If you are grieving the loss a loved one to death, divorce, or separation my prayer is that this topic will help you feel comforted, encouraged, and better prepared to recover through this inevitable situation.
* LOSS is the fact or the process of losing something or someone.
* GRIEF is deep sorrow, especially caused by death of a loved one.
As a mother and step-mother of a blended family, I know about the pain and heartache that comes from loss of relationships. Fifteen years ago, before Gabe was even one year old, my marriage to his father had disintegrated. I felt shocked, saddened, scared, and ANGRY. This was not how my life was supposed to be! I didn’t know what to do or how I’d ever recover! Within months, I encountered Jesus and began to realize that He loved me with an everlasting love. I discovered He was with me and I was going to be OK as long as I kept focused on knowing and loving God.
Two years later, I met Tim and WOW! Here was a man who not only followed Jesus, he delighted in my son, and adored me! I couldn’t believe it! He also had two young children he was actively parenting and whom I really enjoyed – AND they loved me, too! I couldn’t believe that I was literally blessed to overflowing!
I vividly remember falling to my knees in my little kitchen and praising God over and over for bringing this wonderful, godly man into our lives.
We married when our children were 3, 4, and 5 years old. I felt like the years the locusts had eaten were being restored! “[God said] I will restore the years the locust have eaten.” Joel 2:25
Fast forward five more years: We were living just a few neighborhoods away from Tim’s ex-wife and the two older kids were going back and forth every other week between our homes. It was the best of a difficult co-parenting situation for our children. They had solid relationships with the parents and siblings in each home. Our three were growing up together. Tim was getting out of the Air Force and going into full-time ministry in our local church. Things were really, really good. Then, their mother’s husband took a job 1800 miles away from Las Vegas and the locusts began their feeding frenzy again…. To say I felt overwhelmed with the loss of relationships is a gross understatement.
I was so very disappointed and depressed for the loss of the sibling relationships between our three children. And, mostly ANGRY at the selfishness of our family being unnecessarily ripped apart. I mourned the loss of having an “intact” family for our children. Sometimes, I doubted God’s goodness and questioned His presence. Other times, I felt like I fully deserved every terrible thing that was happening to me, my husband, and our three children.
After five more years since that tumultuous time began we settled into new rhythms. I’ll spare all the gory details and just say that our daughter lives in another state with her mother and our two sons live here with us. I would not be honest if I said, “I’m over it. I’ve moved on.” It still hurts. It will always hurt. The loss of speak-ability into our daughter’s life, the loss of relationship between us and her and between her and her brothers….It can never be like it was. But it CAN be something different.
I share my very personal story with you to let you know that, while we’re not suffering in our family due to death right now, we have and still are suffering LOSS. Those who are suffering from grief or loss MOST need someone to listen to them without criticism or judgment. During that difficult time it was most helpful when people were just PRESENT with us. When they just held us as we sobbed and loved us and didn’t try to cheer us up but said (if anything), “This just sucks. I am so sorry this has happened.”
Through these experiences, I learned some of the BEST and WORST ways to deal with this kind of loss. Believe me, I have been through it! What I would like to give you is THREE of the most important steps to take when dealing with loss of relationships:
Facing the hurt will help you heal.
The first, and most important step is to recognize that you have had a LOSS. People may say or you may think: “Well, it’s not like they DIED! They just live across the country. I mean, you can see them for Christmas and Summer Vacations…” Of course, that IS technically correct and I certainly don’t mean to equate our loss with that of someone who has lost loved ones to death.
However, you MUST recognize that you’ve had a LOSS: A loss of relationship or of hopes and dreams is STILL a loss. You cannot begin to heal until you first recognize this. Yes, it hurts. And when things hurt we tend to want to push them away, cover them up, bury them deep…. please, DON’T DO IT! Look it in the face. Say this out loud: “I am feeling sad/angry/scared/etc because I lost ______.” I promise, it will NOT make it worse. Instead, it is going to help you begin the HEALING process!
What will YOU choose? You can stew in INJUSTICE – or FORGIVE and let go. It’s your choice.
The next step is about the choices you have. You can choose to believe that GOD is in control of everything or that YOU are. You can choose to feel angry at the injustice of your situation. And I am sure you are right about that because we live in a sinful, fallen world. And kick and scream and do all you can to let everyone know that THIS. IS. WRONG!! I did this. For a while. It wasn’t very helpful. At all.
Or, you can choose to (still feel angry but) KNOW that God allowed this – and every other situation – to happen in your life for your good and His glory. This is MORE than “everything happens for a reason.” THIS is understanding His Word, that He will never leave or forsake you, that even though you don’t understand, He still loves you, He is grieving with you, He will never leave you. (John 16:33; Deuteronomy 31:6; Romans 8:38-39; Numbers 6:24-26)
Making a way forward IS possible! The final step is about how to manage the range of emotions (anger, sadness, loneliness, etc) we have in response to loss.
While the feelings of loss don’t ever really end, they absolutely do change. Sometimes this is a big heavy weight on your chest and other times it’s just a handbag slung over your shoulder. It may always be with you, but it’s not always going to be unmanageable. You just need to find a way forward now. How will you handle those days when the loss is unbearable? Will you lean on God? Or on those in your life when things are tough? Or will you just try to “suck it up” and make it on your own? Everyone grieves and responds to loss differently. But if you recognize your emotions, choose to believe that this is happening for your good and God’s glory, and take care of yourself by managing your emotions in a healthy way, you CAN heal.
I pray that YOUR journey will be less painful than mine and that it draws you closer to our God every day!