A note from Kelly King: We may assume the grief process is similar for everyone, but the reality is sometimes grief is complicated. If you are going through a season of grief or ministering to someone who is, consider Kaye’s words today as a process of understanding.
Grieving the loss of any kind is a painful and lengthy process. In our current culture we would prefer for the grieving process to be linear, that is, for it to have a clear beginning and a clear ending. That is just not the way it works. Grief is unpredictable, and the journey resembles more of a knotted ball of yarn than it does a measuring tape. Navigating loss is difficult enough under the best of circumstances, but what do we do when grief is complicated?
Today, October 26, marks the 21st anniversary of my dad’s death. An otherwise healthy man, he was diagnosed with cancer on October 1, 1997 and died 25 days later. A few days ago I drove a few hours to my hometown in Michigan to spend the weekend with my sister. We did what sisters do—ran errands and ate too much, we laughed, and we cried. We also visited our childhood homes and the cemetery where our parents are buried. We stood there for a moment, and then my sister said, “I think I would feel more sad if I wasn’t so disappointed in them.” My response was, “Yes, those hurt feelings complicate our grief, don’t they?”
That brief conversation made me think of others I know who are experiencing complicated grief as well as some of you who may be experiencing the same. Are you grieving a loss that is complicated? If you are or if you are walking with someone who is, here are a few thoughts around how best to navigate that loss.
- Acknowledge that your grief is complicated, and name the reasons why. This can be done with a counselor, pastor, trusted friend, or in a journal. It is critical to any healing process to specifically name the hurt or wound. Here’s an example, it doesn’t serve me to say, “My Dad hurt my feelings.” The more accurate statement might be, “I had to win my Dad’s approval to win his love. I lived in fear of losing it and of rejection.”
- Once you have named the reasons why your grief is complicated, determine what steps or actions can be taken to bring healing to that hurt. For example, while I can no longer have the difficult conversation with my Dad, it was helpful to have a conversation with my sister about our experience. It was healing to hear her story and for her to hear mine. We determined that the best next step for us was to offer forgiveness to our Dad along with grace and understanding. A tangible way for us to do that is to write him a letter. May I encourage you to do the same? Read it to someone trusted and/or offer it as a prayer to the Lord. You may decide to burn the letter or keep it as a reminder.
- Ask for the Spirit of God to minister healing to what is complicated and broken. He is a Healer and binds up our broken hearts. He will direct you on next steps; ask Him for direction. Search for Scriptures that offer hope around your particular situation. Pray through those Scriptures for your own healing.
As I write this and consider my own complicated grief, I am praying for you. I pray that the Lord would pour out His healing presence over your own pain and complicated grief.
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.