Tuesday, March 29, 2016

What I've learned about Mourning and Grieving Loss in the last 18 months

For the last 18 months, my wife and I have had much to mourn. Here's some of the things we've learned about mourning:
  1. Mourning is often about the death of a loved one. It can also be about a sudden loss of health, a betrayal, past hurts such as abuse, and even failed projects (common in church planting).
  2. If the relationship with the deceased was complicated, the mourning will be more tough than expected. You're not just mourning the lost relationship, but also the dreams of that relationship getting made right. You're mourning everything that the relationship wasn't, that you wanted it to be.
  3. Mourning is necessary for healing. We want the mourning to be over, but we need to go through it because its part of the process of healing.
  4. Tears are healing. It can be really hard for us men to let tears out, but suppressing them isn't healthy.
  5. It's helpful to use your voice in mourning. Telling God out loud how you feel. The Psalms are great for this. This is very therapeutic.
  6. I've found it helpful to say goodbye to some losses. Either by speaking out loud or by writing a letter, reflecting on what was good, and why the loss hurt.
  7. Not everyone mourns the same way.
  8. Mourning can sometimes feel linear, and sometimes feel cyclical. You can feel like you've worked through so much mourning, and that you've come to the light at the end of the tunnel. Then a few weeks later, you can feel like you're right back in it again.
  9. In a way we can't choose when to mourn, but in a way we can. Sometimes it just creeps up on you and takes you by surprise. Other times, you can choose to reflect on the loss, knowing that you will mourn. If the next couple of hours are a time designated for playing with my children, I will choose to not dwell on loss so that I'm not in a state of mourning when my children need a Dad who can smile and laugh with them. That's not to say that we should hide all our mourning from our children, they need to learn about mourning too. However, there's a time for everything.
  10. Mourning is like an exclusive club. You don't really know what it's like till you join that club. Once you join, you may find that a lot of your friends haven't joined it yet. They will have difficulty understanding what you're going through.
  11. Some of your friends can be like Job's comforters. You're already going through so much pain, and then your friends just add to the pain with their unhelpful advice. Your friends who haven't joined the club yet, will think its time for you to stop mourning. They might be happy to be there for you for the first week/month, but after that, they might abandon you.
  12. God can also bring new friendships into our lives, others who are in the club can reach out to us and be channels of God's healing. These are the people we can send quick messages to, saying that we're going through a tough patch. They won't tell us to get over it, they'll let us know they're praying for us.
  13. Jesus is the friend who sticks closer than a brother as we go through mourning. He bore our griefs on the cross (Is 53). He is present with us in our suffering.
  14. Father God understands grief. He watched his own son die on the cross. In our mourning, we can cry out to God, and know that he hears and that he understands.
  15. The Holy Spirit can do a special work in our mourning. As we draw close to him, he draws close to us. We tend to spend more time praying, because we're crying out to God, and we find ourselves strengthened by the Spirit. There are plenty of times of not feeling renewed by the Spirit whilst we mourn, but there are also stopping points, where we look back and see how much closer we are to the Lord now. God really does do something beautiful within us whilst we grieve, its so painful but it results in our being more like Christ (who suffered so much) in a way that seems almost impossible to do without suffering.