Is There Such A Thing As Good Grief?
Everyone knows the signature exclamation of the Peanuts cartoon hero, Charlie Brown: “Good Grief!” But isn’t that an oxymoron, two words that don’t belong together? How can grief be good? Grief is good because, as painful as it is, grieving can bring healing and the presence of the Lord to bear.
Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” If you’re grieving and brokenhearted, God is near. He knows what it’s like to lose a loved one...His only Son died. He knows the pain of separation…on the cross, Jesus cried, “Why have You forsaken Me?” And when His children grieve with broken hearts, when their spirits are crushed, He says He is near. Of course, since God is omnipresent, He is always near, but He is near in a comforting, saving way.
Have you experienced a loss of a loved one or a dear friend and you’re having a hard time processing and coping with your feelings? You may be in a state of shock. Maybe you can’t believe that this has happened and keep thinking that it didn’t really happen, that you’ll wake up and this will just be a bad dream. Are you feeling pain and maybe even guilt? Are you angry, maybe at God? Are you depressed? Do you break into tears when you see a TV show or movie where a character dies? Do you feel like life will never be normal again? Is your grief interfering with your work?
Maybe you’re not grieving a human’s death, but the death of a pet. Our pets become part of our family and work their way into our hearts so that when they pass, the grief we feel can be overwhelming. Or maybe you are grieving after a divorce or separation, as the reality hits you that you won’t be in his or her life ever again. Perhaps something happened in your family where, for your own well-being, you had to let go of a relationship, and you feel guilty, angry and sad. You might have been laid off or fired from a job that you loved, and you’re struggling with the way you were treated, the injustice of it, and the hurt. Or maybe you lost your home due to a natural disaster or fire, or you lost a body part. There are all kinds of tragedies and losses that cause grief. None are unimportant. You need to grieve that loss.
You Are Not Alone In Your Grief
Worse than grieving is grieving alone. You don’t have to walk through this dark valley by yourself. You can reach out to God anytime in prayer and He promises that He will hear you and give you the peace that passes understanding. Jesus will intercede for you. The Holy Spirit will be your Comforter. Not only that, but there are caring people at your church who will pray with you and over you and support you through this time. And there are trained, empathic Christian counselors at Christian Counseling Associates who are available right now to help you through the process of grief and loss.
This road of grief that you’re walking is well-traveled. It is soaked with the tears of people just like you who have experienced loss and felt what you feel. Statistics tell us that around 2.5 million people die in the United States annually, and each death leaves at least five grieving people behind. Some 1.5 million children lose one or both parents by the age of fifteen. Grief is definitely one of those trials and temptations that the Bible says is “common to man”.
The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death Is A Path, Not A Cave
We all know the 23rd Psalm that says when the Lord is my shepherd, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…” But notice that you don’t walk into the valley of the shadow of death and never come out. You walk through it. It’s a path, not a cave. There is a way out. The sun will shine again. Even though, right now, it feels like you’ll never not carry this boulder of grief in your heart, it will lessen. You will smile again, laugh again, and be able to move forward again. Grief is a detour, not a destination.
As you go through grief, you will go through many emotions. Traditional grief counseling has called these “stages,” and given the five classic stages of grief we’ve all heard: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. These stages came from research on people who were dying, not on people who were grieving a death. The reality is that grief doesn’t happen in stages like that. Grief is not orderly; grief is chaotic. There’s shock, sadness, anger, confusion, guilt, relief, then sadness, then relief, then guilt and confusion and anger all at the same time. Grief is more like a knotted, twisted ball of twine than an orderly progression through stages. And it affects everyone differently. But one thing is certain: it does lessen and you do reach acceptance. Oh, you don’t forget. Only animals forget their kittens or puppies that die. Humans remember and every memory is bittersweet, but the piercing pain of that sword in the heart that grief is does lessen.
Grief Therapy Can Help
If you need someone to help you process your grief, grief therapy is what you need. But also, and especially, if your grief does not diminish, but persists over a long time and interferes with your daily life, that may be a condition known as prolonged grief disorder. Its symptoms are:
Persistent longing for the deceased
Difficulty accepting the death
Intense emotional pain or numbness
Feeling like you’ve lost a part of yourself
Withdrawal from typical social activities.
Prolonged grief disorder generally involves the loss of a child or partner, or a sudden or violent death. This disorder affects about 10% of people who lose a loved one. Maybe it’s affecting you.
If so, one of our therapists can walk you through grief therapy. There are different approaches to grief counseling. One is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy where the therapist will help you identify false beliefs that you may have which are affecting your behavior, and help you move into true beliefs that move you into the light. The counselor will ask you to explore your thoughts about grief and then look at how these thoughts affect your emotions and your behavior. They will help you reframe, reinterpret, and move into a positive change.
Another therapy approach is called acceptance and commitment therapy. This is a therapy that follows six processes: acceptance of your negative emotions, examining and understanding your emotions, focusing on the present, observing yourself, clarifying the values that help direct your life, and taking action.
For children, we have counselors trained in play therapy that may use dolls, puppets, stuffed animals, and other toys or play activities to help the child share his or her thoughts, feelings, questions, and concerns. Or the counselor might use art therapy, which allows children to express their feelings without words by painting and drawing a picture of the person they are grieving.
Common Objections To Grief Therapy
“I can work through my grief by myself.”
Maybe so, but it will take longer and be harder. Everything is harder when you shoulder it alone. It’s not that you are too weak to handle it, but the question is, are you strong enough to know when you need to ask for help? God created us to need others, and in this time, you need a support system. If you are struggling with prolonged grief disorder, you definitely need a trained counselor to help you.
“I don’t have time to go to grief therapy.”
You do have time. You have 24 hours each day, 168 hours each week. The truth is that you don’t have time for everything, so you need to take time for the things that are priorities. Is the benefit of getting help for your grief worth 50 minutes a week? Absolutely!
“I can’t miss work once a week to go see a counselor.”
Did you know that most counselors take evening appointments and some counsel on the weekends?
Take The Next Step
If you are going through grief and it just seems like more than you can handle, we are here to help. You can schedule a free consultation with one of our trained Christian counselors by just clicking the “Schedule Appointment” button below. Or you can call 972-422-8383.