Hey there-hope y’all are having a great Monday. Last week’s blog and Insta content consisted of a travel guide, sale alerts, Vineyard Vines for Target, and dressing for a chilly baseball game. I’m kicking this week off with something a bit deeper-grief and loss. Now, I don’t consider myself an expert on navigating grief and loss in the conventional sense. With the exception of grandparents, I’ve never had any family members or close friends die. However, over the past two and a half years, my therapist has helped me see that some life circumstances I have been facing are a form of loss. She is a professional and her areas of special interest include helping people dealing with separation and loss. Therefore, I trust her expertise. So I’m sharing a few reflections on navigating grief and loss. Keep reading if you’ve ever dealt with grief in any way or shape.

Navigating Grief and Loss
(Photo by Amelia Cassar Photography)

Delay of a Dream

First of all, I don’t want to discount how thankful I am for the many good things that the Lord has blessed me with in this life. Gratitude is definitely a game-changer, and something I need to be more intentional about. On the other hand, it’s also not healthy for me to ignore and push aside the difficult feelings I have with respect to certain circumstances. Specifically, wrestling with unfulfilled dreams and desires of my heart that I thought would have become a reality long before age 34. I know that God’s plan and timing are perfect, and I can even be thankful that certain relationships didn’t work out.

However, this doesn’t change the fact that I still desire for the right relationship in God’s perfect timing, someone to share my life with and build a family with. I see things fall into place for so many others, and it’s so easy to fall into the comparison trap, wondering why God won’t do the same for me, because He is definitely able. Although I need to thank and praise God for the good things that He has placed in my life right now, my therapist continually reminds me that my feelings are valid. She tells me that what I desire is a normal and healthy thing. (Though I have to constantly keep this in check to prevent it from becoming an idol).

Thus, I’m realizing that this delay of a dream is a form of loss. I haven’t completely lost the opportunity for it to become a reality someday, Lord willing (though it feels like I have at times). Yet, I’m still grieving the loss of what I thought my life would look like at age 34. In addition, God’s word even says that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12).

Grief Isn’t Linear

I can’t remember when I first learned about the five stages of grief in the Kubler-Ross Model. It may have been high school health class, or it may have been a basic psychology class in college. Anyways, the five stages of grief are as follows: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. You can read more about the Kugler-Ross Model of grief here.

I’m learning through my personal experience, however, that the stages of grief regarding a specific circumstance aren’t linear. This is something that my therapist regularly reminds me as well. As I grieve the loss of what I thought my life would look like at age 34, I particularly find myself switching back and forth among anger, depression, and acceptance.

There are many long seasons of acceptance, when I find myself experiencing great joy despite my circumstances. During some of these seasons of acceptance, I even discover that I’m {gasp} thankful for how things have worked out. Yet, acceptance isn’t a neat little bow that ties everything up at the end. I face triggers that move me right back into anger or depression. In fact, sometimes anger and depression occurs simultaneously.

Giving Myself Grace

I’m often extremely hard on myself and beat myself up for continually struggling with contentment in singleness. I get so frustrated that I will be in a long season of acceptance and contentment, and then a trigger sends me back into anger or depression. This is when it’s really helpful to have my therapist walk through this with me and remind me that it’s totally normal for this to happen, because grief isn’t linear.

In addiiton, I’m learning that when triggers send me back into anger and depression, I still experience net growth emotionally and spiritually. Pressing into these unpleasant and uncomfortable feelings often helps build my resilience. For instance a couple months ago I experienced a trigger that sent me into an awful downward spiral for a few days. I eventually recovered, dusted myself off, decided to trust God again, and move forward. Then a couple weeks ago I experienced the exact same trigger, but this time it didn’t phase me. I equate this to a similar concept to physical growing pains.

Nevertheless, it’s often hard to predict when and how a particular trigger will affect me. I often switch back and forth between having a negative and a neutral response to the exact same trigger. This is when I have to lean into the truth that God’s grace is sufficient, and His power is made perfect in my weakness. Because of this reality, I can give myself grace, and realize that setbacks don’t mean I’m not growing. They are part of the process.

Wrestling with God

Sometimes when I have these wrestling matches with God as I struggle in the anger and depression stages of grief over my delayed dream, I experience shame. I feel like if I was a “better Christian,” then I wouldn’t struggle so much with this. Whenever this happens, I have to remind myself that this is a form of spiritual warfare from the Enemy because it contradicts the Gospel. God’s acceptance of me is based on NOTHING I’ve done or haven’t done, and is based on EVERYTHING He’s done! And because I”m a sinner living in a fallen world, then I will still struggle with various things this side of eternity. It’s all part of my sanctification, and is making me more like Jesus. And I have to continually remind myself that the results of sanctification trump even my greatest dreams coming true.

In Psalm 13, David, a man after God’s own heart, wrestles with God. He cries out to God, asking him “how long O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1) This comforts me because it reminds me that it’s totally okay to be honest with God about my difficult feelings. Then just four verses later, David says But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.” (Psalm 13:5) 

So often, I find myself stuck on verse 1 of Psalm 13, crying out to God in anger, sadness, and frustration. While He wants me to be honest about my feelings, I also need to challenge myself to cling to His steadfast love and proclaim my trust in Him, regardless of my circumstances.

Be Encouraged

If you’re dealing with any form of grief or loss, I want you to remember that it’s totally normal to fluctuate among the different stages of grief. So don’t be too hard on yourself if you feel like you’ve gotten to a place of acceptance, but then find yourself back in one of the previous stages. Also, don’t put a timeline on your grief.

Remember that your feelings are valid, and it’s healthy to lean into them and acknowledge them. Talk through them with a professional, and cry out to God. Facing these difficult feelings head-on may actually be the very thing that builds your arsenal of defense and coping mechanisms in the future.

Finally, remember that God is sovereign and is bigger than any grief you are navigating at the moment. While your grief and loss is legitimate and it’s healthy and even biblical to mourn, don’t forget the wise words of King David in Psalm 13. He made a conscious decision to trust God and rejoice in the gift of his salvation even during a painful and trying time in his life.

I hope that this post encouraged any of y’all who are currently navigating grief or loss in any form, and that it showed you that you aren’t alone. Sometimes I feel like blog posts never end up quite as eloquent on the screen as I envision them in my head, but I still pray that God will use my words for His glory.

-xoxo Liz

 

4 Comments on Navigating Grief and Loss

  1. Powerful post, Liz! I’m in a similar season, and this was exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you for putting all this into words so beautifully.

    • I’m so glad you were encouraged by this post Elizabeth! Let me know if you ever want to grab coffee and chat 🙂

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