“RECOVERING FROM LOSSES”
Hi there, welcome back to another session.
Let’s again start with prayer:
Dear God, I know that for those who love God, all things work together for good. No matter what trouble I am facing, I trust that You will not leave my side. With Your wisdom in my heart, I can see the best in every bad situation. Amen.
Grief is heavy and exhausting work and goes through approximately 6 stages, but not necessarily in
Shock – Grief – Blame – Forgiveness – Saying ‘good-bye’ – Recovery and Helping others.
- How will I know that I am recovering?
- What will be the indication when it’s over?
- How will I feel when I’ve recovered from my loss?
Recovery is essential for any kind of loss, but the actual recovery period will vary depending upon the type of loss and its intensity.
Have you ever been in the hospital for an operation? If so, you know the procedure. After the operation is over, you are taken to a recovery room, where you may be for a few hours until the effects of the anesthesia begin to wear off. The term recovery is a bit misleading for this room. It certainly doesn’t mean total recovery. It means helping you adjust to the effects of the operation so that you are ready for the real recovery which will take time.
Recovery does not mean a once-and-for-all conclusion to your loss and grief. It is a two-fold process involving almost regaining your ability to function as you once did, and resolving and integrating your loss into your life. I said almost because in a sense you never recover completely because you will never be exactly the way you were before. Your loss changes you. Any loss changes you.
Someone once asked in a counseling session, “If I can’t be the way I was before and I never recover completely, what is all this about recovery? I’m confused. What does it mean? How can you recover and not recover fully?” – – –
- Recovery means you get your capabilities and attributes back so you can use them. Part of the process means you no longer fight your loss but accept it. Acceptance doesn’t mean that you would have chosen it or that you like it. You have learned to live with it as a part of your life. Recovery doesn’t mean you don’t mourn occasionally. It means you learn to live with your loss so you can go on with your life.
- Recovery is like living with a scar from an amputation, on occasion you will experience ‘phantom pains’. And you cannot predict when this will happen.
- Recovery means re-investing in life, looking for new relationships and new dreams. A newfound source of joy is possible. But, you could very well feel uncomfortable with whatever is new or with joy. Many times we feel that to experience the joys of life again is somehow wrong. Besides, if you begin to hope or trust again, you could also experience another loss. And that is risky!
Remember the source of our joy is the Lord. The Psalmist states that he “clothes us with joy”. God is the one who invites you to re-invest in life once again. Read Psalm 30. It’s printed in your book, chapter 7.
Do you realize that you have a choice in your recovery?
You may not have had a choice in your loss, but you have a choice in your recovery. The changes in you (identity, relationships, new roles, and even abilities) can be either positive or negative. That is where you have a choice.
Barbara Johnson writes in her book, “So, stick a Geranium in your hat and be happy”
(a very enjoyable book!): “Pain is inevitable but misery is optional.”
- Some people choose to live in denial and move ahead as though nothing had really happened.
- Then there are those stuck in the early stages of their grief who choose to live a life of bitterness and blame.
- Some become so hardened and angry that it is difficult to be around them for any extended length of time.
Everybody has made a choice. It is not the fault of other people or of God. Since life is full of losses from birth on, there is the choice of doing something constructive or destructive with loss. As Barbara Johnson says:
“Pain is inevitable but misery is optional”.
Let us consider what happened.
There are many people who experience a loss and say, “You know, it feels as though I opened the doors of a furnace and the heat I am experiencing is unbearable, I feel as though I am melting away. There’s going to be nothing left of me. I will be devastated.”
And sometimes life does feel that way. However, one of the greatest principles of handling life’s upsets and losses is found in the statement of three men who literally faced the furnace. Listen to their solution:
Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, and the bagpipe, and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But, if you will not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what God is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, o king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, o king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
“EVAN IF HE DOES NOT”
There it is:
A statement of trust, of faith, and of living above and beyond the circumstances of life.
We all have our own dreams, desires, expectations and hopes for life. If these come about then we say, “All is well. I can handle life and I’m content. Now I can have the peace and stability I was looking for.”
For too many of us our faith is dependent upon getting God to do what we think we need.
However, this is not the biblical pattern. It’s all right to say, “Oh, I hope it turns out that way.” – “I hope you will have a safe trip.” – “I hope he pulls through the operation.”
But we must also learn to say,
“I hope … but even if it doesn’t turn out that way, it will be all right.”
Our stability in life begins when we can trust and say these words, “even if He does not!”
- This is not denial of life’s problems.
- It is not “rolling over” and giving up or refusing to face life.
- It is a matter of surrendering to the wisdom of God and through this we gain strength.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5)
We all have our own “fiery furnace” to face at one time or another. When such a loss hits we must experience the normal emotional responses which are part of the healing process and then, with God’s strength and stability, face the results.
God does not always send in a rescue squad to get us out of the difficulty. He doesn’t always extinguish the fire in the furnace. He does come in and say, “Let’s go through this together.”
God gives us the grace to live life.
- Grace is really God’s assurance that life can be all right when everything in it is all wrong.
- Grace is the power to live life today as if things will be all right tomorrow.
Lexis Smedes says it so well:
“Grace does not make everything right.
Grace’s trick is to show us that it is right for us to live; that it is truly good, wonderful even, for us to be breathing and feeling at the same time that everything cluttering around us is wholly wretched.
Grace is not a ticket to Fantasy Island; Fantasy Island is dreamy fiction.
Grace is not a potion to charm life to our liking; charms are (only) magic.
Grace does not cure all our concerns, transform all our kids into winners,
or send us all soaring into he high skies of sex and success.
Grace is rather an amazing power to look earthly reality full in the face,
see its sad and tragic edges, feel its cruel cuts,
join in the primeval chorus against its outrages unfairness,
and yet – feel in your deepest being that it is good and right for you to be alive on God’s good earth.”
Let’s consider the Recovery (Stages of Grief) Chart so that you will know what to expect in loss and discover where you may be at this time.
Depending upon the severity of the loss You will experience the following in varying degrees.
Remember, there is no set timetable for how fast a person moves through the stages of grief.
- Shock can last a few seconds or even hours. It helps a person buy some time as he or she tries to grasp what has happened to his life.
- Numbness is like a shot of emotional Novocain; it is defined as “devoid of sensation, devoid of emotion”. The “exploding bombshell” puts most victims in a daze. Some go to bed and sleep. Some slump in a chair, gazing toward an unknown destination. And others turn to the telephone hoping that familiar voice will diminish their worst fears.
- Denial is refusing to face what has happened and refusing to face grief. It is normal and even necessary. It helps deal with one facet of the loss at a time. But it is important not to become stuck. One of the earlier chapters discussed this phase.
- Emotional outbursts are also normal. You’re living on emotions at this time and have very little control. At some point bargaining begins to emerge and is not an uncommon response. Bargaining is one last effort to control your life. Have you ever bargained with someone? Have you ever made any statements like these?
– Officer, I promise never again to go over 100 km an hour.
– If you cut the lawn, I’ll bake you a cake.
– I won’t report the accident to the police if you’ll promise to pay for the repairs.
– If you’ll forgive me for getting drunk at the party, I’ll get you that new dress.
– Dear God, I’ll be good if you promise to protect my family from tragedy.
– If you marry me, I’ll make you happy.
King David went through this particular stage of grief. His son whom Bathsheba bore fell ill (as had been prophesied). In 2 Samuel 12:16-23 it says:
“David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground… He would not eat any food.” When the child died, David’s servants hesitated to tell him the sad news for fear that “he may do something desperate”. However, once he heard the news, David went back to normal life. David explained his actions to his servants: “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
Genesis 18 records the story of how Abraham bargained with God. Because of the evil of the city of Sodom, God announced his intention to destroy it. Abraham protested. How could God, the righteous God, destroy the city if there were even only 10 righteous people in it?
Even Jesus, in his humanity knew this aspect of grief. In the Garden of Gethsemane on the evening of his arrest, knowing the agony that lay ahead, he was “deeply distressed and troubled”. He prayed, “Abba, Dad . . . everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me” (Mark 14:32 ff).
*Jesus did not fast as David did in hopes that God might change his mind.
*Jesus did not presume, like Abraham, that he understood God’s character of righteousness better than God himself. Instead, in the midst of his genuine grief and fear, he entrusted himself to God’s will. His prayer ended, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Jesus models for us the role of trust/faith in the midst of calamity. He faced squarely what was happening to him. He neither denied nor minimized his situation. And he grieved over what was happening to him. He wanted to escape from it, but he chose to trust God and thus move through this phase of grief. “Even if He (our Dad) does not . . .”
- Anger is difficult for some to accept and experience. But it will be there. It may be directed at what occurred, ourselves, another person, life itself, or God.
- Fear of all kinds emerge at this time. One of the main fears is the fear of abandonment – that we will be left alone.
- We search for support and help, but mostly for what we lost. Often this can take the form of reminiscing about a person or an object.
- During the time of disorganization, feelings come and go.
- You can see them ranging from panic to depression. It is normal and healthy to express as many feelings as you can. And you need someone to listen to you and accept those feelings. Feelings should not be denied at this point for feelings that are rejected delay the resolution of the problem. When feelings are denied, they are frozen.
Do you know what happens to water when it is frozen? The molecules actually expand. Thus water frozen in pipes has the power to burst those steel pipes wide open. Frozen emotions take on a power out of proportion to their original nature. During grief, it is important to keep the channels open for the feelings to flow when they need to.
We shouldn’t compare ourselves with others and say one particular way of release is the only way or the best way. Some people talk about their hurts and grief and some act them out.
*You may have a friend who spends a great deal of time working in the yard or jogging but does not talk about the loss of her spouse. You may be concerned that she is not dealing with her loss, but she may be doing just that in her own way.
*A man lost his father in a tragic fire. He lived near his father on an adjacent farm. One night, the home that he was born and raised in burned to the ground with his father inside. His response to this tragedy startled other family members.
He remained silent while they all wept and talked about the loss. This man borrowed a bulldozer and proceeded to bulldoze the ashes and charred remains of the house. He worked for hours, not even stopping for meals or rest.
Into the night he continued to bulldoze the remains back and forth, again and again. He gave his father and the home a proper burial but in his own way. The land which in a sense was his father’s cemetery, was now ready to be farmed and it would be by him. This man and his father were farmers and for most of their lives had worked together in the fields. They didn’t verbalize very much together nor did they share feelings. But they had a close, non-verbal relationship.
You and I may grieve with tears, but he grieved with his borrowed bulldozer. If you were to ask this man why he had done this, he could not give you an answer. He didn’t know why but he did something with his grief and it was probably the best this he could have done.
- Getting back into life and on with life will often involve 2 steps forward and 1 step back. You may be swept backward from time to time. It may be a pattern of trial and error. One day you feel like it and the next day the panic or fear of guilt or anger returns.
Let’s call these “Re-entry Troubles”. This is normal. Allow yourself to move through your grief in this way.
- You may begin to talk about the future with hope such as enjoying a new job, a new location, rebuilding a fire-destroyed home, considering remarriage, and so on. You have now just about completed your detachment from what you lost.
You are looking around for something new to bring into your life to which you can develop an attachment.
What happens now has started to take on some special significance for you. You have been in and through the depth of the valley and you are now climbing up the side of the mountain.
- Be prepared for the opinions and advice of others and sift through what you hear.
Others may not see the value of what you are doing now.
- Do not make any of your decisions during your down times. Wait until there is hope.
- And don’t despair because your feelings fluctuate. Your insight is returning and your objectivity can help you process information and new suggestions.
- The Bible and its teaching can assist you in your decisions during this phase. You are more receptive and capable of dealing with spiritual insights. Prior to this, scripture and prayer resources were there to support and sustain you. Now is the time to seek definite answers and direction through the teaching and reading of the Word.
Eventually you come to the place where you can experience hope.
Paul talks about hope in Romans 8:18-28 and 31-39. Let’s do a brief Bible Study together:
ROMANS 8:18-28, 31-39
In this passage, Paul identifies some universal problems such as suffering (v.18), frustration (v. 20), decay (v.21), pain (v.22), etc.
But Paul identifies several reasons for hope. What can you see as reasons for hope in verses 18, 21, 23, 31-32, and 38-39?
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Let’s consider what hope really is.
It is important to distinguish between wishful thinking and hope. The two are not the same.
- Wishful thinking is usually a form of denial (It’s not really that bad.), or bargaining (If I just pray enough, she won’t die.).
- Wishful thinking is a delusion that a person chooses to embrace to avoid the impact of pain.
- Wishful thinking ultimately disappoints because it does not deal with reality. Often it ends in bitterness: I prayed so hard for her healing, but she died anyway. There is no God out there, or if there is a God, then he is not loving and I want nothing to do with him.
- Hope, in contrast, is realistic. It does not allow a person to ignore the situation, nor to pretend that he or she has the power to ward off the inevitable by means of good intentions or willpower.
- Instead, hope allows the person to see beyond the pain, beyond the loss, beyond the hurt, to a broader perspective with which to interpret the pain and loss of the moment. Eternal Life. From the perspective eternal life, human mortality loses its power to overwhelm us. Just ask yourself, “How would I see this in 1000 years from now?”
- Hope can trust in God’s goodness in the midst of God’s hiddenness.
- Hope sees the truth of the future through the eyes of faith, and interprets the present in its light.
Hope differs from wishful thinking in significant ways:
- If wishful thinking is like a spark that kindles a flame which is, in turn, quickly extinguished by the next dose of reality, hope is like a steady warmth that gently but persistently radiates heat in any of the stages of life and grief.
- Wishful thinking is based on the way I think life should be. Hope is based on the way life really is. Hope is rooted in a thoughtful reflection on God’s perspective of life and reality.
- Wishful thinking is a solitary delusion. While others see the facts for what they are, the individual caught by wishful thinking holds on to a fantasy. Hope is a shared experience, often uniting a whole community through times of suffering.
- Wishful thinking has no place for suffering or loss. Hope honestly faces these experiences and interprets them in the light of a bigger reality, God’s reality.
Eventually you will come to the place where you will be able to take what you have leaned and assist others. Bob Deits in “Life After Loss” said this about recovery:
“Recovery is feeling better.
Recovery means claiming your happiness in your circumstances.
Recovery is finding new meaning for living without fear of future abandonment.
Recovery is being able to enjoy fond memories without having them precipitate painful feelings of loss, guilt, regret, or remorse.
Recovery is acknowledging that it is perfectly all right to feel bad from time to time and talk about those feelings no matter how those around you react.
Recovery is one day realizing that your ability to talk about the loss you’ve experienced is in fact helping another person get through his or her loss.”
Please, read chapter #7 in your book. If you wish you can complete all of the questions and exercises in chapter #7. It will help you in discovering the extent of your recovery. Don’t be in a hurry – take your time.
Let’s close with prayer:
“Lord, thank you for this time of reflection. As we go on with our daily life now, please help us remember the thought “How would I see this problem 1000 years from today?” and the words “Even if He does not!” from the book of Daniel. Lord, cause us to learn to trust in You during every hour of every day, in total confidence. Amen.”