; severing relationships
- Convincing yourself that “I can’t yet” or “It’s too soon” without ever trying
- Becoming increasingly isolated; cutting off relationships
- Unable/unwilling to change harmful eating habits
- Unwilling to seek treatment from a physician or therapist
- Still feeling exhausted a year after your loss
While being stuck is normal, remaining stuck requires a choice. When you find yourself “stuck” remember the choices you are making in your grief should help you move “through” your grief instead of “around” it. I love this quote by author Gerald Sittser, “The quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise.” I love it, but it’s hard and sometimes scary.
If you know you are stuck, then you must be wondering how to get “unstuck.”
I really wanted this to be practical and simple so I took what was common to all the research I looked at on the subject and came up with the following.
Here are the “steps to unstuck.”
1. Follow a healthy self-care and soul-care plan. Make a plan to exercise, eat right, go to church, manage stress, socialize, plan ahead for the holidays, try something new, pray, meditate. Enlist the help of friends if you find it hard to get started.
2. Reduce isolation/rebuild relationships. It’s always helpful to have someone to tell your story to. This can also be accomplished in a support or small group.
3. Rescript your ongoing narratives. My pastor husband puts it this way to me, “What story are you telling yourself about this situation?” Replace unhealthy or untrue thought statements with what you know to be true. Scripture is a great tool here!
4. Build a more hopeful view of your future. A study by the University of Pittsburgh shows that an important step to unstuck is setting personal goals or giving yourself the permission to dream.
As is the case with most things, being able to name something is the first step in trying to navigate it. I pray this has been a helpful tool for you as you minister to hurting women, specifically those who are grieving.
Kaye Hurta has a Masters Degree in counseling from Liberty University and is a crisis counselor for Women’s Events through LifeWay Christian Resources. Whether speaking, singing, or listening, Kaye’s passion is to help others find intimacy with Christ and soul transformation through the living pages of His Word. Kaye met and married her husband Chris in Austin, Texas in 1987. They have two daughters through the miracle of adoption, Madison and Cami. They live in the Chicago burbs where they are both on staff at Willow Creek Community Church. Kaye is also a contributing author for the LifeWay resource, Women Reaching Women in Crisis.