On Day 27 I said that you will start your return from exile by naming it for what it is: loss. What do you do with loss? You grieve it.
As straight forward as this may seem, we don’t always see our losses. We get too caught up in other aspects of our exile. We might spend time blaming others, regretting mistakes, fixing problems, or wandering around disillusioned. We overlook the obvious: your expectations for life weren’t met. That’s a loss. Losses hurt. You need to give yourself permission to feel the pain of that loss.
Let me walk you through what grieving your loss means. The grief cycle was first created to describe what happens when you lose someone to death. But these stages are true for any loss:
Denial – your first reaction is to minimize or ignore the loss so you don’t feel the full pain of it. You hope you’ll wake up some day and find it didn’t happen or what happened doesn’t affect you. If you are unable to ignore the loss on your own, you might look for help by immersing yourself in things like: travel, a new person, a hobby, exercise, drugs and alcohol, religion, blaming others, excusing your responsibility, etc.
Anger – When you finally come out of denial, you realize the loss still exists. It hasn’t gone anywhere and that leads to anger. You thought you could outfox the loss with denial. But there it is, staring you in the face. This blog series is primarily for people in ministry. Spiritual people don’t like to admit their anger. They will act like the loss is not a big deal. They’ll spiritualize the loss and say things like, “I gave it to the Lord. It doesn’t bother me.” Maybe. Or maybe that’s a cover up. It’s worth considering.
Depression happens when you believe the lie: Life will never be good again.
Bargaining – Bargaining is when you try to take the short-cut to overcome your loss. You might plead with God to let someone live by saying you’ll be more spiritual. You might promise your spouse you’ll do better if they don’t divorce you. You might try a network marketing scheme or a lottery ticket to get out of a financial jam. Bargaining is an act of desperation to keep you from experiencing the full effect of your loss.
Depression – Depression happens when you believe the lie: Life will never be good again. The power of this lie is that it’s close to the truth. It makes sense. If you lost something significant to your joy, then how can life ever be good again? The truth is…and what you need to come to realize is…life may never be the same…but life can be good again, even if it’s different. It’s a faith issue because you need to believe in God to be convinced of this. You need to believe that God is good and he wants to bring fullness back to your life. If you can’t believe in God or his goodness, it’s easy to slip into terminal despair.
Acceptance – Here you fully accept the new you and believe that God is with you and for you. You believe that life can be good again. You are not the same person you were before the loss. But even though you are not the same, you are not less of a person. You are just different. Life is different. Many people refuse to come to this place. They fight it. They dig in their heels. They don’t want to be different. They think denial, anger, and bargaining will help. They won’t. Accepting the new you is the only way to bring true peace back to your life.
Grieving your loss is a process. It takes time. But it won’t happen if you don’t first see the loss.
Here are a few questions for you:
- What are the losses that you’ve been unable or unwilling to see?
- Where are you at in the grief cycle? Where have you gotten stuck? Why is that?
- Do you believe that life will ever be good again? Why or why not?
I hope you’ll take a minute and share your thoughts below. Thanks.