Grief Recovery

You’re not okay…

…in fact, you’re a mess.

There is a path through grief.

You can’t go around it, under it, nor over it.

The path to recovery is through the pain.

Everyone’s path through grief will have its own time and journey.

There will be similarities and differences.

The path has steps, but they are not concrete; especially at first.

Grief takes as long as it takes.

How will you know when you are better? When you’re better.

You are the one who determines when you are better.

Not some statistic or therapist, counselor or well-meaning friend or loved one.

Grieving can put you in a terrible bind.

It’s healthy and necessary to grieve loss(es). Bigger grief feelings mean the loss(es) are bigger. The more important the relationship between you and what is or was lost, the bigger your grief. The bigger the grief, the more critical it is to grieve.

And there’s this terrible bind that happens for the one grieving.

You tell yourself all kinds of things while attempting to survive.

Grief is about a broken heart, not a broken brain (James & Friedman, 2009, p. 5).

Just one of the binds in grieving is I’m guessing you tell yourself you shouldn’t be such a mess. And yet, you’re a mess.

Then you blame yourself for being a mess? What an awful, terrible place.

Grief spares no one.

I’m married to a fantastic woman who loves me, and I love her.

I experienced amazing life transformation in Christ as I participated in Celebrate Recovery (CR). I was doing so well on so many fronts. The Church recruited me as the fulltime CR pastor – it was a lifelong dream.

We had no debt and more than enough. Relationships with our adult children were great. No health issues. In fact, at the time, I had lost 65-pounds. I felt great and looked better than ever.

Life is perfect, right? Nope.

The summer of 2013 found me in despair.

I was sad. Deeply, horrifically sad.

My wife knew. I had close friends, and they understood I was in a dangerous place. I knew it, too.

But I didn’t know what to do.

One of the life-transforming things God had done for me in my journey is that he freed me from much of the anger and resentment that fueled my first 50 years.

It had been a long time since I last acted out in anger, but let’s hold that thought.

Darkness surrounded me.

I was unable to shake it. I go to sleep and wake in sadness.

As I am leaving for my morning commute, my wife looks into my eyes with grave concern. She knows I’m dying inside. I know she would love to relieve my sorrows, but she can’t. Day after day she asks, “What can I do?” pleading with her eyes. She’s in pain watching me in pain. I always respond, “There’s nothing you can do, except keep loving me and praying for me.”

Knowing she loved me and would do anything to help seems to briefly deepen my sadness as I’m helpless to help her.

Surrounded by loving and caring people at the Church doesn’t help. They do not fully realize my depth of darkness. Walking alone through the expanse of the Church, I often wished I could find a private corner where I could lay down in a fetal position and cry.

But I cannot cry. I have no tears. Just sorrow, despair, and sadness.

This kind of darkness is NOT my friend.

One fateful Wednesday at the Church, I do something that could have gotten me fired.

Seven pastors and I are on our way to a retreat center for all-day prayer. We stop for breakfast, eight men of God sitting around a table. My boss is there and asks the men how they’re doing. He’s just trying to make meaningful conversation. But now I’m in a terrible bind.

Can you feel it? The dilemma of “will I be brutally honest?” Will I share my truth of sadness, despair, and sorrow?

What would you do? What do you think I did?

I shared my truth. I took a huge gamble with my career in front of my boss and peers.

Then it happened! The pastor across from me meant no wrong. He had no harmful intent. He was doing the best he could at the time; I firmly believe what I just said… but…

In the moments, as I hear him trying to fix me, I feel the stirring of anger.

A NEGATIVE back-and-forth conversation happens in-and-between this man and me. My anger turned to controlled rage against this man. We make attempts at apologies. Breakfast goes slow and silently after that. I’m ashamed of myself.

We arrive at the retreat, and I sleep the day away coming out only when I must go for appearance’s sake.

That day was a gift. A gift because I could no longer deny how my sadness, despair, and sorrow was impinging on my life and those I love. Over the next week, I make personal amends with each pastor.

I return to seeing my therapist, which becomes a game changer for me.

He had been my therapist for about 18 months as I worked through life – as my first marriage was ending and my adult daughter had died of a drug overdose before that. He knew me.

I recounted the events leading up to and including the breakfast event, but he stopped me mid-sentence.

He says, “I know what your problem is.” Really? Clue me in.

“You’re grieving.”

It was like a light went off in my heart.

Grieving. Huh. That makes sense.

He knew a lot about me, my Church staff roles, and the staff.

As he mapped out the good reasons I was grieving, I felt a glimmer of peace emerge deep in my soul.

Grieving. Why didn’t I see that? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.

I begin grieving the losses I had been sensing were happening for a long time. (I’ll spare you the details of the losses I was feeling and the specifics of my recovery.)

Light begins penetrating my soul as I take on the Tasks of Grieving.

What to Expect in Your Grief Journey

  • Tears are healthy and appropriate. Take time to cry in private, or with those who can comfort and support you.
  • Your appetite may increase or decrease.
  • Sleep Patterns May Change – you may sleep more or less
  • Energy Levels may Decrease, or you may not feel like doing anything
  • Life may seem not worthwhile or meaningful; this can be a normal reaction to acute grief and will diminish over time.
  • You may have intense feelings of anger
  • Some people find their faith challenged as they question past values and beliefs

Mourning is the outward expression of grief.

With gentleness and empathy, I walk with you in your recovery.

Broadly speaking, I rule out physical disease. One should never enter a course of grief therapy when a physical symptom is an initial presentation unless there is the absolute exclusion of physical disease behind the symptom.

We’ll set up a contract and establish an alliance. You’ll agree to explore your relationship with the person(s), places(s), or thing(s) involved in the loss(es).

We’ll talk about grief and the rationale for what I will be asking you to do.

This kind of therapy is brief therapy, and the focus is specific.

Past relationships are explored only if they directly affect the response to the immediate sorrow.

We’ll revive memories of the deceased.

I’ll help you talk about the person(s), place(s), or thing(s) involved in your loss(es). We’ll talk about the easy and the hard things about the loss(es); the good and the bad about the loss(es).

You’ll begin building a groundwork of positive memories that will help you later.

Balance will begin to emerge for you and will enable you to get in touch with some of the negative areas.

We’ll spend considerable time in the early sessions talking about the person(s), places(s), or thing(s), particularly about positive characteristics and qualities and pleasant activities that you used to enjoy.

We’ll assess the stuck place(s). Where is the struggle in grieving?

We’ll break it down into Four Tasks:

Task 1 – Accept the Reality of the Loss(es)
Task 2 – Process and Experience the Pain or Grief
Task 3 – Adjusting to a New World Without the Person, Place, or Thing that was Lost
Task 4 – Finding and Enduring Connection with the Loss(es) While Embarking on New Life

You have good reasons when you avoid unpleasant feelings.

I also had good reasons. Unfortunately, our good reasons can leave us stuck in limbo, even though we’re not stuck in every area of our life.

We can function well enough at times, then Get Tackled By Feelings – right back in sadness and unable to get out.

There are new, and ultimately different, ways to get unstuck.

I know the Pathway Through Grief and into Recovery.

Call me today so that I can help you find your way out! (501) 205-4570