This week, our community experienced a great loss. A family from our church and neighborhood school lost their dad in a tragic accident. Words cannot describe how heartbroken and deeply saddened we are for this sweet family.
As I am sitting down to write this morning, my heart is heavy. I wish I could take away all the pain. I know how hard it is to lose a loved one; just two years ago, I walked through the loss of my dear friend, Jeannie to cancer. I know the circumstances are different, but grief is universal.
For me, it felt like my heart was being shattered into a million pieces, and I didn’t know where to start to pick them up and move forward. Can anyone relate? Grief is the hardest emotion to walk through.
How do you deal with the grief in a healthy way? How do we process the difficult emotions that are building up inside? I know it is not easy. I would like to share a small excerpt from the book I am writing called Heartbreak to Strength. One of the chapters on grief is called Facing the Emotions and my hope is that these words will encourage you as you tearfully allow yourself time to grieve.
Ecclesiastes 3:4 “A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.”
Sitting there watching my friend endure another round of chemo, I felt helpless to calm her storm. Deep sadness overwhelmed my soul as I watched her suffering. Angry why she had to weather this storm, I was like a ball of emotions ready to snap.
Storms can do this. Raging into our lives, they can completely change the trajectory of our life. Cancer is one of those aggressive storms. Thundering from out of nowhere, cancer can definitely turn our world upside down and leave us dealing with a gust of painful emotions.
What do we do with these hard emotions that are building up inside? How do we offer support to our loved one when we are just as emotionally exhausted from the storm? How do we deal with the grief in a healthy way?
Through my experience and years in counseling, I have learned that you have to walk through the painful emotions in order to completely heal from them. I want to encourage you to be honest about your hurt. Put a name to what you are feeling and share it with someone you trust. Give yourself time to process and feel the hard emotions.
The only way to begin to heal is to allow yourself time to feel.
Below I want to share with you some practical ways to process your emotions and take care of yourself when you are experiencing heartbreak:
Time with God
Our ability to successfully deal with these hard emotions is directly proportional to the amount of time we spend with God. Let me encourage you to just hold on to God through it all. Lean in and share your heart with him. Through prayer, reading your bible and devotionals, God will guide you along the path. Ask God for energy and strength for each day and allow God to fill you up with His love, comfort and peace so you can pour into the life of your loved one.
Surround yourself with people who care
Stay connected with people who are understanding and will support you no matter what. This could be your family, friends, or your small group at church. Choose trustworthy friends that will listen and encourage you. Find family members who can empathize and cry with you. Talk with loved ones that share your beliefs and can offer wisdom and advice. Be honest with how you are feeling, and let others know what you need and how they can support you.
Journaling is one of the ways that I just let out all of my raw emotions and really talked with God. It was extremely therapeutic for me. My pen gets writing and I find it freeing to share the sadness, the anger, the disappointment, and the why questions. If I can be completely honest, you will even find some swear words intermixed in my writing as I just pour out exactly how I am feeling: the good, the bad and the ugly. I just write all of it. God can handle it. He wants to help you through the pain as your process your emotions.
I recommend you give it a try. Remember there is no right or wrong way to journal. Just give yourself complete freedom to write the real, honest emotions that you are feeling. Going back and reading my old journals has been faith building for me. Seeing examples of God answering prayers has ignited a fire in me. I can see time and time again, where God met me and guided me through the whole journey, every step of the way.
Talk with a Therapist or Professional Counselor
Talking with a professional counselor has been a huge part of my healing. Sitting on a couch pouring out my heart, she helped me identify and work through the many emotions from my heartbreaks. I found the “feelings word list” helpful, especially when I was struggling to put a name to how I felt. Her listening ear and helpful insights were instrumental in my healing. I recommend meeting weekly with a counselor to help you process the emotions you are experiencing.
Join a Support Group
Knowing others understand what you are going through will help in your healing. A support group is a great way to connect with others who are facing the same heartbreak. Churches or community centers offer grief support groups centering on a specific need like cancer, divorce, infertility or miscarriage. I highly recommend joining a group for added support.
Guard your heart and fill your mind with truth
Take a break from Social Media. For me, I needed to stop looking at Facebook for a short time. Social Media can make you think that everyone has it all together, and you are the only one whose life has been shattered. This was especially true for me during my divorce. Seeing pictures of families together just reminded me that my family had just fallen apart. June was especially hard going through the divorce because there were so many anniversary posts. Each one felt like a dagger into my heart since my marriage was breaking apart. You may need to guard your heart and take a break from social media.
Fill your mind with God’s truth too. Listening to worship music helped me. Songs are powerful and can put words to how you are feeling. If you find a song that helps, listen to it on repeat and let the words flow over you. I remember lifting my hands in the air and just crying through certain songs.
Reading books is another great way to fill your mind with truth. With each heartbreaking circumstance, books were a part of my healing. Reading their stories and hearing the authors validate what I was feeling, helped me not feel alone. Having someone understand is important as you walk through grief. Books also gave me hope. As the authors shared how God helped them in their struggle, I felt like God was whispering to me that He would guide me too. Books will not change your painful circumstances but they can help change your perspective.
During this hard time, you need to take care of yourself. Getting a full night sleep is very important. Dealing with these difficult emotions will drain you both physically and emotionally. Recharging with a good night sleep is a necessity. Also, whenever possible, try your best to continue to eat a balanced diet and get some exercise so you don’t end up run down or sick.
I know that many times through a storm, you are giving to everyone else. Your loved ones need your support, extra time, and energy. If there are kids involved, you are pouring your love and time into them to help them process their emotions. Everyone needs so much from you that you can easily burn out. The withdrawals are happening faster than the deposits. Looking at yourself through the eyes of a gauge on your car, don’t let yourself go empty.
Find some way to make some deposits back into your life. What fills you up? Exercise, taking a walk to clear your head, a nap, a hot bath, reading, or journaling. I understand that you don’t have big chunks of time to recharge, but sometimes just a little fresh air and walk outside will help. Keep checking your gauge so you don’t end up completely drained and out of gas. You know yourself best so continue to fill up so you can pour out.
Give yourself Time and Grace
Don’t rush your grief. Sadly, many people will want to hurry you along faster than you are ready. Don’t let them set your pace; you need to set your own pace. Don’t worry about other people’s expectations either. “It is okay not to be okay.” I have heard this phrase spoken in sermons and I have read it in many books. Give yourself lots of time and grace as you walk through these heartbreaking circumstances.
Phillip Yancey shares a scuba diving analogy when he speaks on grief that really stuck with me. He describes grief like being underwater; most people want to get you up to the surface as fast as you can. However, just like with scuba diving, it is not safe to ascend to the surface quickly. Scuba divers know there are safety stops at certain depths where you need to wait and breath to equalize your pressure. Philip Yancey shares how this is the same with grief. When someone is experiencing loss and grief, they do not need to feel rushed to the surface. Instead, they need loved ones to wait at each level with them underwater until they are ready to come up to the next level.
Grief will take longer than you expected. Give yourself time to feel all the emotions at each level before coming up to the next stop. Philip Yancey says, “Grief is the place where love and pain come together.” Remember, as you are grieving the “hurt is a sign that you loved.”
All the tears and sadness are evidence of how much you loved. Take time and keep processing the emotions even when they are hard. Share with a friend, talk with a professional counselor, and put a name to how you are feeling. Journaling to God daily will help you release the anger, hurt, and disappointment. Facing the hard emotions is not going to be easy, but it will be worth it. Choose to begin to heal by allowing yourself time to feel.
Dear God, I pray you will wrap your loving arms around those who are grieving, especially this family in our community who just lost their dad and husband. I pray they feel your love, comfort and peace. In Psalms 34:18, it says, “You are close to the brokenhearted” so I pray they feel your presence. I also pray for their family and friends who are offering them support during this hard time. Give them your strength as they pour out. God, thank you for walking through the storms of life with us. In Jesus Name, Amen.