PART TWO: Five Myths – and One Truth – About Grief
In the two weeks since I shared the first part of this post, lessons my friend Dorina –widowed at 37 –has learned about grief, Mike and I have lost another good friend. Gloria was younger than we are. Mike flies to Chicago this weekend to come alongside the family and officiate at Gloria’s funeral.
Two weeks is a long time when life as we know it can change in a nano-second.
But isn’t Time itself the great healer?
In Part One (linked here), Dorina shared with us two myths about dealing with grief: That it has five distinct stages, and that it is linear with a beginning, middle, and end.
Here are three more, plus one very important truth.
MYTH #3: TIME HEALS
“I have heard some widow friends talk about how the first year after their husband’s death was the hardest. Others say year 4 and 5 are the most difficult. One friend explained it this way: Time doesn’t heal loss. Over time we simply get more used to our new normal and how to live with the loss.
My grief counselor once suggested that grief is more like a tangled ball of yarn. You never know exactly what you are unraveling. It’s a mix of many threads and emotions, and we need to give ourselves time to untangle these at our own pace.
Now that I am eight years out from my husband’s death, I’m not in the knots of intense grief most of the time. But I know that each journey and timeline is unique. As my daughters are becoming teenagers, their grief over their dad’s death is hitting them in new ways. I want to be present for them in this.
“Only in my own grief did I begin to understand that time doesn’t magically erase all pain. Time does not heal all wounds; God does.” Lisa Appelo
MYTH #4: YOU SHOULDN’T FEEL JOY OR HAPPINESS WHILE GRIEVING
A few weeks after my husband’s funeral, some friends invited the girls and me to a concert. We desperately needed to get out of the house. That night I discovered how important it was for us to let that music wash over us. The girls laughed and danced with their friends. I was filled with surprising peace and joy after such a long season of caregiving for my husband and watching his health deteriorate.
After the concert, a friend who I hadn’t seen in years came up to me and burst into tears. I wasn’t particularly close with her, and I wasn’t even sad in that moment. She sobbed into my shoulder and told me how sorry she was for what we had endured.
I appreciated her words and willingness to reach out to me, but later I felt a little guilty. Maybe I should have acted sadder. Maybe I shouldn’t be out at concerts laughing and dancing with my daughters so soon after my husband’s death. These ridiculous thoughts swirled in my head.
I brought these questions about my grief to God. I realized then through His gentle reminders that I was free to grieve in my way. Over time, I have learned that every day can be filled with joy and grief dancing together.
Ecclesiastes 3:1,4 reminds us: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens… a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”
MYTH #5: THE GOAL OF GRIEF IS TO “FIND CLOSURE” AND MOVE ON
I have encountered this attitude in different conversations since my husband died. People long for us to be “ok” so they ask questions like: “Do you have closure about your husband’s death?”
Or they say, “It looks like you’ve moved on” since I have remarried.
As a person who is still grieving the death of my husband and my children’s father, I’m never quite sure what to say. I have an indescribable peace in my heart that God is and will continue to use my husband’s death for His glory. I trust God in this. I’ve already had the privilege of seeing the way He has saved lives, encouraged souls, inspired people to draw closer to their families, and bolstered the faith of my daughters because of Ericlee’s death.
Do I have closure? No.
Am I ready to move on? No.
I am moving forward. Day by day, step by step, decision by decision, I am moving forward.
I am not closing a chapter. I am not getting over him. I am moving into a season where I have a choice to live his legacy and remember him in new ways. This looks different for every person who is grieving.
I’ve shared with you five common myths about grief. Let’s conclude with this truth.
We can’t fit grief into a box or a series of stages. Jesus is our model throughout his ministry that we need to lean into the unique experiences of individuals who are grieving.
My favorite example is the way Jesus took time to weep with Mary and Martha over the death of their brother Lazarus. John 11:33 says, “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”
We learn in verse 35 that Jesus actually wept. He knew that later he would raise Lazarus from the dead, but he still takes time to weep with his friends. He knew they needed Him. He enters into their pain, and through His presence offers comfort.
He weeps with each of us in our grief today. And, in turn, we have the opportunity to be present with someone who is grieving."
- Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young
Your turn, friends. Many of you have known the searing loss of saying goodbye on this side of eternity to spouses, parents, lifelong friends and even children.
What have you learned about living with grief that you’d like others to know?
[Dorina’s new devotional journal, Breathing Through Grief, will release in November 2023 from Ink & Willow.]