Grief—The inexplicable pain that overtakes the body, opening the flood gates to torrential tears and sorrow. Unending nights filled with sleeplessness and agonizing thoughts. Darkness shrouded with feelings of self-loathing mixed in with horrific nightmares.
Feelings of loss can be so overwhelming they immobilize movement, cloud judgment, and disrupt motivation. Thoughts of self-harm can enter in and further cloud judgment.
These symptoms hover and block the doorway that leads to grief work. It is at this doorway where many linger for far too long. For healing to occur, we must push away from the safety of our sadness and the denial of our loss and step into the realm of grief work. You might be stuck because you feel your grief is not legitimate; the door won’t open and let you through because of guilt or shame. In a short article from the Mayo Clinic, grief is a result of a loss. Losses can involve illness, death, a terminal disease, or lifestyle change. Divorce and the loss of relationship is also a traumatic experience and requires a process of grief work.
This week I’ve read several quotes and memes on grief. Each echoed that the depth of how we love can create cavernous feelings of loss: as though the steady mountains in our lives have been shaken and crumble before us. As though the comforting hills that protect us disappear. This change removes the familiar landscape and hides peace, though loss cannot extinguish that peace forever.
We could protect ourselves and decide not to risk love. But if we remain safely tucked away from the intimacy of loving others to avoid the depth of loss, have we really lived at all? Yet, if we do love deeply, grief will one day come to each of us. It is a journey-quest no one chooses joyfully, but a road we all must one day travel.
Loss in divorce is also a journey through the grief process. We cannot linger at the door or we will end up like Dorothy on her way to Oz, numb and immobile, lying still in the poppy field of self-pity as life goes on around us. Just as Dorothy was carried out of the field by her two friends, sometimes we must lean on others for a while until we become stronger. Leaving the doorway behind and stepping into our grief, allows the process to begin. It is true that some may not understand how divorce and the loss of a beloved who is still alive can bring on such agonizing emotions. It can be difficult for others to understand, especially if the marriage was toxic or abusive. If someone we love is experiencing loss, remember that each person’s loss and pain are real.
The death of a loved one is permanent. Grief in divorce is the realization that the dream is dead and their ability to go on without us reminds us of this fact. There is no a clean break. The promise of the relationship will never be realized. A beautiful book on grief, divorce, and loss is Kay Twombley’s Where Was God When I Cried. She points out that in order to move past the loss we must complete several things:
Recognize the loss.
Speak your pain out loud to someone.
Survey the damage from the loss: I believe this can be done in many ways: written out in letters or in a journal, shared with a friend or therapist, or expressed in personal essays, or even play acted out. But however you choose to recognize and speak verbally about the loss, it is an essential part of moving through grief.
Give yourself time to heal
Utilize your faith resources
Finding Meaning, by David Kessler and co-authored by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross outlines five stages of grief for the dying and the six stages of grief for the divorced.
Moving through these stages requires that we validate our loss and do the painful and difficult work of moving through the stages of grief. Although this journey may be terrifying at times, we will grow and change as a person.
Through reaching out, we generate the ability to access God’s strength when ours is depleted.
Healing takes place as you leave the doorway behind and brave the journey. Healing doesn’t mean forgetting those we have loved; our hope is to pull meaning from the ashes of our loss. To experience new realizations that improve our lives while remembering the good.
I would love to hear how you have grown, changed, and found beauty from ashes and learned to live and love through loss.
“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10; NIV).
Blessings in your journey,