Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Thoughts I'm Thinking on this Journey of Grief

Just a quick warning. This post may seem a bit "prickly." I am not apologizing for it - just giving any and all fair warning.

I've had a few interactions lately where I declined an activity and knew I was disappointing people. The activity doesn't really matter for the purpose of our discussion; they've been wide-ranging. 

I made the comment in a family chat, "I think grief is making me selfish," and it seemed to me I needed to guard against selfishness.  I've lived a life of service and other-focus, and it seemed I was sliding into an over-abundance of self-focus. 

via google photos
The kids did not agree (Michael doesn't participate in the chat because - flip phone). They shared what various counselors have told them - it is not selfish, especially this early, to refrain from situations which bring needless pain.  There was also talk of boundaries. When Michael heard about the thread he found me, looked me in the eye and said, "Self-care is not selfish." 

WHAT? You are quoting me back to me? snort:: There was a season in my life when Michael was at war, I was homeschooling and traveling internationally for women's ministry when a very wise woman kept saying those words to me. I write about it and share part of her email here.  Since that season of ministry self-care is something I've worked on. It cracked me up when one of my gals posted online the same day, "self-care is not selfish" in response to a comment I made. 

I'd always thought of self-care as something like a pedicure, a walk in the park or a trip to the library in the midst of a busy life.  I hadn't even thought of THIS situation in those terms. I begin to see, in this time of profound pain, it is going to be necessary to practice profound self-care.  A pedicure, though I need to schedule one, is not going to be all the self-care I need. snort:: AND if I don't spend some time focusing on SELF-CARE, it may be impossible or at least more difficult to find healing. 

Next, I realized I've been sure to be there for others while encouraging counselling and self-care, but I need to tend to ME now. Everyone is on course... 

I evaluated what is working and what isn't...

I've realized people fall into at least two groups; one group leads to healing, the other group does not. This isn't the time to delve into that topic. Maybe it's another post...everyone believes they are expressing love. 

Big groups like Sunday morning at ACF are working. Those who knew Josiah and the church's leadership know who we are, but we can also be mostly incognito. The added bonus is worshipping with many of our family. We understand the expectations, and there aren't a ton of surprises to trigger emotional breakdowns.  Well, except when Mason swung into "Gratitude," I think all, but GG, lost it...but it was o.k. We were in church; people do cry during worship, and the lights are rather low.

Recently we have felt like going out, and we have begun reaching out to those who have been offering their presence and waiting until we were ready to socialize....and this is good.  There has been so much loss. We really don't want to lose dear friends because we no longer attend the same church. There were tears at each outing but not overwhelming and no prolonged sessions of grieving sobs afterwards.  Honestly, with more margin in our lives, we have TIME for more community. 

Bigger social outings aren't working well at this point - be that family gatherings or social events. Eventually, the small talk and noise overwhelm me; my mind begins to wander, and I end up sobbing. Is that bad? Not necessarily. In a family gathering, I wasn't the only one with the problem. We simply cry when needed, laugh as needed and move on. I have heard from others who experienced something similar, and they say that eventually social outings go back to normal. 

Here are my conclusions:

Self-care in this season IS 

  • pulling away from ministry responsibilities
  • attending church with our children
  • signing up for counseling
  • maintaining relationships and friendships which support healing
  • avoiding social outings which cause distress
  • spending time in His presence finding daily grace
  • YES...reading a book, getting a pedicure or watching Hallmark movies can fit in here too. 

Boundaries: This one is always the hardest to figure out. I suspect a counselor will be able to help with this one; this is what I have come up with so far. 

  • Pursue relationships which bring comfort and healing.  Some relationships may be lost or have to be paused if they consistently lead to false guilt. Shoot - this could vary week by week or even day by day... 
  • Pursue activities which promote spiritual growth and healing. 
  • Take care to not step back into what could be considered a "ministry responsibility" unless Michael and I BOTH agree it supports both spiritual growth and healing in THIS season. 
  • Do not succumb to pressure to do something to meet someone else's need to my detriment - in this season the focus is the very real needs I have because self-care is not selfish. 
Please note I am not a self-centered person. Doing self-care is a very deliberate act, and I fully understand there will be a time I will need to "get back to ministry," or "get back to life"...but I will determine when that time is in cooperation with a counselor, my family and spiritual guidance. I am a recovering people-pleaser; I will not be pressured to step back into ministry or these other social settings before it is best for me and my family. My goal is deep healing...not a surface band-aide. We will know when it's time to move forward - that is up to us, not observers. 

These have been my thoughts of the past few days...this and the fact that folks glibly say things like...."God restored all to Naomi in the end" or "Job's family and finances were all replaced in the end" or "God always has a plan." Yes, he does, but it's not helpful to ignore the painful realities in Scripture and in people's lives.  Naomi carried the loss of her husband and sons throughout her life. Job carried the grief of losing his children the rest of his life. YES, God restores...but y'all, don't be glib. It's actually much MORE meaningful if you catch that these are humans whom God blessed while they lived with their grief.  

I've also been exploring the difference between mourning and grief, but that will be a whole other post. 

Oh - and a gentle revelation which was a light bulb moment for me...."It is well with my soul," is NOT Scripture, y'all. It's a SONG. It was not always well with Jesus' soul...He wept, read about Lazarus' death, the Garden of Gethsemane, or his reaction after his cousin John was executed. Read a Psalm or two - it wasn't ALWAYS well with David's soul. It's OK for things to not be well with my soul. It doesn't mean I am sinning or weak or in danger of "backsliding."  It means I will GO THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death aware of HIS PRESENCE, and at some point, it may AGAIN be well with my soul. We are most helpful to others when we let ourselves be honest with both the Scripture and our lives. 


Anonymous said...

You are an amazing person my dear friend. Your words I understand completely. Our lives are forever changed. I love you ❤️πŸ™

Anonymous said...

Thank you for these thoughts. There is so much fellowship in them. Much love and grace to you, De'Etta.

Anonymous said...

So beautifully penned. I've had so much grief and have never given myself permission to work through it. Gods grace IS sufficient for this day, but I have been negligent to my own healing process. It's okay to NOT be okay. Lord thank you for never leaving us, nor abandoning us.
I pray for continued covering over Jetta, Carrie, Olivia, and the new baby. Comfort, uphold, strengthen and fill them with grace and mercy… Help them to find joy each and every day.
in Jesus name. A

Anonymous said...

So GR8TFUL for your transparency regarding your grief journey! I agree with so much of it and have experienced some of it too! I also love hearing that you are seeking therapy - God has used my therapist, and our sessions, to bring healing and growth! So much of my past came up in our grief discussions and I am overcoming being a people pleaser as well! And, I have lost a ton of people who I use to be close to for various reasons! Secondary grief is very real and very hard! Continuing to think about you and praying for y’all!

Shelley Lee in MA said...

DeEtta, Lost my sister to cancer when she was 23 in 1998. I have settled with the fact that I won't be able to make sense of it on this side of eternity. I don't know that we can make sense of everything or find a "reason" for everything. Only Jesus knows and he will tell me about it when I get on the other side....

OH! The other thing my Mom commented on was the people that were in her life that just did not know what to do and just could not seem to come along side her during that time... It is just what it is I guess. But something that can happen as well.

Hugs to you all....

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your openness and honesty. God never intended that we should not attend to ourselves. Phil 2:3 kept me from addressing my own struggles and hurts for years until God pointed out to me Phil 2:4 "Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too". What? ! I could pay attention to my self too?!? This sounded like self-care not being selfish but expected. If you spilled boiling water on your hands, no one would fault you for focusing on your hands and doing all you could to ease the pain and work on healing the wound. Grief is the unseen wound that must be attended. Be gracious with yourself and know that with your honesty in this season you are helping others who may be walking their own grief journey. God has blessed me by allowing me to see and know your heart all these years. I pray for you constantly knowing Father will walk with you in this journey.

Anonymous said...

Didn't mean to post anonymously. Love you sweet friend, Gilda

Julia said...

My dear friend. You are amazing. It has only been a month since Josiah was murdered. I am in awe that you can even process that fact, let alone these complex and nuanced, emotional and theological ideas. The fact that you can talk about grief as something you could possibly move through is astounding! Have grace for yourself, and for those you grieve with. No one wants to be on stage during the worst moment of their life and the anonymity of the dark worship space is beautiful. I pray for you and grieve with you as you grieve, not because I knew Josiah, but because we carry one another’s burdens Grieving is simply all you have the energy to do