Doing the work of grieving
Now that you’ve decided to do the work of grieving and you’ve carved out the time to do the work, you may be wondering where to start. Peaceful Readers, you’ve waited patiently for some practical advice about how to grieve, and it’s time to get that train rolling.
Because my friend Summer grieved her husband David’s death so proactively, she was the first person I interviewed for this series. During my interview with Summer, one of my favorite truths she shared was something they say in the GriefShare® support group: When you feel like crying, cry. You’ll cry at different places and different times of the day. Let these tears out.
Summer also shared an opposite choice that’s all-too-common. “Functioning” (i.e., “carrying on”) can stifle the grief process.” To continue living your life as though nothing happened stuffs or buries the emotions you need—so desperately—to express.
What can you do intentionally to encourage the crying you need to do?
Schedule or set aside a block of time. One day when Logan was at his two-day-a-week preschool at our church, I had that time period set aside to cry. I sat on our couch and played mournful classical music. It really drew me into the right emotional state to cry; so I did—off and on for several hours. And I felt so much better afterwards. That wasn’t the only crying I did after our baby Joshua’s death, but it was a big piece of it.
Listen to mournful music. I listened to some of these pieces during my very successful Crying Time, described above. I hope they help you too.
Prelude, Fugue and Variation in B minor, Op. 18 by César Franck (transcribed for piano by Harold Bauer)
The Seasons, Op. 37, No. 6, June by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber
Adagio in G minor by Tomaso Albinoni
Listen to or look at remembrances of your loss. Several times, Summer listened to her husband David’s funeral service, and this evoked tears and grieving. She wishes she’d asked for a video recording. Summer gives us this advice: Ask the church or funeral home to video the service, if possible. If this isn’t available, ask for an audio recording. These tools encourage grieving.
I filled a pretty box with remembrances of Joshua, including photos, a letter I wrote to him, the tiny hat made for him, cards we received and more. I agree with Summer. These tools encourage grieving.
Write your thoughts and feelings in a journal. This daily expressing really helps. As time goes by, you’ll read what you wrote a week or a month ago, and you’ll find encouragement in the progress you’ve made in your work of grieving.
Talk to God throughout the day. You can pray to God no matter where you are. Tell him what you’re feeling. Cry out to him. He hears you.
Attend a quality support group
This step connects you with other people who are experiencing a similar loss. Summer started attending GriefShare® two or three weeks after her husband David’s death. She related, “I wanted to make my grief as productive as possible.” She strongly recommends attending a good support group, and shared this encouragement: “Someone who’s further down the line gives you hope.” We talked about the value of support groups and how to tell the good ones from the bad ones in this post.
Don’t wait until you “feel up to it.” Yes, there will be crying during your support group. The purpose of your quality support group is to help you when you don’t feel up to it and to help you move with support through The Season of Grieving.
You’ll have the opportunity to make some significant progress in the work of grieving in a quality support group. Don’t just attend. Participate and give it your all.
I recommend GriefShare® and DivorceCare® support groups and two options for post-abortive healing retreats and support groups: Someone Cares (Dallas/Ft. Worth area) and Rachel’s Vineyard (nationwide). For more information, scroll down toward the end of this post: Time for Grieving, part 4 of 6.
Read books that will help you
Begin reading through the Psalms in the Old Testament of the Bible, one Psalm per day. You’ll read about the many emotions of grieving—including anguish and despair—and you’ll read about hope in the Lord.
If you’re grieving the death of a loved one, Summer recommends these books.
Summer’s Top 3 Grieving Books
1. Through a Season of Grief by Bill Dunn and Kathy Leonard
2. Confessions of a Grieving Christian by Zig Ziglar, written after the death of his daughter
3. The God of All Comfort by Dee Brestin, which includes the healing power of music
The CD available to go with The God of All Comfort matches the hymns that are listed in this book. Summer listened to the CD and found it to be very comforting.
I’m reading Through a Season of Grief right now, the #1 book on Summer’s list. It is exceptional. Each short, daily devotion gives encouragement and Godly advice, without being overwhelming. I highly recommend it.
Remember from part 4 of this post:
How to choose
How will you know whether a grief support group, book, blog, speaker or other resource is healthy or unhealthy? Ask yourself this one question.
Does the resource encourage people to heal
or does it encourage them to stay in The State of Grief?
It doesn’t take long to figure this out.
Also, test what you read and hear against the truths of the Bible. Ask yourself this question: Is this voice, is this message consistent with what I know about God? If you aren’t sure, ask someone who knows and walks closely with God.
Remember happy times
During our interview, Summer shared some good advice she received from a man whose wife had died. He advised Summer to cling to her good memories and to recall those good memories intentionally. Summer related this beautiful, encouraging truth.
In time, your thoughts will naturally go to sweetness and joy
because you’ve intentionally trained your mind to remember
good times, good qualities, good conversations, etc.
Even early in The Season of Grieving, Summer consciously told a good memory about David to their daughters—to reminisce and to laugh about something funny that he said or did. Summer said, “It’s very healing.”
What if your loss was of your abusive parent or your stillborn baby—and you have no happy memories to recall? Quiet your mind and recall the times when God has been faithful to meet your needs in the past. Write down a God Is Good to Me list in your journal. This list will help you to remember and cherish God’s love for you. If you haven’t already listened to the sermon called “Assured by the Holy Spirit” that I mentioned in an earlier post, I heartily recommend it. Click here, then click on the icon for the Assured series, and listen to this good message preached on July 2, 2017.
Look for humor and joy
Keep your mind and your ears open to the possibility of humor and joy, even though you’re in The Season of Grieving. You may receive a heartwarming gift like we did.
Recently, Logan and I visited my mom at her memory care facility. During dinner in the dining room, we overheard a smile-inducing conversation by some men at the next table.
One man said to another man at his table: “I don’t know what you said, but I agree with you.”
Reply: “This guy is the best one here.” (Translation: I don’t know your name, but I like you.)
We’ve shared and chuckled about that conversation many times since then….
Spend time with people who are good to you
Isolating yourself during The Season of Grieving makes the pain more intense and greatly extends the length of time it will take you to heal. You may feel at times that people don’t care.
Many people do care.
Schedule time with people who are good to you. Sometimes people don’t check in on you because (1) they don’t know what to say or (2) they assume that other people are checking in on you. Sometimes you’ll have to call a friend and say, “Let’s get together for coffee or dessert.” You can invite a friend over or meet at a park. Just sitting together quietly or watching a “Nature” program together on PBS can be a healing thing.
Avoid troublemakers, gossips and anyone who adds stress to your life. For more on this subject, see the Friends section in the last post.
Attend church weekly
If you don’t have a church family, it’s time to find one. Ask people where they go to church. Start visiting churches this Sunday. Find a church where the Bible is preached faithfully and join a Life Group or Sunday school class. It will change your life. The singing, hearing truths from God’s word, being with people who love God—all these things will minister to you deeply. Attending a wonderful church is a healing thing.
Are you ready to do the work of grieving? Here’s your To-Do List.
To-Do List for The Season of Grieving
4. Attend a quality support group.
5. Read books that will help you.
6. Remember happy times (and/or God’s faithfulness).
7. Look for humor and joy.
8. Spend time with people who are good to you.
9. Attend church weekly.
I’d be blessed to hear from you. What actions have helped you move successfully through The Season of Grieving? Is there something I need to add to the To-Do List above? If a memory or idea comes to your mind, leave a reply at the end of this post or send me an email at email@example.com.
Coming next: Grab a fuzzy blanket, get comfortable and come back next time as we begin our tour of Trauma Town. It may be a bumpy ride, but I think you’ll find it fascinating.
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: Psalm 6:6-9
Song for Healing: What an incredible song. Listen to “Worn” by Tenth Avenue North.
To learn more about this wonderful song, enjoy these two parts of this radio interview.