Navigating Grief with Grace 1.3 - Why am I Struggling?
Last podcast we discussed that what you are feeling is normal. This podcast we are going to talk about the struggles you are dealing with as you are grieving. You may wonder “WHY am I struggling”. So to answer your question, it is because you are grieving. Grieving comes with the emotions AND the struggles. Not a lot of people talk about the struggles of grief whether we are in the secular or the Christian community. We think that we need to put on this bravado. We tell ourselves and others that we are okay, that we are just going through a tough week, month, season. But if we do not address and speak life into the struggles we are facing that struggling season seems to carry on forever. There are very real struggles we face throughout grief. I feel that the church may put on a “bible verse band aid” or what not a lot of the time. Get yourself plugged into a church that knows life has struggles that are fixed with the Bible and a community of counselors, doctors, or whatever it is you need to get through the struggle according to God’s Word. I am so thankful for the church that I am a part of that doesn’t put a band aid on these things but addresses them. So if you decide you need a church and you’re local I’d love to connect you. This podcast strives to be more than a band aid but to be real with grief and life in general. I’m here so you feel that you are not alone and that I struggle too. This Jesus- lovin’, Bible nerd, seminary student working toward preacher lady,bible teacher status struggles too. I’m not cured from struggles or immune and to be honest at times it feels quite the opposite. We are just humans trying to endure life so that we can thrive in it by the grace of God. Leaders of the church need to lead with realness, which I hope you will see in me as I grow in Leadership and such.
Anyways!! Back to the matter at hand. You are struggling through grief. You are emotional and you have these new sets of struggles that you are navigating. Or if you’re listening and you’re not struggling you want to know how to approach this with a loved one going through this or pointers for later in life. Let’s address this. What are the struggles you are facing in your grief right now? Think about them for a few seconds. What is your mountain? Your mountain may seem to be that mountain of laundry or dishes that needs to be handled and that is quite okay. That is normal. Me saying “You are normal” may be a recurring theme within this podcast so I hope you get used to hearing this and that you process it as truth. So you thought of your mountain struggle. Now, take a moment to breathe. I’ll breathe with you. Breath in, breathe out. Repeat. Okay Close your eyes (if you can. Do not do so if you are driving or running or what not! Okay? I’m not going to be held responsible for that nonsense) and picture Jesus carrying that mountain on His back walking right beside you. I just thought of that, I wish I pictured that sooner. Okay. Jesus is carrying your mountain or He is carrying this overstuffed backpack with books falling out with each book titled your struggle(s) and He is walking right beside you, holding your hand even. Alright, have that picture? Great. Cling to it. Y’all can open your eyes now. We haven’t addressed the struggles yet but whichever ones I am going to address and even the ones I don’t. Cling to that picture when you have to face the struggle or are intimidated just by thinking about it.
So, here’s the list I am going to start with: depression or feelings of depression, not feeling up to a task - you don't feel like working or putting effort into whatever task is at hand, fear - of anything, plausible or not, feeling overwhelmed by even the tiniest task, anxiety, regret ( this is a big one), wondering why you miss your love one so much at the onset of a memory, smell, a word, etc., physical symptoms of grief - yes, there are physical symptoms of grief, and last, but definitely not least: feeling like your faith isn’t working or that you are a “bad” Christian. I have felt every single one of these, so let me share a little bit of my story with each one and go from there.
Depression or feelings of depression: HEAVINESS. That is the word that comes to my mind when feeling depression. There is just this heaviness of missing your loved one that hinders your actions of everything around you. I secluded myself, watched netflix as a distraction, and last podcast I spoke of distracting myself with Cage keeping me busy taking me on dates or spending time with me. I remember just this heaviness overcame me, I don’t recall when in my grief it was, maybe the beginning, but I remember going into the kitchen and all of a sudden I started crying and just slumping down to the floor in front of the sink. Just sitting there crying at two in the morning. This is the reality of how grief can attack us. Just overwhelming sadness taking over then impacting our ability to function. I barely ate for a whole week. I remember the first dinner meal my dad and I sat down and ate together. I’m getting teary eyed thinking about it. We sat at the table to eat both talking about how that was the first meal we were able to sit down for but our appetite was still so low we could barely eat half of our meal. Just us two sitting at the dinner table that once held three missing the third voice in the conversation, but being happy we could stomach something. It is so weird! Depression is no joke. It is so overwhelming and if you are dealing with depression from grief or some other source, I applaud you for getting up or even making the effort to tune into this podcast right now. I encourage you to seek medical and pastoral care for it as well. You are not alone in your journey. You are loved.
Not feeling up to the task at hand: I feel like this can be somewhat lumped into feelings of depression because let’s face it, depression affects your motivation for anything. For a while I just wanted to do nothing and wallow or just do nothing when I eventually “graduated” from wallowing. It takes effort to put a load of laundry in the washer and move it to the washer and then live out of your dryer for a while re-running it to get some wrinkles out or even not caring about the wrinkles. Dishes? That mountain keeps getting bigger. Give yourself grace, but set a goal of I'm going to wash what I need for today, or tomorrow. Grief is all about baby steps. Give yourself grace and invite God into this deep sadness you are feeling and ask for His help to do the “simple” tasks of your day.
Anxiety: Okay, this one here. This one I did not understand until I had to go through it and experience it and something I am still figuring out. This one happens to be one of my “long - term grief side effects”. I am on this journey with God because it is so hard to function under anxiety. I can’t not function. I have people who rely on me - I am one of my grandma’s caretakers, I help my dad with a lot of things, I’m a wife, and other things. I can’t quiver under the pressure of anxiety - it is no longer an option for me, so maybe that’s part of me pushing through it. But it can be so dang heavy. Full transparency, there are tasks I just avoid doing until I can no longer do so because just the thought of making that phone call or fear of something not going as planned is crippling. I don’t understand it and it feels like such a burden to carry. It is so frustrating! It’s hard to function. I don’t know how people function without Jesus and the Holy Spirit equipping them. I am such a fragile human that I desperately need God every second of my life. Along with needing Jesus, I need medicine. I hate that when I don’t take it I am easily irritable and have trouble breathing with my heart rapidly beating. I’m seeking healing for this from God and asking for His help on this journey so that one day I won’t need that medicine. To clarify, seek God first, see where the Holy Spirit leads, then talk to a professional and seek medical care if this is what you need for your journey. Maybe I disclosed too much, but the purpose of this podcast is transparency so I’m laying it all out there for you.
Fear: I believe fear falls under the anxiety tab. Anxiety is a struggle, especially with fear, but I have made progress and you will too. I had the fear of doing anything new. LIke doing something new would erase a piece of the past with my mom in it. I was afraid to go back to school, albeit online. What if I’m not good enough? What if I fail? What if it's not the right thing to do for me? You don’t know unless you try. So I tried and was successful with a major change along the way. Next thing I was afraid of, getting my driver’s license, driving. I was 20. All my friends had their driver’s license, I just never made it a priority but eventually it was something I needed to do for myself. So finally I believe I was 22, I got my driver’s license and I felt so accomplished. These new things are scary, especially when you have to do them without your loved one, but you feel so much better with an accomplishment under your belt. It’ll be bittersweet, but it's worth it.
Feeling overwhelmed: I’m just going to gloss over this one m0re time since I believe it falls under anxiety. Overwhelming feelings are normal. You can feel overwhelmed by your feelings, by your new normal, trying to adapt to that new normal, just ANYTHING can feel overwhelming. Picture Jesus holding your hand. Keep your chin up, hon, you got this.
An overwhelming sense of missing your loved one: It happens. It will continue to happen. I’m sorry I’m not more encouraging on this matter, but it’s true. It may get a bit easier, it may get more difficult before it gets easy. Okay so maybe the overwhelming sense of it will come to pass, but you will always miss them. It took a long time to get over the overwhelmingness of it. Don’t get me wrong, when I smell the scent of sweetpea lotion I’m back to being a 5 year old girl with her mom handing her some lotion missing those moments. Every time I bake something I wish she were there with me and I’m 10 years old again and younger throwing flour on my face and hands on purpose to look like I was really helping. Every time I hear a metallica song, “Enter Sandman” I’m 4 years old again on a Saturday morning asking her to lower it and put on some Britney Spears or Christina Aguilara instead. I can see the moment in my mind still - front door open, my mom by our old stereo and me snuggled on the couch. I love that I get to have these picture memories of her in my mind because when we do feel this overwhelming sense of missing her I was so afraid I wouldn't be able to picture her in my head, remember the gentleness of her hugs, or remember her laugh. And as I wrote those I was able to see, hear, and feel all of that in my mind. Embrace the memories, they are going to hurt with the overwhelming feeling of loss at first but remembering them helps them live in your heart. I look forward to one day having children of my own and telling them all about my mom, their great grandpa, and so many more people in our family who have passed but helped make their mom into the person she is today. When I do feel overwhelmed by missing my mom, I embrace the feeling for the time being, always being careful not to stay there and then breathe and begin thanking God for the time I had with her and that she was the one who raised me. A thankful heart goes a long way. Give yourself grace. You and God got this.
Physical ailments: This! I cannot stress this enough. You need to take care of yourself when you are grieving. It can b e overwhelming to take care of your own health. An idea may be to get an accountability partner for taking care of yourself, maybe someone who is missing the same person? You can hold each other accountable for your health. I really didn’t want to go to the doctor after my mom passed but with the shortness of breath and rapid heartbeats I was having, my dad made me go. People care about you and they don’t want to experience the loss of you too, this thought can be going through their mind - take care of yourself. I never did this accountability thing for health but if I were I definitely see myself doing so with my dad or my Nana (my mom’s mom). My nana speaks life into me every so often anyway so we encourage each other. Think of who this can be for you. Eating is difficult during grief, I get it. Insomnia, definitely a thing. I get it. People care about you even if you feel like you are alone. Seek the help you need from those you trust. If you’re in a Bible believin’ and teachin’ church, let the church be the church with you.
Feeling like your faith isn’t enough: Now this one right here. Whew! I felt like my faith was beyond not enough. From not being enough to get my prayers answered, blaming the little doubt yet harnessing in on the mustard seed to feeling like I didn’t want God’s help because He didn’t help me when she was in the hospital hearing the code blue go off. I felt like my faith was super unuseful. But you know what your faith may feel useless , But OUR GOD is powerful. We need to embrace Him and let Him carry us. It took me so long to come to this realization. I went through the motions of following Jesus for a while. Yeah, I’ll go to church, but I can’t sing this worship song. Yeah, I’m listening to the sermon, but I’m hardening my heart and spirit so it won’t resonate with me. Goodness, I am so dang stubborn… At one point this faith became so in my head, a brain thing not reaching my heart. To be completely honest I still struggle with my faith reaching my heart. Am I dealing with some sort of “imposter syndrome”? I seriously asked myself this question the other day. God knows your heart and your faith, work on your relationship with Him and your faith will grow. After all, He is the author and perfecter of our faith. What HE starts He will finish. We are all in the process of sanctification that will never be completed until eternity. Give yourself grace, but don't let yourself dilly dally. You need to be diligent to work on keeping your heart in alignment with God. Your faith is your own no matter how futile or strong or how much of a wanderer you feel like at the moment. Stick with God and He will carry you.
Well, those are the struggles of grief that I can think of thus far. Grief is NOT easy, don't let anyone lead you to think that it is. If they say it's easy, I would really like to pick their brain. If there are other struggles you are dealing with regarding grief, reach out to me. We can walk together. Maybe encourage you in some way. Discuss scripture that has been helpful. Not a Bible verse Band aid though to send you on your way, just something to meditate on.
You are loved. Your struggles are valid. We navigate this grief by God’s grace. God bless you.