Tuesday, December 01, 2009

No One Died - So Why Grieve?

Grief - a word I used to associate with death. In my mind, grief had one place - following the loss of a loved one. Over the past few years, I learned grief is needed in other areas of life also.

A nasty accident - life-threatening injuries - severe lifestyle changes ... words I wake up to after ten days in a coma. Darn - now what?

Asking God for help every step of the way (literally) I tackle the tough physical recovery with my solid Pennsylvania Dutch work habits and the endurance of the runner I was pre-accident.  

Step by painful step, I recover better than expected.

I’m happy for the miracles, but sad about the effects. I don’t know what to do with my emotions. They refuse to obey my life-long habit of stuffing them anymore - instead they surface in depression and anger.


A saint from church, Audrey offers to mentor me after seeing the emotional mess I've become. I’m not sure what mentor means, but I’m starving for some answers so I agree.

Peaceful garden - tea - cookies ... Audrey knows how to put a person at ease. When the tea is finished, we move to the living room and I wonder if a lecture on how to handle a crisis will now begin.

Instead Audrey showers me with love and understanding, “Janet, I’m so sorry about the rough year you’ve had. Praise God, your body is recovering. We’re not just physical beings - how’s your mind and spirit doing?”

I mumble as I try to explain my confused state of mind. Week after week, she is a good listener and only asks enough questions to help me spill more of my jumbled thoughts.

Miracles - sadness - limitations - guilt ... I talk about my conflicting emotions. “I'm Miracle Woman, but I’m complaining. I should be shouting Hallelujah, not feeling sad.”

“Yes miracles happened,” She says, “But sadness is okay, you need to grieve.”

“Grieve?” I ask. “No one died in our accident, what am I grieving for?”

“Yourself - Janet,” she pats my hand, “You need to grieve the part of you that you lost.”

She gives me a minute as I try to understand what she said. “Grieve for myself?” Just repeating it makes me feel selfish. "The loss of a loved one deserves grief - I’m alive, not dead."

“You lost the active part of yourself. You lost the way your body looked. You lost some dreams for the future,” Audrey explains. “These losses are major. I don’t think ignoring them works.”

“But, but ...  grief sounds too severe.” I try to comprehend this new thought.

“Any loss, no matter what size needs to be grieved,” Audrey says. “And disappointments, especially major disappointments like you live with have to be acknowledged and grieved. Do you think ignoring those feelings is working?”

Okay she has a point - even I, the mess, can see I’m a mess!

“Talk to God about your sadness. Maybe even write down your feelings of loss,” Audrey encourages. “By doing that, you’ll understand them better.

When faced with something new, I need information, so I find articles and books about grief. I laugh and cry as I realize my struggle is normal. I’m not losing my mind! I’m okay - or going to be okay after I work through my grief.

Grieving is random - following a textbook style for a time and then suddenly I’m all over the place again and nothing makes sense. But step by step, acknowledging the grief allows God's spirit to bring healing and recovery happens. At first, I don't even recognize the speck of light I feel, but then I realize it's a glimmer of hope.

Through grieving my losses, I learn to live in the tension of celebrating the miracles that happened while being real about the disappointments I live with.

How's your mind and spirit doing - with losses you've had in life? 



PS. Because I live with ongoing limitations/pain, I still deal with grief sporadically, but this severe time of grief happened in 2006.

This is part of a blog carnival hosted by Peter Pollock at Rediscovering the Church. This week’s carnival is on the theme of Grief. Anyone is welcome to join the carnival. Go to Peter's site to read more blog entries and/or to join.

21 comments:

Jason said...

Thank you for being honest and sharing your life like this. So many people don't realize how grief can be around without death in the mix.

On a side note...where in PA are you? I was born in Bellefonte and grew up in Shippensburg.

Jojo Agot said...

Sometimes God has to use another person to make us see what we don't want to see. Thank God for those kinds of people in our lives.

Thanks for the honesty. I know it's not easy to write something this personal.

S. Etole said...

I understand what you are saying and your experience all too well ... and it's not easy.

angel richard said...

Janet, you're on "holy ground". :) I'm learning to grieve well myself and it's not an easy road. Thanks for your blog and words. How can I hear what happened to you since I saw you last? Angel Richard

Janet Oberholtzer said...

@Jason - Thanks for your comment. I'm in Mohnton, PA about 10 minutes south of Reading.

@Jojo - Thanks for stopping by and for your comment.

@S. Etole - Sounds like you have a grief story of your own to share. Is it on your blog somewhere?

@angel - Grief is a tough road, may peace travel with you!
As for what happened since I saw you - do you mean the accident I refer to in this post? That happened 5 years ago. I'm getting a new website soon which will have an accident/injury page, for now see this post: http://janeto.blogspot.com/2009/10/story-chicago.html
or my Accident/injury photo album on Facebook

Matt said...

First time here - Enjoyed your writing. Very courageous. Thanks for being open.

JoAnne Bennett said...

Thank you for leaving such a kind comment on my blog! I was really moved by your post. Your triumphal story is such an inspiration to others. I believe others can learn so much from ones' journey when we are honest and real and not sugarcoat the struggles. You certainly show how you are thankful for your many blessings, while at the same time grieving for the losses. Take care!

Peter P said...

To be honest, I'm probably grieving something I've lost and I don't even know what it is I'm grieving!

Thanks, Janet, this is a wonderful post!

jasonS said...

Janet, thank God you have wise people like Audrey in your life. This story illustrates beautifully the godly principle of grieving. Thanks.

Lauresa said...

Thank you so much for sharing, Janet! Why is Grief so hard, and why have we as a society empowered silence over public grief. People need to see people grieve. It's natural-and so freeing. I am just learning this, myself.

love
reese

Bridget Chumbley said...

Wow!

“Yourself - Janet,” she pats my hand, “You need to grieve the part of you that you lost.”

Such incredible insight in these words. Thank you so much for sharing this story, Janet.

Glynn said...

This comes from deep in the heart, Janet. Deep in the heart. The grief wasn't misplaced. Thank you for sharing that with us.

Candace Jean July 16 said...

Your emotions are very raw but your honesty is beautiful. This is all a process for you. I pray you come closer to God through your grief.

Melinda Lancaster said...

Wonderful post. We all need an "Audrey" in our lives if not more than one.
A statement you made that profoundly stands out to me is "Through grieving my losses, I learn to live in the tension of celebrating the miracles that happened while being real about the disappointments I live with."
I find the first part comes much more naturally than the second.Celebrating the miracles that happen even within the framework of what I am grieving is not hard. Being real about the disappointments I live with...now that is another story.
I've been deeply touched and challenged by this post. Thank you for sharing and along with that renewing the challenge for me to do the hard part--be real.

JML said...

I'd agree with Audrey. Feelings aren't much in themselves, but they indicate what we're focusing on, they are a natural response to anything, positive or negative! A loss is a loss, regardless of what it is, and some truly are hard!

Thanks for sharing this story!

Bradley J. Moore said...

Powerful stuff. I can see why you are writing a memoir, and if it's anything like your writing sample her, it's going to be absolutely compelling.

Bernadette Pabon ,Teacher, Director of CCD, Author said...

This is great writtng, Yes many times we loose something and its not another person, but could be just as dramatic. What a great story.

Kelly Langner Sauer said...

Oh Janet. I am so sorry I missed this yesterday. Praise God for Audrey - oh what a gift He gave you in giving her His heart to share with you!

I can hardly answer your question about how my mind and spirit are doing; it feels impossible that someone should want to know. I've spent years half-begging for an open heart to welcome my mess, the me-losses that know God deeply through the grief, the wheelchaired-dreams, the lost friendships, the end of my ambitions...

This is amazing to me. I was not abandoned; God never left me. But finding a heart open to weep with one who weeps... Thank you for sharing, for your story. Oh, you have encouraged me so today!

L.L. Barkat said...

I am glad you opened yourself to grieving. The losses... so real.

JFKlaver said...

Before reading your post, I never thought about grieving for myself. But then, I've never had the hardship you are going through. However, your post brought to mind the idea of praying for myself. I spent my entire life praying for others in prayer circles, in drumming sessions, in private. I don't remember what prompted me to pray for myself one night when I was feeling especially down. Maybe it was a whisper, maybe it was the words of someone else kicking in, but I started praying for myself. It was strange. At first I felt selfish but my emotional turmoil suddenly softened and I started to cry. Just as suddenly, a peace descended. So, in a way, I do understand what you must have felt when someone else gave you permission to grieve for yourself. God bless you and Audrey!

V. Higgins said...

I think grief is like a spiritual cleansing of a wound. If you bandage up a wound with all the ick, dirt and gunk still inside, it festers and can become infected, even to the point of effecting the surrounding areas. Cleaning it out, as painful as it is, allows the wound to heal properly and usually will lessen the scar left behind.

I have a difficult time allowing grief as well, I'm well trained in emotion-stuffing. You are in my prayers as you go through this process and know that others walk similar paths.