Have you ever lost someone or something so significant that you felt as if you wouldn’t recover? Perhaps it was a loved one lost suddenly or unexpectedly through death, divorce, separation or accident. Maybe your loss was a private matter- one that seemed to be “no big deal” to everyone else, as your heart silently broke.
Was it a lost dream? That ideal marriage that ended in betrayal, the pursuit of your passion that was squelched due to family responsibility, or maybe your long-awaited pregnancy that resulted in miscarriage, or the birth of a baby with special needs with lost hope for a “normal” future.
Of course, as we age, we lose our youth, health and capabilities, or we mourn as we watch our parents struggle with the same. Maybe the economy forced you to join the millions that have lost jobs, businesses, houses, cars, investments, insurance; things that they may have worked all of their lives to obtain?
Over the past ten years, I experienced a series of losses, some big – some small, that silently covered me in a blanket of depression, denial and resentment. Instead of healing, my heart slowly hardened, as I threw myself into my work and hid behind the identity of my corporate ego.
Luckily my story doesn’t end there, and if you have experienced something similar, I hope that yours won’t either. When my soul could not bear the pain anymore, I gave in to the calling of the Holy Spirit buried within, and began the process to thrive, not just survive, in spite of the losses I had endured.
Most of us are familiar with the Kubler-Ross model which describes 5 common stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance. Happily, my road to recovery didn’t end at acceptance. Instead it led me down new paths of gratitude to places I didn’t know existed within and around me.
LOSS has given me a new appreciation for all that I have GAINED through my journey. The key to my paradigm shift can be summed up in 5 baby steps:
1) FEEL the pain: give yourself permission to hurt. It doesn’t matter if others think it shouldn’t hurt, it only matters if it does hurt you. Note: this is not an excuse to wallow incessantly in victimization.
2) FREE yourself from distractions: alcohol, food, sex, work, technology: whatever it is that is keeping you from dealing with the pain- while these provide momentary relief, it only delays true recovery, acceptance and gratitude.
3) PRAY and rely on the Father: He knows your deepest thoughts, share them with Him anyway. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 tells us to …’rejoice always, pray continually.’ it doesn’t have to be eloquent; as a matter of fact there are times when all I can muster is a simple, “Help me.”
4) THANK God for the pain: 1 Thessalonians 5:18 continues, telling us to ‘Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’ I know this goes against our grain of feeling good, but there is promise in the perseverance of getting to the other side of our trials.
5) COUNT your blessings: I have seen so many people get stuck in the despair of what didn’t work out for them, or worse, what is working out better for someone else. Make a gratitude list of the things that you DO have and keep it nearby.
As I write this, my mom’s mind is degenerating with the disease of Alzheimer’s. Her body is quickly following. It is painful to watch, but it reminds me of something my dad told me 30 years ago when we lost my beloved grandfather. He said, “If the joy had not been so great in knowing him, the pain would not be so great in losing him.“
Even at the young age of 15, I realized that I wouldn’t have traded the joy he brought our family for all the hurt that his death caused. A classic case of being better to have known love than to never have loved at all.
How about you? Will you choose grief or gratitude today?