Epiphanies About Grief – Is It Strictly About Death and Dying?

When we are grieving, what happens?  Common knowledge includes what is outlined in “The 5 Stages of Grief” (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, 1969) and “The Seven Steps for Handling Grief; Because You Care” (Barbara Russel-Chesser, 2014) among so many other wonderful writings on the subject.  In a nutshell, they pretty much say the same things – great information, disseminated a little differently. 

Here’s the thing about grief that we tend to forget…. It isn’t all around death and dying. And the reason I write about this subject is far from simple…

This is all stuff covered in your basic high school level psychology class. So if you were one of the “lucky ones” to get into Psychology, these things should be common knowledge… Our life is partly steered by the circumstances that occur around us, and partly steered by our choices… and half of the time (not a scientifically proven statistic, but it makes sense to me) we lose in the process… What we lose could be big – a person, our home, a job – or it could be what some would consider “less” in this relative world we live in, based upon one’s own sense of value.

“So, what does this have to do with Seeds of Grace?” you may ask. Well, an epiphany I had a few weeks ago directly related the feelings I have been experiencing around some particular situations I have experienced while acting as the Executive Director of this organization, and what I have been feeling around the upcoming anniversary of my dad’s passing.

Many of you know about how God restored mine and dad’s relationship – truly a miracle that you can read about HERE. So grieving his death was really the first true understanding of loss I had experienced. I have lost others in my life – but theirs was more of a celebration of their transition into the arms of Jesus. I think the difference was that I was so shocked, sad, angry, confused and disappointed at myself for not hearing the voice of God earlier – so that less time could have been wasted in my angry, unforgiving and hurt state and we could have had more time enjoying each other when he wasn’t sick.

… And back to how does this apply to Seeds of Grace….

Over the last three years since this ministry was launched, I have seen so many people coming and going through what feels like a revolving door – people who step in, sign up, become overwhelmed, disgruntled or disenchanted then step back out. Typically, they are people who want to make a difference in their world, community or just their own hearts; who could directly relate to the mission of Seeds of Grace in tangible and profound ways. But my tendency to “Dream Big Ask Bold” (a directive from God Himself) had an effect, that would cause these great-intentioned hearts to become disappointed in me, themselves or some phase of the process.

I have experienced every stage of grief with each of these losses… I feel personally responsible for the inability of these people to give the way they felt drawn to give. I feel as if I have betrayed God in the process – as I have not been a good steward of His blessing. Some of those times, in my naivety, inexperience and (Christian) immaturity, I know that my lack of communication about the details and expectations was directly responsible for this exodus. The loss of these people all have been, or are still in the process of being grieved by me.

Sometimes the loss is of a particular space for a garden or partnership that didn’t evolve. Sometimes the loss is for an opportunity, which I can see upon looking back, was a door opened by God.  Sometimes the loss I grieve is simply for the ability to claim naivety – which is peeled away daily by the fire that continually tests my metal.

My heart aches at the loss of my dad… some days it is simply crippling. I can’t even take a step forward without feeling intense regret and responsibility for this loss – but then God’s presence and comfort overcomes with a more rational thought process. God reassures me that the growth He blessed me with during my estrangement from dad, would not have happened if our relationship had not undergone this…  He also ensures me that HIS timing, and not mine is the determining factor…

And the flipside of the epiphany is this: As I have walked through all of the challenges in the midst of learning what God needs me to learn to lead His ministry, He has actually shown me in very practical ways how these losses have actually benefitted His purpose – His plan… He uses people in this process, as examples for me to follow – My sister, whose daughter died of cancer – my friends who are walking through similar changes as me, life’s challenges prevalent daily.  I watch them all overcome, while leaning into God and gaining strength – while learning themselves what it is that God needs to teach them through it all.

So this grief, while totally justified, ends up being a catalyst into that next phase of development … of me… of Seeds of Grace. The final phase of grief is triumph. TRIUMPH – for even though I might consider something a loss – and grieve it – God always wins! And there are always triumphs… but they are not directly proportionate to the loss – no indeed! They are great triumphs! If measured in amount, it FAR outweighs, outlasts and outperforms the grief it resulted from. The one last thing that God always ensures me of: He can restore these broken relationships… He can redeem friendships, past opportunities and He can grow hearts past the hurts, making stronger the because of the grief.  He already has!

Karole JohnsonComment