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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Good" Grief, part 2

In June of 2009 I wrote a post entitled "Good" Grief after I lost a dear friend, Melissa, to cancer. Charlie Brown often used that phrase "good grief" when he was flustered. Yet, is there such a thing as "good" grief? Is that not an oxymoron? Grief HURTS! MedicineNet.com defines grief this way: "The normal process of reacting to a loss. The loss may be physical (such as a death), social (such as divorce), or occupational (such as a job). Emotional reactions of grief can include anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness, and despair. Physical reactions of grief can include sleeping problems, changes in appetite, physical problems, or illness." iVillage.com offers this perspective on grief: "..Grief is your emotional reaction to a significant loss. The words sorrow and heartache are often used to describe feelings of grief. Whether you lose a beloved person, animal, place, or object, or a valued way of life (such as your job, marriage, or good health), some level of grief will naturally follow.

Anticipatory grief is grief that strikes in advance of an impending loss. You may feel anticipatory grief for a loved one who is sick and dying. Similarly, both children and adults often feel the pain of losses brought on by an upcoming move or divorce. This anticipatory grief helps us prepare for such losses.
What is grieving?

Grieving is the process of emotional and life adjustment you go through after a loss. Grieving after a loved one's death is also known as bereavement.

Grieving is a personal experience. Depending on who you are and the nature of your loss, your process of grieving will be different from another person's experience. There is no "normal and expected" period of time for grieving. Some people adjust to a new life within several weeks or months. Others take a year or more, particularly when their daily life has been radically changed or their loss was traumatic and unexpected."

I know of no one who anticipates grief with joy! Grief denotes loss of someone or something important to us. Grief is the natural response to painful stimuli and is necessary for healing to occur. Grief suppressed creates further physical, emotional, mental and perhaps even social problems. Like a pebble dropped into a stream causes ripples in the water, so concealed grief creates swells of negative ramifications on the body, soul, mind and spirit.

This past couple of weeks have wrought havoc on my life in every possible fashion. My pastor for 13 years, who married Rodney and me, who baptized Rodney and ordained him as a deacon, who came to the hospital when my eldest 2 children were born, passed away after a long battle with Alzheimer's (and can I say that I detest that disease and it's effects!). I attended his memorial service at my home church, a celebration of his life well served in the ministry, both as a pastor, and later at Lifeway. His gentle manner, soft soul for things of the Lord, and his passion for his family blessed the lives of countless folks over the years, and his legacy lives on.

On the heels of that experience, my Aunt Bibbie died in Orlando, Florida, where she and her beloved husband, Uncle Jerry, have lived with their daughter since my Aunt's diagnosis with Alzheimer's. I went every summer for years to visit with them in Atlanta and, later in Fayetteville, GA. Their daughter, Susan, and I looked a lot alike when we were growing up. Both my aunt and uncle used to randomly laugh or break into an extreme smile while saying to me, about something I did or said, "Oh, you are so much like our Susan!" My aunt was a saint and IS a saint in Heaven right now! She endured much in this earthly life: raising 3 children while my uncle was away at war (she was a concert pianist and taught lessons in her home to help provide for the children); their eldest son committed suicide 29-years ago, and from that point on my Uncle went down hill quickly, struggling with alcohol, Meniere's Disease and utter depression, rarely moving from his chair in grief. Their youngest son married and had 2 children, with limited contact with their grandparents on that side of the family. That son passed away a couple of years ago, leaving only their daughter to care for them. My precious aunt has now died of Alzheimer's related stuff. My Mom and I drove to Mendenhall, Mississippi to the funeral for her. Seeing my uncle for the first time in years brought me almost as much grief as burying my aunt. He went from being very overweight to being extremely thin, confined to a wheelchair, and doesn't know who I am. Though it was not unexpected, it hurts nonetheless, as I feel as though I have buried him, too. Praise the Lord he does know my Mom (his sister) and I am so grateful for that. My beautiful cousin, Susan, is no longer working and caring wonderfully for her parents. Oh, that we all would be so blessed with care like that from our child(ren) if needed.

Have we forgotten Haiti and it's people? It is a natural, though unacceptable, progression, once the media leaves a place like Haiti, to simply return to our "normal" life, and forget what those destitute people are enduring. If you are reading this, you likely remember me writing about our Haitian pastor friend and brother, Romano, who lost a brother in the quake. He since has moved his sister, another brother, and the 2 children of his deceased brother to live with him in the Dominican Republic in his very small 3-room home. He had to drop out of the university in the DR to help with Haiti relief. He had to get another pastor to lead his church for a while, as he has been going in and out of Haiti with GO Ministries to help assess where help is most needed and to translate. This is no short trip in and out and he does it nearly every week. He is emotionally and physically drained; yet, his faith in the Lord endures! Just a couple of days ago, his nephew (whom I guessing to be about 10 or so), the son of his brother who died, was admitted to the hospital for 3 days with a fever and has now died. I know no further details at this point! So I find myself asking, "Lord, how much more?!" My faith is weak right now...BUT GOD...is faithful!

The promise of God in Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." It says we KNOW that...God works for GOOD (even in grief)...IF we LOVE HIM and ARE CALLED ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE! But I find myself doubting during these painful, trying times! My grief is real; it is deep; is hurts badly; it is raw and full of emotion...and questions! Yet, my God is faithful in ALL things, and He WILL see me through this, He WILL see my cousin and uncle through these times, He WILL comfort my pastor's family missing him every moment of every day, and He WILL bring Romano and his family through these dark and painful days to bring good out of it. HE WILL! He says so! He promises! I, however, am weak...BUT...HE is strong! May we never forget that, and may we never forget those who grieve...and may we never forget Haiti!

Oh, and a suggestion that someone made to me long ago that I have tried to remember, and want to share with you: immediately after a loss, people tend to call, write, come and want to help. Once the dust has settled, however, and everyone has gone back to life "as normal", the grieving soul still grieves, and the days and nights grow long, and dark, and lonely. Why not send a card a month or so after the death? Better yet, purchase a card for each month, go ahead and address and stamp the card, mark your calendar and send a card each month, or every other month. Unless you have been on the receiving end of that, you will NEVER know how much it means to the recipient!)

Thank-you for your patience with his lengthy post. Guess I am making up for all the times I do not post :-)

Be blessed!

2 comments:

Lynnette Kraft said...

I'm sorry for your recent losses Lisa. I love your last paragraph about continuing to support grievers when most people quit. That really is the hardest part - when life goes on and you're not ready for it too. It's such a hard time when you feel alone in your sorrow (although God never leaves us alone).

I prayed for you friend.
Love,
Lynnette

Sheri said...

I am sorry too for your losses, and it does make you want to ask How much more. Excellent post, I think if we are not grieving ourselves, we forget what it feels like.

I think someone told me once about continuing to remember and support people long after whatever they are grieving happened, because the grief doesn't go away, life doesn't go on for them. We all need to be reminded of that. Thank you, and take care.