“grief is itself a medicine.” ~ william cowper
thank you for your honest & beautiful & hard responses to what the first 2 posts in this series have stirred up. i’m always reminded in these moments how many of us are out there asking the same questions, feeling the same feelings, trying to find our way. if you haven’t read them already, read the intro post & part 1. honoring the process first.
as i mentioned yesterday, grief work is a big part of this journey toward something new with God. i’m not going to go into all of the ins and outs of grief here, but it is really important to acknowledge that these shifts are losses.
like death & divorce & other big events where nothing will ever be the same anymore.
an initial part of any kind of grief is denial. we often protect ourselves by minimizing, suppressing, pushing down the feelings, and blaming. it’s scary to actually feel the magnitude of the loss, and sometimes in the early part of our grieving process, we just can’t.
but eventually, our healing requires it.
i am one of the best minimizers in town. i know how to gloss over pain, make it not-as-bad, take the blame, anything, really, to not feel hard feelings. on this spiritual shifting process, though, what i keep learning is how important it is to respect and honor what i am really feeling instead of hide behind “it’s not that big of a deal, what’s my problem anyway, i just need to get over it and figure out a way to move on.” my middle name could be “bootstraps”–yep, kathy bootstraps escobar. i know what it means to pull myself up by my bootstraps and carry on.
it usually always comes back to bite me.
moving through this hard stuff toward renewal and change, a bootstraps-mentality will get us into trouble because we’ll avoid looking at the real feelings underneath. when it comes to issues around pain & healing, i always say “pay now or pay later with interest.” if we push it down and try to minimize, avoid, or skim over it, eventually the pain & hurt will ooze out, but even stronger with more collateral damage.
for me, one of the hardest parts on my spiritual journey has been acknowledging how much i have really lost over the years through this process. it’s easy to look at my life now and see how much i’ve gained. it’s true, i am free-er & healthier than i’ve been in a long time. but the truth is, i’ve still lost a lot of what i once held dear. things that protected me. comforted me. buoyed me. helped me. loved me. so much has gone since i left the fold of familiar and traditional systems and started on this new path.
many of us are very in touch with our losses already; they are on the tip of our tongue, and we have been saying them out loud for a while. others of us may have a harder time with acknowledging losses. we may even feel shame for admitting some of them. we may think they aren’t that big of a deal, that they aren’t real losses or shouldn’t hurt so much.
i want to keep reminding everyone is that this kind of loss is real.
and part of moving forward toward renewal & change is to acknowledge our losses in safe spaces.
this is not so that we can feel cruddier about ourselves and feel more lost. but rather so that we can own the reality of our experience and respect the costs. acknowledging losses is painful but it also validates something important in our souls. it gives us the ability to go “oh yeah, that was really hard. i miss that. i miss them. i’m sad about that. it hurts.”
in our walking wounded: hope for those hurt by the church class, we process this more intentionally, but for the sake of brevity and one blog post, i want to challenge us each to consider what we’ve lost so far in this weird & scary process. it helps us be able to move forward.
if you want to, write them down somewhere. consider both tangible and intangible losses. tangible ones are clear and real, as in “i lost my job” or “i lost my church family” or “i lost this relationship or friendship.” intangible ones are a little harder to pin down but equally important–“i lost my safety and security” or “i lost my passion for anything related to God” or “i lost my ability to trust my instincts.”
below are some of mine off the top of my head; a lot of my process includes church baggage.
over time, i have lost:
- some really important friendships that i still grieve.
- a good paying ministry job.
- my innocence.
- my confidence.
- trust in leadership, almost any kind.
- the ability to experience a spiritual high.
- security, the safety net of other people who thought & believed & were just like me.
- desire and passion for the Bible in the ways that used to clearly “work.”
- the comfort of certainty, damn i miss it sometimes.
what about you, what have you lost? if you’re willing to be honest here, i think it would help others feel less alone. i know it always helps me.
* * * * *
next in the series we’ll switch gears to: discovering what remains