Power in a name
Have you ever gone to the grocery store with a list of five to 10 items, confidently thinking This will be a snap. I’ve got my itty-bitty list. I’ll be in and out of there lickety-split. Then an hour later, you’re standing in the checkout line wondering what happened to that short, concise list that appeared so manageable.
Grieving can be like that. What you thought would be a brief dash—grieving over something seemingly moderate and manageable—turns into a tricky triathlon.
What about those times when something bad is coming and your brain starts recording what you’re seeing in slow motion. I remember hitting a very slippery patch on the bridge near our home, and watching my vehicle slide in slow motion toward another car. Yikes. Maybe you’ve been in a car crash that involved two cars at first, and then the sliding and the momentum kept on moving forward—or people’s brakes didn’t stop them in time—adding another car to the pile and then another. Whoa.
Grieving can be like that. What you thought would be a one-issue season of grieving ended up starting a chain reaction involving multiple losses. People say, “Things come in threes.” Maybe you’ve experienced a year like that… maybe more than once.
Peaceful Readers, welcome to this new series, called Grieving.
I’m Frankie Ann. My husband is Brandon and our son is Logan.
As I was writing the first series on Choosing Peace, Sociopaths, I knew that the next series needed to be about grieving. Dancing with a sociopath leaves your shoes stomped in—tattered and torn, with your toes exposed—bruised, bloody and broken. Even if you thought you were wearing your steel-toed boots throughout that chapter, extensive damage was done. So you may be reading this series as a natural follow-up to your escape from The War Zone—Sociopathville.
This may be your first series to read on Choosing Peace. Maybe you’ve experienced a recent or fairly recent loss in our life.
Or maybe you find yourself reading it because you’ve realized that old history wasn’t ever resolved. It wasn’t ever grieved completely. There were things left undone. Incomplete. Lingering….
In the first post in the series about sociopaths, I wrote about the power of a name.
There’s power in a name when the name tells you the truth.
While the name Grieving may sound obvious, let’s dig into it a little. I could have named this series Grief or Grievers or Dealing with Grief or Grief Recovery or any number of titles.
Why did I choose the name Grieving?
Grieving is a verb. It’s something you do. It isn’t a noun—something you have or someone you are. And this perspective—this truth—makes all the difference in our lives.
Living and dying
If we live long enough, we’ll experience many circumstances that require us to journey successfully through seasons of grieving—if we’re going to thrive and live full, healthy lives.
I think we tend to pigeonhole the concept of grieving into an obvious, undeniable reality when a loved one has died. But there are many other losses that require grieving. Many, many losses.
Here are the Top 10 from my life.
Frankie Ann’s Top 10 Losses
1. Not feeling loved by my parents
2. My first husband’s alcoholism, abuse and infidelity
5. My father’s death
6. Infertility and miscarriage
7. Holding my dead baby
8. Betrayal and the sudden end of relationships with relatives and friends
9. Brandon’s PTSD
10. Systematic emotional abuse on both sides of my extended family
Some of the losses in that list obviously involve physical death, while others don’t. As we walk through this series on grieving, we’ll think about the ending that each loss represents, as well as the new beginnings that can come later.
For example, divorce represents the end of a marriage. For those of you who’ve experienced a divorce, you know that it represents the end of many, many things, because a marriage isn’t just a legal contract. It isn’t just a piece of paper. We’ll dive into those issues at length in a future post (or two…).
In this series
We’ll look at grieving as a journey, frequently calling it The Season of Grieving. This is the linear, walking, moving forward aspect of grieving.
You may feel at times like you’re taking a challenging hike through winding, overgrown paths filled with briers and thorns. Other times, you may feel like you’re climbing a steep hill with freezing rain pelting your face. And frequently, you’ll fall on your couch or bed in exhaustion. Grieving is hard work—for your mind, your heart, your body, and yes—even your soul.
Levels up, layers down and breadth—from side to side
We’ll reflect on The Levels of Grieving, from fairly-minor “pops” of grief all the way up to Traumatic Grief. The Levels of Grieving relate to the relative severity of the trauma/loss you’ve experienced and the pain, thoughts and fears associated with it. Was it sudden? Was there a crime involved? What was the nature of your relationship with your loved one? We’ll walk through many questions and issues as we travel through The Season of Grieving.
We’ll talk about grieving in terms of layers, as we travel deeper and deeper in the grieving and healing journey. This is the digging process into the deep, dark depths of grieving.
We’ll examine the importance of Grieving the Invisible—the things that never were but should have been. This is the exploration of the breadth or wideness of grieving. We’ll come to realize that Grieving the Invisible may represent some of the most difficult things to grieve because they seem intangible. And yet, they produce profound feelings of loss and brokenness. So they must be grieved successfully in order for us to walk forward into joy, wholeness and peace.
We’ll also look at a common myth in today’s culture—the myth that you’ll never leave The State of Grief. We’ll explore truths about how grieving changes you, without embracing destructive pop-culture lies aimed at keeping you in a perpetual condition of suffering.
Strangely enough, as I was preparing to write this series, I thought I don’t have any current events that really fit into the category of grieving, so I wonder if that will impact the quality of my writing. (Yes, I’m obviously in denial about my need to grieve The Sociopathic Extended Family Nightmare chapter. For now, I’m still doing my Happy Dance about our escape from The War Zone. More on that later….)
Fast forward less than a month. My mother, recently diagnosed with dementia, has declined significantly and is now in a memory care facility. I’ve found myself experiencing various facets of grief as I’ve watched all these changes in her life and I’ve accepted the things we can no longer do together. It’s strange. I’m living a series of losses—“pops” of grief—that will precede her actual death, perhaps by many years.
And this is an interesting and crucial facet of grieving. Like the work involved in the process of forgiving, the work involved in the process of grieving is something we’ll have many opportunities to practice in this life. Many opportunities.
We grieve the loss of friends—for various reasons, the loss of beloved pets, the loss of abilities/health, the loss of jobs/careers/businesses, moves, the loss of an item that we literally can’t find or that was stolen, and much more.
Or do we?
Denial and delays
Have you ever met someone who needs to grieve but refuses to or seemingly “can’t”?
A friend of mine in college was concerned about me because I never cried about anything… not when my boyfriend dumped me, not when we watched mushy, tear-jerker commercials or movies, not about anything. Was I a sociopath? No. I was a young lady who grew up in one of the many We Don’t Talk About It families. Growing up, feelings were not acknowledged, discussed or expressed. Everything was about performance.
When did I learn how to cry and that crying actually feels good when you need to cry? During my first marriage. Boy, did I become an expert at crying during The Nine Years of Misery. Did I ever. And, strangely enough, that was a very good, crucial thing. Through the losses, the traumas, the intense practice at grieving, I became a fuller, better person. While many doors closed at the end of those nine years, many more doors opened in my life. Later in this series, you’ll read about those experiences and the many truths that they illustrate.
What happens to people who refuse to grieve? Who pretend they don’t need to? Who are too afraid to start the journey? Who don’t know how? We may smile and seem to be okay, but we aren’t. We’re carrying heavy baggage, even though we pretend or truly believe we aren’t. We ignore it or we’re in complete and utter denial… not remembering, not seeing, not hearing, not feeling all the things we don’t want to remember, see, hear and feel.
So we dive into distractions—work, relationships, addictions, hobbies, community service…. We’re very busy. Very, very busy. Too busy (and/or self-medicated) to think about those things. Those people. Those endings. Those regrets.
The good news is that the traumas and losses haven’t disappeared. They haven’t gone away. They’re ready to be dealt with whenever we’re ready. And that may feel like the bad news. Traumas and losses that aren’t grieved are inside us. Waiting. Lurking. Poking and jabbing. Sometimes roaring to get out.
What if that describes you or one of your loved ones?
There is hope.
I’ll be sharing wonderful resources with you in this series. I’ll be encouraging you to lay down The Heavy Baggage of Denial and begin walking The Journey of Grieving. I’ve interviewed some experts on the subject. And yours truly, Frankie Ann, has a plethora of experience in this area. I’ve gone from stoic to softy. From living in The Land of Denial to living in The Land of Truth.
Let’s walk together for a while….
Coming next: In the next post, you’ll read a list of threes, including Moe, Larry and Curly. You’ll also learn about artful living, holding fast and more.
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 41:10
Song for Healing: I had no idea that I’d choose another song by Casting Crowns to open this series, like I opened the series about sociopaths. But this song is the one. I hope it touches you—your eyes, your ears and your heart. Here it is: “Oh My Soul” by Casting Crowns.