Last week, many across America picnicked, paraded, and feasted. This is our annual holiday to celebrate the ideals we cherish as Americans. But last week, today, tomorrow and the next week, my friends with broken hearts might conclude the ideals of “Freedom”merely mock their pain. They feel imprisoned or trapped by their grief. They don’t feel free from the ever present and often overwhelming sorrow that goes to bed with them and finds it still present in the midnight or early morning hours.
Our culture isn’t comfortable with pain. Therefore, the sad part is that those who mourn might not feel free to grieve, even though the pain relentlessly seeks expression. Few have role models for healthy grief, and so they suffer in silent isolation.
Lessons from 1776
As I think about the 4th of July, I recall it is a celebration of declaring a new nation’s separation from tyranny. Is there something here we can learn about our grief experience when compared with our history? Just because England imposed unrealistic taxes and severe military control without representation from the colonies, the New Americans weren’t going to roll over and let the tyranny continue. They stood up against it. They fought for their lives to bring a better, safer world for themselves and their families.
Now I’m not suggesting that we lose our lives in an attempt to “fight” for the right to grieve in healthy ways, but maybe we could consider that we all need the support and freedom to grieve as we should. This is not to say there is a single prescribed method of grief that fits all broken hearts. And this is part of my point. Because healthy grieving is as unique as each grieving person, this is all the more why we need to honor the freedom of each mourning friend to grieve freely.
As I was taking the leisure to read through the Summer Edition of The Magnolia Magazine, I came across a collection of stories entitled, The Many Faces of Confidence. One of the stories came from a young woman who had experienced several heart breaking miscarriages. With each one, her dream to experience motherhood eluded her grasp. She is pictured in the magazine with a smile and very obviously pregnant again. The beautiful concept to me is that she broke through the stigma of being trapped by even her own expectations of grief. She wrote,
“I had to create space and step outside of my situation, and I had to have the guts to grieve. I learned that just because I’m hurting, it doesn’t mean I don’t trust God. I didn’t have to get over this quickly or sweep it under the rug to benefit others. It’s OK to grieve and it’s OK to give myself permission to have a hard time. It’s OK to be just where I am in this journey.” ~ Brittany
Freedom to Grieve in Healthy ways
Healthy grief moves us through our pain towards restoration and healing. While it may FEEL like you are completely alone, others have traveled the dark path of pain ahead of you and have left their wisdom behind for you to discover and use to guide your way. Here are just a few ways that healthy grief might look like for you or others:
- Practices being honest with yourself and others about what you are feeling and thinking
- Is willing to allow others to be near and helpful
- Reaches out or asks for help and support from others
- Learns and practices the vocabulary of grief
- Practices patience with the grief experiences (used to be called “stages”)
- Understands that the only way to get through grief IS TO GRIEVE
- Willing to accept that pain has value and purpose
- Makes positive choices to care for and nurture your body by eating healthy foods, getting rest and exercise
- Chooses to do grief work like journaling, reading, attending a support group or meets with a grief coach or therapist
- Is open to finding new or renewed insights that God is the source of all comfort, encouragement, hope, and healing
Declare Your Freedom to Grieve
Even though the 4th of July celebrations have come and gone, my mourning friends still grieve. Do you know you are free to grieve? You are free to have seasons of joy and happiness, free to mourn, free to journal, free to talk about your deceased loved one, free to remember, free to cry, free to feel, free to just be what it is you are today. And in your freedom, please consider choosing some or all of the 10 healthy grieving practices. They can help you experience a better way to grieve than under the tyranny of denial, isolation, or being stuck in your pain. Declare your freedom to grieve and to choose to do it in healthy ways.
©Karen Nicola 2017