Dealing with suffering is not a new topic. I’ve read and listened to wonderful books and teachings on dealing with grief, divorcing with integrity, and what to do after a bad break up. Much of them say the same thing and where brought forth in Part 1 of this blog series:
- allow the space to grieve
- see the relief and joy
- be accepting of what is
- look for the blessings
- embrace the excitement of creating a new life
- learn from the person and experience
- honor what was
- believe and hold on for the rejoicing to come
Often when I see the word “God”, I will read it as the word “Love”. The pain of death, divorce, or heartbreak can increase our spiritual connection with GOD, it can grow our LOVE, if we choose. This is where FREE WILL, our ability and gift to choose, can be our best friend or our worst enemy.
Love is a choice. God is a choice. We can choose Love/God when we are facing painful experiences.
The foundation of a wholehearted life is to choose Love/God in the context of all our experiences—good ones, painful ones, everyday ones.
So how do you choose Love/God in the midst of painful experiences like death, divorce and heartbreak?
Looking at the list above, there are several things on there that seem totally impossible in the initial stages of deep sorrow and heartbreak. I want to touch on the importance of the first one.
Allow the Space to Grieve
Allowing the space to grieve, to feel the pain of the situation, is so important. It is not in our nature to turn towards pain. We can engage in many activities physically, emotionally, and mentally to avoid it. Ultimately, however, any tactic we use to avoid pain will only cause us more pain. And that pain will disconnect us from others. It will not allow the love and our true self in God to come through for our self or others.
Brene Brown, one of my favorite authors and researchers, has a cute video that explains the difference between empathy and connection versus sympathy and disconnection (Click here to see video). When we feel our pain we grow in empathy. When we can empathize with others, we are connecting with others. Most people who sympathize, who try to make us see the brighter side of things too soon, are avoiding their own pain and yours thus producing disconnection. Connection was God’s ultimate goal for us through Jesus death. We can’t connect if we are avoiding our own painful experiences.
Ultimately, allow yourself to feel your pain so you can empathize with others—so the true you, the love in you, the God part of you can grow, be shared, and connect you with others. This is a choice to love. This is a choice for God and to be more God-Like.
Recently I heard someone say that we need to deal with painful things in “skillful” ways–ways that are non-harming to self or others. What does it look like to allow yourself the space to grieve or feel the pain in “skillful” ways? Here are only a few (I’d love for you to share more “skillful ways” in the comment section):
- Cry when you need to. Rage when you need to. Just do it in kind ways—kind to yourself and others.
- Find a friend who won’t get tired of you talking through the things that bring up the pain. Seek a counselor if you feel you are wearing your friends out. When my mom passed, I found certain things triggered my grief. It might have been a significant date, a holiday, finding a note she wrote, or a time I wished I could have called to talk over something with her. With divorce and heartbreak the same is true. It will take awhile for all the triggers to come and go. Dealing with the triggers will help them recede and lessen more quickly and thoroughly.
- Journal your thoughts and feelings. Grief is often accompanied by anger, guilt, shame, fear, anxieties, and other emotions that effect living fully. Journaling is a safe way to get those feelings out without them being projected on to others potentially hurting yourself and others. I often see journaling as praying to and talking with God who is big enough and empathetic enough to hear and hold our pain as often as we need to say it. Write to God every hour if need be.
- The pain from grief and heartache often bring up big spiritual questions. Find support in your church or community of believers to ask your questions.
- Read your bible and/or pray. When I have been in times of deep pain and choosing not to turn to other things to deal with it, I found myself restless and unsettled. The last thing I thought I could do was sit still and read the bible or pray. However, when I finally choose (and, honestly, made myself) get in a chair to read the bible or pray, it only took that one time to experience its soothing, calming, and healing power. My chair is the first place I turn to now.
The ultimate goal of dealing with any kind of painful situation is to come out on the other side with more love, more God, more connection, more ability to connect with others.
Recently I read this definition of hope:
Hope is the fruit of a learned capacity to suffer wisely and generously.
“Suffering wisely” is dealing with your pain in loving ways leaving behind any tactics to avoid it. “Generously” is the ability to empathize with others because you understand and know pain. By not avoiding it, you become a Godly, loving support and a beacon of hope for others. In addition, the fruit of hope you gain from suffering wisely makes the other things on that list above possible.
JUST A NOTE:
Many times I’ve heard that if I trusted God more, believed the promises of the bible, or loved God more than anything else that I would not feel pain. That is a bunch of hooey! Jesus believed, trusted, loved, and even was God and He felt pain.
John 11: 33 (Voice) says: When Jesus saw Mary’s profound grief and the moaning and weeping of her companions, He was deeply moved by their pain in His spirit and was intensely troubled.
A few verses later “…Jesus wept and everyone noticed how much Jesus must have loved Lazarus.”
Jesus was grieving, feeling, and empathizing.
Allow yourself space and time to feel your pain. This will grow you in love and being more of and for God.
I’d love to hear your heart on this topic or any “skillful” ways you’ve used to deal with pain from death, divorce, and heartache.