By Chris WittsThursday 21 May 2015Morning Devotions with Chris WittsUncategorizedReading Time: 0 minutes
Yesterday I started talking about grief and loss,and I said we have a lot to learn about handling this. Let me tell you about the life journey of a little boy named Johnny. It is a typical story that happens to so many boys who become men.
At two years of age Johnny received a dog for a pet. When he was five years old his dog was killed. When it happened Johnny was stunned. His dog was his constant companion. It slept with him at the foot of his bed. He went with Johnny everywhere. Now he was gone and Johnny was very distressed. Johnny’s dad,when he found out,told Johnny to stop crying and not feel bad because they would get a new dog on Saturday. In that one sentence,Johnny’s dad is offering the first two steps in society’s approach to grieving. They are to bury your feelings and replace your losses. Simple! The idea is that once you have a new dog you won’t even think about the old dog anymore.
Later in life,Johnny falls in love with a girl at high school. The world looks bright and wonderful until she dumps him. Once again,Johnny’s heart is broken and this time it’s a big time hurt! But this time,Mum comes to the rescue and with great sensitivity says,”Don’t feel bad,Johnny,there are other fish in the sea.” By this time Johnny has steps one and two down pat – bury your feelings and then replace your losses as quickly as possible. He will use these for the rest of his life.
Sometime later,Johnny’s grandfather dies – the one he fished with every summer and felt so very close to. A note was slipped to him one day in math class. He read the note and broke down sobbing on his desk. The teacher,uncomfortable with his crying,sent him to the school office to “grieve alone.” When Johnny’s father brought him home from school,Johnny saw his mother weeping in the living room. He wanted to embrace her and cry with her. But his dad said,”don’t disturb her because she needs to be alone for awhile. She’ll be all right in a little while and then the two of you can talk.” Johnny now has the third piece of the grieving puzzle down – grieve alone. So Johnny went to his room to cry alone and he felt a deep sense of loneliness.
Eventually,Johnny buried those feelings of loss over his grandfather and replaced them with athletics. He tried to function normally,but many months later he found himself constantly thinking about his grandpa – those fishing trips,the birthday parties,the Christmas eves together,and all the fun times together. Johnny became so preoccupied with it that he finally told his dad. His dad said,”Johnny,give it time. Time will heal your memories.” How often have you heard that one. Johnny translated that comment to mean that “time in and of itself heals”. This became step four in Johnny’s understanding of grief management – let time heal.
Well,Johnny gave it time and more time but he felt trapped in a cell of sadness. And what made matters worse for Johnny was that he realized he had never thanked his grandpa for those wonderful fishing trips,the nice lunches,the late afternoon swims when the fish were not biting. And most of all he realized that he had left unsaid the biggest thing of all – “I love you,grandpa.” Johnny said to himself – “I guess I will have to just live with regret the rest of my life.” The fifth piece of grief management is that if there is unfinished business one has to plan to live with regret because there is nothing else one can do.
As you can imagine,with all that trauma,Johnny works it out and says to himself – “close relationships are painful,therefore the way to avoid pain and anguish is to keep people at arms length.” Don’t trust anyone because you could lose them.
So society’s approach to grief is often:
Bury your feelings,
Replace your losses,
Let time heal,
Live with regret,
And never trust again.
If this is how you have been taught to grieve your losses then you may walk around with many wounds on the inside. Our inability to grieve destroys much of our capacity to enjoy life,living,and loving of others.
And many people,after a devastating loss,end up in the ditches of alcoholism,workaholism,broken relationships,or with compulsive eating or spending patterns. The result of grief avoidance is an epidemic of complicated and unreconciled grief – But the Bible says Jesus understands your feelings and grief. He was a man who experienced grief Himself and wept openly and unashamedly. He asks us to face these type of feelings honestly and without fear.
One of the most untapped resources we have as Christians is the book of Psalms. Most of the Psalms are not “praise psalms” but laments. Even Jesus,in his darkest hour,quoted one of the Psalms of lament. He said,”My God,my God,why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me,from the words of my groaning? Oh my God,I cry by day,but you do not answer and by night but I find no rest.” (Psalm 22:1-2)