Healing from grief does not mean removing yourself from your grief. Once again, I’ve been reminded of the significance of grief, deep pain, and how I am changed because of it. This post has a couple of helpful, significant points, but my story first 😉
The neighbors gave us a memorial tree for Rebekah the week of the accident. The terrible accident that stole the life away from my beautiful 8 year old daughter.
We planted it near my favorite east facing window. The same window out of which I watch the sun rise up over the field every morning. I wanted her tree in my view. A scene that had always brought me comfort.
On the one year anniversary of her death, I asked friends and family to come over and tie a ribbon on her tree in remembrance of my sweet daughter.
The tree stood tall covered with ribbons. My heart smiled each time I looked at it because I saw love.
All winter through the cold and darkness her tree stood with its ribbons blowing in the north wind. Snow piled up around its base and we lost a few colorful threads, but that tree stood as an expression of a love that doesn’t die.
The following summer my husband gently mentioned that we needed to remove the ribbons from the tree. I was opposed to the idea. I marched over and examined each and every ribbon. None were too tight. It still had room to grow. I was not removing those them.
Summer turned to fall and the red leaves fell from our tree, but the ribbons continued to blow in the breeze. The sunrises came and went with their glorious colors. Some days I couldn’t believe that another day had come and gone. Life doesn’t stop when you think it should. It continues day after day.
Fall turned into winter and we lost a few more ribbons to the cold wind, but I still smiled each time I looked at that tree.
Healing from Grief is Growing Through Grief
This spring, I carefully fertilized Rebekah’s tree, trimmed the dead, and gave it a thorough once over. The ribbons were getting tight. They needed to be removed.
It was time.
Slowly, I began untying ribbon after ribbon. They were pink, purple, yellow, with a variety of patterns. I had no idea who tied which one, but I knew that each held it’s own special prayer.
The sun was shining down on me and a breeze was blowing over the field as I struggled to remove one of the ribbons from the trunk. I discovered the tree had actually grown around the ribbon and the two had become one.
There was no way to remove the ribbon without digging into the center of the trunk.
I could feel God whispering to my heart. Isn’t this a perfect illustration of growing in grief? Didn’t your deep pain become a part of you as you grew through it?
The tree will always have that ribbon mark. It will continue to grow, but it will never be the same.
Just like me.
Healing from grief does not mean removing myself from grief. Healing from grief means accepting the grief and allowing it to become a part of me.
I would love to share more about my Rebekah with you. She was a wonderful girl, full of sunshine. Read about her in Rebekah’s Heart
Letting Go of Grief
Perhaps releasing the ribbons was symbolic to me for letting go of grief. I think that is why I held onto them the way I did. I couldn’t let go of the grief.
I didn’t have to. Just like that ribbon became part of the tree, my grief is a permaneant part of me.
I don’t believe there is such an action as letting go of grief. I believe you accept the grief, you continue forward on your path in life, but you don’t let it go. You can’t. You are a different person because of it. It has changed you. It has become a part of you.
Healing from grief is a much better way of describing the process than letting go of grief.
Uplift has an excellent post on the healing power of grief.
How Long Does it Take to Get Over Grief
That brings me to the often asked question of how long does it take to get over grief?
I don’t think you do. Your normal has changed. You are not the same person nor would you want to be. A pain that intense as well as the absence of your loved one has changed the way you think, experience life, and live.
What I learned is that rather than looking for grief to end, it is important to continue on. Allow yourself the times of grief and pain, but allow yourself the times of joy and happiness as well.
You can have both.
You might relate to this post “Does Grief Ever Go Away?”.
Grief Never Ends but it Changes
“Grief never ends, but it changes” is an expression I heard early on in my grief. I remember a feeling of dismay wondering if I was going to hurt like this forever. In the very next second I was overcome with guilt. Of course I should hurt like this forever, I was living without my daughter.
Grief is a season and just like the seasons of spring, summer, fall, and winter, we cycle back to it. The intensity of the pain during those months of deep grief are much different than the mellow ache of the day to day that you learn to live with.
I will confess, however, lest you think that intensity has gone away, that it can be triggered in a second and you will find yourself on the floor sobbing. After all, healing from grief does not mean it has disappeared, only that it has changed. It cycles back around from time to time, but it does not stay.
Read more about seasons of grief in “A Time to Mourn and a Time to Dance: To Everything There is a Season”.
Healing from Grief: The Acceptance of Suffering
Suffering is something we all shy away from. No one wants to experience the unpleasant feelings of hurt, rejection, depression, isolation, and grief.
I was that person who carefully avoided all things unpleasant. Give me a bubble to live in and I’d be content.
I came face to face with suffering in my grief and began to understand the beauty it holds. Suddenly, all of those verses that I had carefully avoided made sense.
They were not any easier to accept, but I saw the purpose behind them.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, (1 Peter 1:6-7 NKJV)
Faith is not faith until it is tried. God does not cause bad things to happen to us. He does not punish us by taking our loved ones, but He understands our sinful nature and through the pain and suffering of this world, purifies our hearts.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Pain is just for this time. We know that in heaven there are no tears, but we must first get there!
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-19)
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. (Isaiah 48:10)
I will not lie. My faith was severly tested when I lost my Rebekah. The very God I had served my entire life was suddenly a stranger to me. I trusted Him to protect my family from bad things, not take my daughter in an accident. I could not believe my God could cause me such pain.
The refining process is not pleasant, but we grow best during our purification. We cannot grow in our bubble.
But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.
Jesus is refering to himself here, but are we not also that grain of wheat? Have we not died only to rise again? May our pain and suffering produce the fruit God desires for His kingdom. May our grief not be in vain.
Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. (1 Peter 2:24)
Most importantly, we must remember that Christ bore all of our pain on the cross and by his stripes we are healed. By our communion with the suffering of Christ, we are healed.
For comforting verses about grief read “30 Verses for the Loss of a Loved One: Hope for the Broken Heart”.
Healing From Grief: What is Your Journey?
Healing from grief is different for each of us. We all experience it differently and take various routes through our healing. I’d love for you to share your journey with me. Let’s join together and walk this painful path together, strengthening and supporting one another.
You might find these posts helpful as well.