As we continue the nuggets I gleaned from a recent Bible Study I’ve previously mentioned, we now are at the O from our acronym Wisdom. We have covered highlights from Widows, Isolation, Suffering, Decision Making and now Overcoming.
There are many definitions for grief. A few are: sorrow, loss, abandoned, mourning, brokenness, helplessness, loneliness, and emptiness. Grief is a process. It’s learning to manage and accept the loss of someone who was very close to you. During grief’s process, a widow or widower grows and learns to live with his or her loss. God is good, and we need to learn to lean on Him.
All grief begins with a crisis. This crisis can last from several days to several weeks, depending on the person and how it happens. At first, our body goes into shock and denial. For many, the denial turns into anger. Often the griever tries to bargain with God, and many who grieve go into depression.
Our leader spoke of the six “A’s” to overcoming anger. These steps are:
1. Admit your anger.
2. Analyze it. Ask yourself, “Why am I angry?” Perhaps you had a goal you lost with your loved one. Maybe you blame your spouse for his death. Journaling will help you to sort through your feelings and find the answer. Stop and analyze what you were thinking when you became angry. What were those thoughts that led to anger? Learn to change those thoughts and not entertain them.
3. Act out your anger constructively. Once again, writing how you feel is often all it takes to release the anger. Others act their anger out through sports, walking, exercise, and gardening, to name a few. While you are doing these activities talk to God. Be honest. Say, “God, I don’t like this. I’m angry because….”
4. Ask for help. Ask God to help you release your anger. God tells us in James 1:5 that if we lack wisdom, we should ask God. He will show you how to let go of it.
5. Abandon the anger. Give your anger to the Lord. Picture yourself burying it and planting fresh flowers over it.
6. Attitude check. Be willing for someone to ask you how you are doing.
Unresolved anger can cause depression and many illnesses. It also can destroy your friendships and, of course, your happiness. Widows are six times more likely to become sick and even hospitalized than everyone else because grieving is so draining. Adding anger, unfortunately,increases the chance to begin ill. You need to nurture and take care of yourself.
Remember, sin dwells in the realm of choice. You need to choose not to be angry.
Many are misinformed about grief. With good intentions, they might tell you, “Don’t cry.” Or they may tell you that the loss can be replaced. Crying is a natural release that God gave us. Remember, our tears are made of different chemicals, depending on what kind of tears we are shedding. For instance, tears of joy, when analyzed, have a different makeup than tears of sorrow. Tears of sorrow contain poisons that must be released.
Did you know God says He keeps all of our tears in a bottle? I’ll never forget the time a friend who was sitting behind me in church saw me crying. She tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Kathy, God keeps all of our tears in a bottle.” She was giving me permission to cry. (Psalm 56:8 “Put thou my tears into thy bottle.”) Allowing yourself to cry is a part of overcoming your grief.
There are many other misconceptions about widows and widowers grieving. Some will say, “Get busy and take your mind off of it.” However, nothing can hurry our natural healing. Grieving takes time, lots of time. Others when they see us sorrowing might say that Christians shouldn’t feel that way. While it’s true that we don’t sorrow without hope as the unsaved, we will, and should, weep and feel sorrow just as Jesus did at the tomb of Lazarus. Many times we respond to our own grief in a wrong manner, which makes it harder to overcome. Never try to suppress or deny the hurt you are feeling. Buried emotional pain leaks into emotional rivers. We mentioned already that some observers wrongfully feel that the griever just needs to keep busy. Unfortunately, some widows actually do subject themselves to hyperactivity. They keep themselves busy at all times so they haven’t time to think or to reflect. We need to take time to reflect and to think about our loved ones and our loss. If we don’t we’ll be walking a tightrope. Eventually we will fall. Try to take a walk, rest and reflect. This helps to keep our emotions stable. To be real high and then real low is worse than allowing ourselves to reflect and mourn a little at a time.
Because grieving is very tiring, be sensitive to exhaustion. Grievers can’t accomplish what they formerly did in the same amount of time. Most widows experience short-term memory loss. This can be frightening; however, we need to realize that as time goes on, this too will improve. To stop talking about your loved one or allowing others to not talk about him is another wrong response. We need to talk and share precious memories about him.
We also need to be careful not to seclude ourselves or to seek relationships of the wrong kind. Continue to honor God with your actions, even in your grief.
Regardless of how we go through the stages of grief, remind yourself that they are normal feelings. My pastor was a great help to me by constantly reminding me that it was okay to grieve. He would say that he could tell I loved my husband very much, and my sorrowing would reflect that. Sometimes a widow has had many months of anticipated grieving. This often shortens the grieving, but not always.
It was mentioned in the same study that sometimes writing our loved ones a letter helps. I found this to be true. There were times when I couldn’t stop crying. I’d sit down and write my loved one a letter. It felt like I was talking to him, and by the time I was done writing, I always felt much better. Some say they write a letter to God and ask Him to please tell their loved ones something they wish to tell him. Afterwards, they throw the letter away.
Remember, just as you need to choose not to be angry, it is important to make a choice to praise God and ask for his help, regardless of how you feel.
There are also a few things that will hinder your recovery. Don’t dwell on the “if only,” or “what if” or “shouldn’t have.“ Doing so will keep you from moving on. Those types of thoughts are very damaging. You also must choose not to stay in a “victim” mentality. Don’t regard yourself as a victim of the negative action of someone else. That way of thinking is a choice you can’t allow yourself to make.
Self-pity and thinking “what will I do when———–?” will also hinder your recovery. Trust that God will take care of whatever that circumstance may be.
What is the goal of recovery? The goal is to regain our identity and our purpose. I remember when I started to feel like I knew who I was as a single person, instead of a wife joined to her husband. It is difficult to realize that new identity, but with God’s help and in His timing, will one day realize you have reached that crucial point.
I pray each one of you who are hurting and going through this difficult process will be helped by these nuggets I gleaned from this portion of the study “Wisdom for Widows” by Mary Ann Kuechler, and I pray you will too. God bless you.