Grieving Well when “here” has been wonderful.

6 09 2017

In my last post I gave a little introduction to grief and one of the more overlooked causes of grief: transition. Transition occurs when you move from HERE to THERE: your child enters kindergarten, you begin a new relationship, you become a caregiver to your aging parents, you try to rebuild your life after the divorce. You are no longer HERE –> you’re now THERE. It’s a new reality. Things have changed, and whenever there is change, there is loss. And grief is the natural human response to loss. How can you grieve well in the midst of transition and the subsequent losses you experience?

I discussed in my last post how to grieve well when HERE is not so good. I encourage you to read it for yourself, but I shared the first two steps: 1) See the truth of HERE and 2) Grieve the losses sustained by staying HERE so long. I promised step number three in this post because it’s the same final step as scenario #2 – How do you grieve well when HERE has been wonderful? Sometimes a transition forced upon you either by time or something else out of your control. And you don’t know whether the transition will end well or poorly. It’s all unknown.

Our family just moved, and my wife shared that she felt we packed up our kids childhoods and unpacked them into adolescence. They are now in 3rd and 4th grades and we’re sad because our kids are growing up and we have loved the days when they were little. Maybe you’re getting older and the things you used to be able to do are more difficult now. Maybe someone you love has moved away, or maybe it’s been more tragic. Regardless, how can you grieve well when HERE has been wonderful and you’re not sure about THERE yet?

First, stop long enough to offer praise and thanksgiving to God for the joy you’ve experienced in the past that you’re saying goodbye to. Thank God for the joy of the past. Stop to say thank you for the HERE that you don’t want to leave, but that you’re having to leave. Thank God for the joy you’ve had with your parents; for the memories of raising your baby; for the pleasure you had to run and jump and play; for the opportunity you had to experience that great vacation or that season of life that has been so fruitful. Offer your thanksgiving to God. Celebrate what was. It was God’s good gift to you so thank God for it and remember!

Secondly, grieve the transition. It’s okay to cry and talk about and reflect on the good ole days! It’s okay to grieve over these transitions that life brings. It’s okay to acknowledge the pain that saying goodbye to HERE causes you. In fact, it’s healthy! Just to be honest, I have a difficult time with this. I’m just wired to take on whatever is coming AHEAD that sometimes I forget to stop and reflect on the things that I won’t ever experience again. And when I don’t stop to say thank you and even grieve the good that is behind me, I miss out on intimacy with God and others. And I miss out on a deeper understanding and appreciation of the joys and even the sorrows that are awaiting me around the corner. Knowing this about myself, I recently faced my own grief head-on while in the midst of my own transition. We recently moved and had to say goodbye to the church my wife and I started 14 years ago. To read more about it, see this post. We had a several month transition of saying goodbye to so many people we loved with our whole hearts. HERE was so good. It was so wonderful. It was difficult to say goodbye, but I let myself feel. As hard as it was I let myself feel the pain and the hurt that accompanies goodbyes. Things will never be the same. Stop, say thank you and grieve the loss of the HERE that was so wonderful. Yes, it is likely that what God has in store for you is even more wonderful, at least at the end of the journey, but reflecting on the good things of HERE is a necessary part of learning to grieve well.

But there’s still another part of the grief process that is vitally important whether HERE is particularly bad or whether it’s been wonderful. And that’s the third part. No matter how good HERE has been, you will be missing out on the future God has for you if you try to live in the past – if you deny reality or live only in memories. Or, if you stay stuck in a HERE this is not so good because you’re so afraid of walking into the unknown of the future. The third part of good grief in transitions is to Trust God with your future. This of course is easy to say, but not so easy to DO.

Trusting God with your future means following God’s ways even when you don’t feel like it or want to because you know that in doing so you will get to experience the THERE that God has for you. Let’s break that down:

  1. It means following God’s ways. Jesus taught us what it means to follow God: It means to be obedient to His Word – to live a life like Christ – a life for God and not for ourselves. When we trust God enough to be obedient to God’s Word, then that’s real trust. Especially when you don’t feel like it.
  2. Because you know that God has your future in his hands. Now the reality is that much of our future in this life will be challenging – it will be difficult – filled with lots of joys, but also lots of sorrows and grief. The longer we live, the more we experience the losses and pain of this life. But God holds our future, and when we trust in Jesus, our ultimate future is with him. Don’t doubt that God make all things work together for your good. That’s trusting God with your future.

Jesus’ disciples had a major transition forced upon them, and over the course of a one 24 hour period, they went from a HERE that they loved to a THERE that they didn’t want to face. One day they were with Jesus celebrating. The next day they were scattered as Jesus was arrested, put on trial and crucified. But God had a much better future – a much better THERE in mind for them and for us. They just didn’t see it yet. Can you? Through the pain of Jesus’ death, God made a way for us to be with him THERE whether that’s THERE here on earth the rest of our days, or ultimately THERE by his side for eternity.

I don’t know what you’re presently going through as you read this, but you can trust God with your future. Don’t stay stuck in the past whether it’s a good past or a horrible past that has you trapped. Do you want to know why you can trust God? I mentioned in the last post that we grieve through loss because we’re created in God’s image and God grieves loss. Want to know what grieves God the most? When the people he created to love run from him instead of to him. That’s why Jesus came! He came to show us just how much God loves us and to what lengths he would go to suffer and die in order to bring us back to him. You can trust God with your future because He loves you enough to sacrifice everything for you – for your good – in order to be with you THERE.

I don’t know what the transitions are that you’ve been facing in your life and the extent of the grief that you’re working through. I don’t know if you’re stuck in a HERE that is horrible or maybe being tempted to return to a HERE that will only enslave you. Or maybe you’re grieving a transition that has been forced upon you. But I do know that God has made a way for you to experience his loving presence with you wherever THERE is for you. And you can even experience his presence in the midst of grief. That is, if you grieve well.

 

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