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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What Is Intense, Lifelong Grief Really Like?

“Grief is crippling; an experience tearing and shredding your soul, your deepest core... it hits like a tidal wave, throws us upside down/inside out... and you still have to deal with life.”
— Viv Harvey
DEFINITIONS like the one above, descriptions of such deep and unrelenting anguish, juxtaposed with the reality that ‘life goes on!’, decree that life is a lot harder for some than it is for others.
Grief normally has something of a journey about it. We traverse a chasm without knowing beforehand its length. This is both frightening and frustrating. It’s a period of identity obliteration or deformation, and it takes longer than we ever expect it for our souls’ reformation to occur. Of course, soul reformation is about doing much grief work. Grief occurs amidst a flurry of highly intensive emotions of all kinds, predominantly negative, and most of them severely debilitating. The intensity of grief lasts a certain time – months, a year at most.
But some grief lasts... and lasts... and lasts a lifetime.
The Ambiguity in Lifelong, Unreconciled Grief
Within psychological science there is the phenomenon of ambiguous grief – a sort of grief that is as palpable as it is intangible. It is arresting yet irresolvable. This is a lose-lose situation.
It is very hard, perhaps impossible within one’s perception, to fully recover from such grief. In some cases it involves the reliving of trauma. In others it is simply the case that a certain ever-groaning sadness is inescapable. Probably in most cases of ambiguous grief it is difficult to control the pendulum as it swings between these two manifestations.
Hope... through Enabled Management of Life
But there is hope as we move our perspective from a state of acknowledged yet debilitating sadness to a state of enabled management of life.
We have our minds and we have our hearts – our spiritual possessions of capacity. We are good guides for ourselves when we are open to the revelation of the Holy Spirit – for only we can say how we truly feel.
Enabled management of life within a person’s ambiguous grief, it seems to me, to be about accepting the continuity of the affliction (the rolling flux of good days – bad days – good days, etc) and simply managing it through an ever-growing-and-abounding suite of coping tools. Such coping tools include exercises, routines of peace, hope, and joy, connection with mentors, nature connection, desiring God, prayer and silence focused on eternity, etc.
Enabled management of life is the gift, also, of an enhanced form of living. This is about the belief that we have been scourged for a reason – a purpose. This is not about resentment. If it is, we are rendered useless for the Kingdom. But even in resentment we may bring glory to God. No, enabled management of life is about two core things: 1) knowing a spiritual enablement that means 2) we can manage our lives with the Spirit’s help. Power is experienced despite the pain.
If we believe these words, then they have power. There is no power where there is no belief. But words also have to be true. We will only believe what we know within ourselves to be truth, as we encamp with God’s Spirit and he confirms it.
Some experiences of grief are irresolvable. Such unresolved soul-loss can, however, be managed in an enabling way, though it is never ‘easy’. Sufferers ought to be treated with compassion and grace and kindness.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

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