A note from Kelly King: As I was reading through Kaye’s article today, I decided to look online at the definition of “journey.” One of the definitions was “traveling from one place to another, usually taking a rather long time.” I believe this is a really good way to consider how we deal with loss and grief. It is definitely a journey, and sometimes it can take a long time to get from one point to another. Consider how you’re walking a personal journey of grief or ministering to someone else. Kaye’s points are definitely helpful things to understand in the process
Have you ever wondered if your grief journey is helping you or harming you?
Perhaps you are walking with someone through loss and they ask you, do you think I’m “doing it right”? When facing loss and the grief process, it is normal for all of us to question if we are doing ok, if we are going to make it, or if it’s going to get better or easier. You may wonder, “Is the way I’m feeling and dealing healthy or helpful?” The answer is, if you are feeling it, healthy, helpful grief includes it.
While every possible emotion is normal within the context of grieving, there are some responses that can be helpful and some that are actually harmful.
Some things that are helpful to the grieving process include:
Mourning. Grief is what you think and feel on the inside when someone you love dies. Mourning is the active participation or outward expression of those thoughts and feelings. In Scripture and in other cultures, we see a mourning period. They tear their garments, toss dust on their heads, or wear black for a year. These are outward expressions. It’s not so in our fast paced, microwaved, instant culture. By the time the relatives go back home after the funeral, or by the time you’ve boxed up your office, or signed on the dotted line of the divorce papers—you should be “over it.” Allow yourself to mourn your loss.
Creating ritual. Creating a ritual that is meaningful to you around your loss can be very helpful as you process your grief. Some examples might include to mark the loss by writing on a stone or planting a garden. At the anniversary of the loss of their sister, friends of mine planned a “game night”—something they will do every year as that is what was meaningful to her.
Engage in Community. Research has shown that engaging in life-giving relationships can be almost as effective as medication in treating mild depression associated with grief. We need each other. Find a group, a tribe, a buddy, or several buddies and process your loss as well as laugh and have fun together.
Connect with God. Connecting with God is crucial to helping you navigate a season of loss. If your connection is simply to tell Him how angry you are, start there. He can take it.
While these things may mark healthy or helpful grief, there are some warning signs to help you know if the process has become harmful:
- Keeping busy for the purpose of avoiding pain. Do not try to rush or hurry the process; loss isn’t something you “get over;” it is something you “get through.” This also includes being quick to “replace” the loss with something “new.” This is very popular in our culture, but very damaging to your soul.
- Keeping feelings bottled up. We often pride ourselves on the ability to not “lose it,” but it’s not helpful!
- Fueling unhealthy thoughts and emotions such as blame, anger, or unforgiveness. These emotions are toxic to your soul if fueled and not faced.
- Denial or minimizing the magnitude of your loss. If you hear yourself saying, “it’s no big deal,” that’s a warning sign.
- Self-harm. It is never helpful to medicate your pain; some examples include pornography, gambling, cutting, over use of alcohol, drugs, food, or illicit relationships.
Sorrow clouds our vision. If you suspect your grief process has turned harmful, you are wise to allow close friends or family the right to speak into you during this season. If necessary, assign certain people the “right to warn.” This is the value of community. More on that in a future article.
If you are grieving a loss today, I am so sorry for your pain. I am asking the Father to speak words of help, hope, and healing over you in this moment. He is able!
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. Kaye is also a contributing author for the LifeWay resource, Women Reaching Women in Crisis.