The typical consensus on grief is that it comes in stages. This theory basically posits that once tragedy hits us we will eventually work our way through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. This has not been my experience. While this notion of stages may be helpful and even accurate in some cases, I do not believe it is the universal norm for grieving.
In my own case, instead of a cascade reaction, grief tends to accumulate until it bursts forth in a spurt of depression. The reality of the pain is constant; but because of a hectic schedule, masculine pride, and a church culture that lends itself to burying our true hurt, I file it away with the label “do not open”. The trouble is that it will eventually open automatically.
I dont believe that my experience is the universal norm anymore than the stages of grief. However, perhaps opening up will have a resonating effect and prove helpful. As I lose loved ones, face insecurities, endure wrongs from others, and wrestle with my weaknesses I find ways to hide the hurt. Either through distraction, superficial discussion, or arrogant presumption it is “managed”. However, despite my frantic scrambling, it accumulates like a thunder cloud until its all unleashed. Inevitably, some catalyst (a song, a sermon, a conversation, or a memory) will strike the chord of release and the facade of my composure comes undone. Can you relate?
When the eddy of our pain starts to push against the current of our supposed strength we can either engage with the pain or suppress it. All too often, suppression wins out and we actually condition ourselves to disengage, to become depressed, and relinquish the strength that comes through weakness. Is there a better way? Yes. Is there an easier way? No.
Even as I’m writing this, it is a type of personal mourning and remembering. I often forget the glorious liberty of biblical lament. What is lament? It is reaching out to God through our brokenness. We come before God with brutal honesty and offer to Him our fears, stress, anger, and pain until we transpose into praise. As we offer our true feelings to God (as if He didn’t already know them), we become vulnerable and paradoxically stronger.
So if you are hurting, flee to the scriptures because there you will find powerful prayers. Flee to the savior, because there you will find a man of sorrows acquainted with grief. Flee to the father, because you will find lovingkindness beyond belief. But do not flee from your hurt, because doing so prevents the painful and healing journey of lament.
You won’t find easy answers, superficial advice, predetermined stages, or formulas. You will will find grace and probably realize that its all you ever needed. If you’re like me, you’ll need this reminder often.