When I began this blog, I knew that writing once a week would have to work in with my schedule and my life in general, something that entails ups and downs. I also knew that I would often revive my grief experiences, just as I do when I present programs. All of these things provide opportunity for coming closer to Jesus through pain, exploration of Scripture, and deeper understanding.
What I did not expect was to be writing a blog entry at a time when fresh grief surrounds me. Today I learned that a favorite cousin is suffering from cancer which has spread and is now in hospice care. He is someone I have known and treasured my whole life, and even though I know that his Christian faith is strong and his place in Heaven is assured, I am hurting.
One horrible side effect of grief for some people is guilt, and I really feel for them. In my case, there is no guilt but there is some regret, something that I think most grieving people face at least to some extent. When my cousin’s older brother died, we had some very special time to talk, and I learned more of his belief in Jesus as well as his life in Maine.
I promised to visit him and his wonderful wife and hopefully meet more of their grown family. They had a favorite camping spot in the forest in Maine, and my love of such places drew me even more to the idea of spending time with them there. Unfortunately, my promise to him seemed to have no timeline, and it was easy to think I would make that visit someday, a someday that always seemed possible.
Instead, I must treasure that talk of some time ago and all of the contact we have had by mail, by Facebook, and by other means. Despite my regrets, I know that my cousin knows that I love him and pray for him. I can turn to Jesus’ words and be reassured that He blesses such relationships and comforts us when we grieve. Thank God for faith!
I want to share some new thoughts I have had about grief and depression recently. I think about these things often, searching for truths for myself and for others with similar experiences. Often, these thoughts on grief incorporate encouraging others to stay busy, to reach out to others, to call on the resilience which allows us to continue with life no matter how difficult our experiences.
The focus has been on the dangers of staying in the black hole which feeds inactivity, lack of ambition and coping skills. There is no question that grief and depression can suck us in and rob us of normal life. Often, people dealing with those conditions find themselves unable to do anything or even to want to do anything.
However, I am going through a period right now of the opposite, of over-activity, of frenetic dashing from one thing to another, including lots of travel. Everything I am doing is good, everyone involved is very worth my time, and the activities are worthwhile and fun. Unfortunately, all of that does not change the fact that all of this is too much.
My overly busy life made me aware that encouraging people to stay busy may be appropriate in some cases but is not the whole answer to dealing with grief or with life in general. We need to find a balance. The biggest problem with erring on the excessively busy side is that we too often don’t make time for both talking to and listening to Jesus. Then we can lose our way in all our activities and get out of step with God’s will.
Grief and depression will not be healed by avoidance, by running away in all directions instead of following Jesus’ way. Just as we can be damaged by inactivity and wallowing in grief, we can also be damaged by a lack of real answers and direction by the Savior who loves us so much.
Please join me as I pray for guidance to find that balance that allows each one of us to live a good life with God’s blessings but also to honor the grief and the loved one or loved ones whose loss has an effect on our lives.
Photography is a popular hobby, particularly during June and July when weddings and holidays and family gatherings bring people together. Photography becomes even more popular during Fair time, when displays and judging classes bring it to the forefront. Lying on my table today are a number of photographs that need to be matted for Fair competition.
Photography can also play a major role in dealing with grief, for the very reason that we take pictures when families are together or when significant events such as births, weddings and baptisms are happening. Our use of photography in that way began when our children lost a favorite pet and could go back and see him in happy times with each one of them, playing and working as a ranch dog. A picture lends itself to a story and to emotions.
Recently we attended an event with dear friends where pictures were taken. As I was adjusting the camera for a picture of their family, I became acutely aware that one person was significantly missing, a person whose sad and untimely death changed family numbers and dynamics forever. They will always be a close family, but never the same family again.
At that moment, I was in two different time frames with two different groups of people. Family and friends like us can always combine the memories with the present. Then in a moment of clarity, I saw all of us through the lens of God’s camera, He who knew us before we were in our mother’s womb and knows us throughout all of our existence for eternity.
Just as the slide show captured all the stages of our son Josh’s life at his funeral, so God holds in His hands all the stages of our lives. The scenes include many who die before us, many whom we mourn and then miss at every family occasion, many whom we would like to fit back into the picture at least for the moment, if we only had the means.
Photographs can be so celebratory and healing if we only see them through God’s eyes, as capturing a moment of life which for one reason or another we will never get back yet which is part of the whole and reason for thankfulness and praise.
Recently I shared ideas in a program at the Methodist Church in Havre, Montana, on grief, depression, faith and healing. I enjoyed renewing acquaintance with a friend whom I had not seen for about 45 years, and her arrangements brought in a group of very nice people who appreciated what I had to offer.
The only cloud In this sunny scene was that due to fatigue and recent events, I was often teary. The people were understanding and sympathetic, but it does hamper a program a bit when the speaker is dealing with tears.
Dealing with tears gave me reason to contemplate the place of tears in our lives. We all know that tears are at times frustrating and at times embarrassing, but more often they are outward signs of God-given emotions which play a mostly healthy role in our lives. As babies and toddlers, we cry a lot, sometimes as the only means of communication, but as we age we work on control of tears, saving them for serious sadness.
Then where do tears fit into the adult Christian life? First, because we know from Scripture that Jesus wept over Jerusalem and we always do well to follow Him, we know that tears are appropriate when we are hurt and grieving as He was for His people. Second, any time that we commit to loving and caring for people – one of Jesus’ new commandments – we are going to experience not only joy but sorrow and the tears that accompany sorrow.
Just as He calmed the storms, Jesus promises comfort in our life storms. He was always – and is always – sympathetic toward people and understanding of their sorrows. When we cry either openly or inside, we should feel His arms around us and His compassion radiating through us. Sometimes it is His will that these tears be healing, and that should give us hope.
Finally, it is significant that one of the descriptors of Heaven in the Bible is that it is a place where tears will come to an end, along with pain and sorrow. What a promise! While we accept suffering, sorrow and tears as part of the human condition, we can look forward to the day that He takes all of those things away. Hallelujah!
I just want to continue to share ideas about grief and life with people who long as I do for comfort and understanding.