November 18, 2022 - Layers of Grief

Recently I began seeing a counselor, a therapist.

Yes, add that to my list of health care specialists, financial advisers, mentors, pastors, and coaches. I had gotten to a place that I felt “stuck” and needed someone objective to speak into my life. Yes, I’m being vulnerable, but I wasn’t okay and I realized it. Though I’m okay with where I am, I don’t want to remain here. There is too much life to live, too many lives to touch, places to see, things to do and people to love.

My counselor, Mark, and I had never met and he knew nothing about me except the information I provided in the “new client” packet. As he listened attentively for a few minutes it was amazing how accurately he “pegged” me.

He described grief in a way I had never heard before. He said instead of the inaccurate description of the “stages of grief,” it would be more accurate to think of it as “layers of grief.” He continued to describe it as seasons. The first season is “survival” and is filled with heartache and pain, all the tasks that have to be done as one adjusts to life without the person they lost, at times literally struggling to keep your head above water. Then there is a second layer or season “living and engaging” and it is about realizing all the roles the person you lost filled in your life. In my case Shari was my partner in life and ministry, my biggest fan and supporter, my encourager, confidante, sounding board, advisor, and on and on. He said each of those roles lost causes grief. He challenged me to recognize as many as possible and identify them. Then the third layer or season he described was developing a “new frame of reference and acceptance.” During this season there is a perspective shift from the past to the future, a redefining of the relationship with the person you lost; part of that loss is the future you had planned for and dreamed of together, you learn to dream again of a future and a renewed hope. (This is all my paraphrase and what I gleaned from the session, and is not intended to be a direct quote.)

If anyone told you that your grief would be be easy or over with in a set amount of time, they may not have known what they were talking about.

We all find ourselves in places and seasons when we need a little outside help to get us through. This grief journey has been traveled since the beginning of human history and yet we seem to know and understand so little about it.

If I could conclude with two key takeaways they would be:
1) Don’t put a time limit on grief and don’t allow anyone else to put a time limit on your grief. The only way to deal with grief is to grieve, we all do it differently and for many it is hard work. Don’t think you are failing if you feel that you take a few steps back, you are making progress as long as you continue to walk.
2) Don’t try to travel this road by yourself, tap into the resource of people God has placed in your life, and if you don’t have someone to travel the road with you, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Thanks for reading and for your support. Many blessings to you as you walk through grief!

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