The second time
Welcome back, Peaceful Readers. I have a funny story to tell you that relates to the issue of time.
Losing track of time
When I’m writing, I can lose track of time. I go to sleep and wake up writing in my head. This doesn’t bother me; I actually love it. Admittedly, though—I can be very distracted when I’m writing (or thinking about writing).
Here’s a good example. The other evening, I wore my slippers to our son’s school convocation. I looked down toward my feet as I was sitting in the car on the way there and thought—Are you kidding me?! Thankfully, my slippers don’t have fuzzy bunny heads on them or superheroes or camo or anything exciting like that. To the casual observer, they just look like cheap, casual, slip-on shoes—a little granny-ish, to be perfectly honest. But I knew that they were my slippers, so I was minorly-mortified, hoping intensely that no one would look down at my feet. I can laugh about it now, but it was not funny at the time. I felt like a total ding-a-ling.
During certain seasons or activities in our lives, we can lose track of time. You’ll experience this while you’re in The Season of Grieving. You’ll have thoughts like this…. What day is it? How long has it been? When am I supposed to go to this or that appointment? What time is it? How long have I been sitting here? Those kinds of thoughts are totally normal.
In the last post, we covered the first kind of time, as it relates to grieving: It’s time or The time has come.
The second kind of time goes like this: Grieving takes time. I had so much to say about this kind of time that it fills up three posts.
Hmmm. Let’s slow down a moment; take a long, deep breath; and drink that in.
Grieving. Takes. Time.
There’s no quick fix or shortcut. There’s no fast food drive-thru.
Two kinds of sowing and reaping
Are you hungry? Let’s walk through some of the necessary steps if you were going to provide your own food for yourself and your family. And I don’t mean tooling on down to the local grocery store, grabbing a shopping cart and filling it up. I’m talking about starting from scratch, in the real sense—growing your own produce. Hard to imagine, isn’t it?
Your vegetable garden
You’ll have to pray—a lot, prepare your soil, choose and buy your seeds, plant them, water them, tend them, pull the weeds out of your garden, do lots of watching and waiting, get rid of pests, harvest your crop, clean/prepare what you harvested, choose your recipe and cook your vegetables before you get to eat and be nourished from all of your work. I think you’d find that all the work and the long time waiting to see your little plants peeking out from the soil would enrich your appreciation when you reach your goal—in this case, eating.
Similarly, in the case of grieving, you’ll pray—a lot, you’ll make many choices, you’ll walk forward (and backward)—taking so many steps, you’ll tend to yourself, you’ll wait, you’ll cry, you’ll rage, you’ll sleep, you’ll study and learn, you’ll express yourself, you’ll persevere, you’ll seek and find many things, you’ll give and you’ll receive. And then one day—you’ll realize, either gently or suddenly, that you’ve reached your destination: Peace.
And you’ll marvel at all the things you did and learned on The Healing Journey. You’ll sit in awe. You’ll close your eyes and take this deep, cleansing breath. You’ll wonder about the new journeys that lie ahead of you. And you’ll have hope.
You’re probably familiar—to some extent—with the Five Stages of Grief, first presented by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying in 1969. The stages she presented are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Many people have argued for and against this model.
Let’s think of these realities—denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance—as characteristics instead of stages. You’ll probably find yourself moving back and forth between some or all of them as you walk The Journey of Grieving. Personally, I’ve experienced the truth of these characteristics while I’ve been grieving, so I’ve found the identifying and naming of them very helpful. (I use the term sadness instead of depression.)
From bargaining to anger and sadness
I describe the bargaining characteristic as the “I’ll do anything, trade anything, give anything for this train wreck to go away” time. You may find, as I have, that once you leave The Time of Bargaining, your emotions volley back and forth between anger and sadness for quite some time. In my experience, once you get past denial, bargaining is usually fairly short-lived. And then come the challenging, here’s-where-we-get-down-and-do-the-work realities of grieving: Anger and Sadness.
No one enjoys these parts of grieving. Anger isn’t fun. Sadness isn’t fun. But we have to move gradually, thoughtfully, thoroughly through these aspects of grieving in order to come out on the other side feeling whole, feeling healed, feeling peaceful. Feeling fully alive—standing tall with our eyes looking forward.
The long good-bye
One way of thinking about grieving is to call it The Long Good-bye. That’s really what grieving is. We don’t want to say good-bye. We want things to be the way they once were—or the way we’d always hoped they’d be. As we walk this journey during The Season of Grieving—The Long Good-bye—we’ll express our pain, we’ll cry, we’ll yearn for what we had or wanted, and we’ll say good-bye in many different ways for many, many days and weeks and months.
What about traumas? What are we saying good-bye to?
While I was preparing to write this series, I interviewed Liz Taylor, a counselor and expert on Traumatic Grief. Every traumatic event or series of events must be grieved. In the case of traumas, The Long Good-bye relates to three essentials. Liz tells us that we must “uncover, discover and discard.” If you’ve been plagued by the secrets, the flashbacks, the intrusive/unexpected thoughts, the what-ifs, the distractions you cling to so you don’t think about it or have those unwanted feelings, the fears, and more…, it’s time to do the work of grieving, so you can discard the traumas you’ve been hiding from all these years. It’s time to say “Good-bye.”
A day, a week, a month
In my life, my biggest, most-painful loss was the death of our baby, Joshua. I thought, while I was grieving, that there would never be a day when I wouldn’t think about him. If you had told me then that such a day would come, I would have insisted, “Not possible. No way.” But then a day came when I didn’t think about him. I was surprised. Then a week came when I didn’t think about him. Then a month came.
As I healed and as I did the work of grieving, my heart and my mind changed their focus—from what I’d lost to what I’d found, including the wonderful relationships I still had. The way I viewed his death changed as I moved forward on The Healing Journey. I came to understand his significance and his impact. I will always treasure his value. And we will spend eternity together in heaven. That will be glorious.
Dr. Kübler-Ross called the destination Acceptance. I call it Peace. You can’t have peace without a right and loving relationship with God. Peace is much better than acceptance.
I hope you’ll strive for the best destination: Peace.
Coming next: Next time on Choosing Peace, we’ll talk a lot about building your house, we’ll take a little detour down I Can’t Believe She Said That Lane, and we’ll learn about the foundation.
Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.
Truth from The Word: Isaiah 54:10
Song for Healing: Our son Logan found this song and added it to his playlist. When he played it for me in our truck this summer, it moved me. It moves me still.
“Hills & Valleys” by Tauren Wells
Listen to these encouraging thoughts from singer Tauren Wells about this song.