Dealing with Loss & Grief (Part 1)
Good Grief! (Part 2)
How to be unhelpful while trying to be helpful?
When you consider all that is going on in the world at the moment it is easy to be overwhelmed by the level of pain and suffering. This year we have seen earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, cyclones and bushfires not to mention the incredible people's revolution engulfing North Africa and the Middle East. It is difficult to think of a time in recent history when there has been such a level of suffering due to both 'natural' and human causes.
For those of us living in the relative tranquillity of Sydney these tragedies seems to be 'over there' and a long way away - almost unreal, but we see it on the news day in and day out. We are grieved and saddened at one level but then it doesn't touch us deeply and so life moves on. Our paradise remains untouched.
But then something close to home does happen - a close friend is diagnosed with an illness or someone we love dies suddenly and then it hits us. We are overwhelmed with grief and we wonder what happened. Our perceived 'perfect' world is unmasked for the con that it is. Don't get me wrong there is much in life that is beautiful and wonderful but when loss becomes personal our perspective becomes a little more realistic.
We face loss and grief in our lives all the time - the only problem is that we often don't recognise it for what it is. With loss and grief comes sadness, feeling flat and depression but that is a word we are reluctant to use because it is so misunderstood and has such a negative stigma in our Aussie culture. Any loss no matter how large or small can lead to reactive depression which is very different from clinical depression! Reactive depression is in response to events and clinical depression means there is a chemical imbalance in the brain that requires medication.
When we suffer loss & grief whether large (like a death) or small (like not getting the promotion we had worked so hard for) it is good to be able to recognise what is going on inside of us. If we can do that we are better able to work through the grief in a constructive way.
Dr Elizabeth Kubler-Ross has long been recognised as a world expert in this area. She suggests there are 5 stages of grief. They are:
1. Denial & Isolation
She along with others like Christian Psychologist Arch Hart suggest that when faced with serious loss we not only go through these stages - but there is actually no way of avoiding them. Problems arise when we try not to or try to short circuit the process. It just makes matters worse.
As a Church family, many people in our community are currently facing a variety of forms of loss and grief. It is always good to talk to a close friend and share your feelings but before you do perhaps it is worth taking some time to reflect on:
a.) What 'loss' are you grieving about? Is it actual or perceived?
b.) What stage of the grief cycle do you think you are in?
The good news for God's people is to know that God is with us in and through our times of loss and sadness and can provide much needed comfort and strength.
Jesus said, 'Come to me all who are weary and heavy laiden and I will give you rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.' Matthew 11.28-30 or as it says in 1 Peter 5.6-7, 'Humble yourselves, therefore under God's mighty hand that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxieties on him for he cares for you.'
I have only scratched the surface on a huge subject but I believe it is one we need to be talking to each other about. I will be writing Part 2 on 'Good Grief' shortly but if you would like to read some helpful material - books written by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross or Arch Hart are fairly easy to obtain and well worth considering. Michael