Death, Divorce, and Heartbreak Part 4: Allow the Space to Become More God-Like

images (8)How to deal with Death, Divorce and Heartbreak

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.


cropped-011114_2043_selfcompass1.jpgEncouraging Your Whole Heartedness:

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.

JOURNALING Part 4: A Taste of WHOOP—Whole Heartedly Opening Our Purpose

Image

Tell me to what you pay attention, and I will tell you who you are.  –Jose Ortega y Gassett

Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.   Proverbs 3:6 NLT

I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart.  –Psalm 40:8 NLT

heartbookYour journal can reveal what you are paying attention to, tell you who you are, be a quiet spot where you record the desires and directions of your heart, and can give you a way to stay focused on your passions and God’s will for your life.

Last Bits and Pieces on the Art of and Keeping a Journal

  1. Using the Circa Journal system from Levenger’s (or the Arc System from Staples) can add some depth to your journal.  By adding a blank page behind tvvvhe plastic cover it can serve as a mini Dream Board. Decorate it with pictures, words, sayings, cut outs from magazines, drawings, or colors or symbols that represents something in regards to an intention or goal for the year.   Goals are things you want to
    accomplish like a specific yoga pose, redoing a bathroom, remembering to send birthday cards, learning a new skill, taking a certain class, understanding how to be more compassionate, or reading through the bible.  Intentions are ways of being that you want to be more mindful of for the year….like being silly, looking for joy, being more grateful, or bringing more peace and relaxation into your life.   Please don’t think you have to be artistic to decorate your cover. The ideas is to have a visual reminder of what will make your year meaningful and growth producing to you.
  2. On the flip side of the decorated page, write your “word for the year,” sayings, quotes or scriptures that support your your goals and intentions for the year, and write your TOP 5 IDEAL list. Having them in the front of your journal, allows you the opportunity to take a quick scan of these when you sit down to write.  It’s like a Table of Contents for your life.  It’s your guide.   You may not look at these every time you journal, however, the act of having written them down does something for you in a subconscious way leading to a more purposeful year.   subway-art-words-of-the-year
    • What is the “WORD OF THE YEAR”? This is something I learned many years ago in regards to setting yearly goals as a business owner.   The idea is to choose one word that will guide actions and priorities for business activities that year.   This same concept can be applied to your life–choose one word to guide your goals, actions and priorities for your life this year.  Having a simple word for the year, gives you direction for your decisions. Again, this can make life have more purpose and meaning.  Some examples of words for the year:   simplicity, peace, joy, love, connection, fun, etc.   Maybe you have goals for many areas of your life. Pick a word that would guide you in all of them.  For example, let’s say you wanted to lose some weight, have more time for your family, de-clutter your house, be more organized, and get rid of some bad habits.  You might choose SPARKLE as your word of the year—have a sparkling body, eat sparkling food, make your schedule sparkle with less activities and more family time, have a sparkling house, sparkle out a drawer, closet or desk, add some sparkling new habits.  The word SPARKLE would remind you and help you make choices that lead you to your desired goals.
    • vEXTRA TIP:   I even hang my word of the year on a little chalkboard in my kitchen so I can see it everyday and be reminded.
    • What are the TOP 5 IDEALS? If you have been following along with these journaling blogs, in the Encouraging Your Whole Heartedness section, I’ve asked you to make a list to this fill-in-the-blank journaling exercise: When my life is ideal I will be/have/or be doing _____________. Then I asked you to come up with your top 5 ideals and write a juicy paragraph describing what each of those mean.   On the inside cover of your journal, I would now have you write just the list of your top 5 ideals because these are your passions. This exercise comes from The Passion Test by Janet Brey Attwood and Chris Attwood. What you have done is tapped into your heart and spirit and found what passions I-See-God-s-Heart-In-These-Clouds-god-the-creator-10268130-400-400God is laying on your heart.  Passions are the breadcrumbs to your destiny and purpose.  These top 5 ideals, like your word for the year but longer reaching, will help you know where to put your attention and energy.  They will help you know what to do when you have to make a choice, decision, or are faced with an opportunity.  You may be offered a great opportunity, but does it take you closer to your IDEAL, to your passion, to what your heart longs for, to the plan that God has for you?   I know my IDEAL list has helped me in making large decisions, like a career step, to small ones, like what kind of blankets to purchase for my bed!! Odd, interesting and true!! Keep your juicy paragraphs somewhere you can find them as you will want to read them now and then and see how they are unfolding.   Life does change and we go through various stages, retaking the passion test every year or two is a good idea.   I did this exercise for the first time 7 years ago.  Some of my ideals have been realized and replaced by others, others have been tweaked because I’ve grown, and some are still in process.  The thing is they are there to guide you.   After listing your top 5 ideals on the inside cover, underneath them write, “this or something more”.  Let God surprise and delight you with what He can do with your passions when you finally jot them down, describe them, accept them, and use them to help you move closer to what He wants for you.
  3. You commit to sit and write, you have pages and pages of journaling, how do you make the most of the time spent and the words you’ve journaled? Dr. David Jeremiah, a preacher and avid journaler, talked about harvesting journals during one of his radio programs.   He highly recommended going back and reviewing your journals on a regular basis.   How often you do this depends on how much you write.  If it takes more than one notebook a year for your journaling, you might want to harvest every quarter.

WIMG_7412hy Harvest?

  • You will gain insights about your self.
  • Looking back over your journal gives you a truer perspective. It is like seeing the LANDSCAPE of things instead of just the trees and brush. You will see a higher and longer perspective of what happened in your life during that time.
  • You will see how things are or aren’t working in your life, how God is working, and how He may have answered prayers.
  • You can see where you keep writing or praying for the same things which can give you insight into where you might need to take action or take steps of faith and trust.

Things you can ask yourself as you harvest:

  • What has gone on?
  • What have I learned about myself and/or God?
  • What are the themes?
  • What did or is God showing me through this time?
  • What am I avoiding, if anything? What is causing this avoidance?  And when is the time I will deal with this?
  • Am I following my intentions, word of the year, or passions? Do I need to tweak these or renew my focus?

cccccEXTRA TIP:  I have found it easier to harvest my journal by using annotated ruled pages.  They provide space to the side of my journaling to write a note, an insight, an “aha”, or a point I want to remember.

 

 

 

 

cropped-011114_2043_selfcompass1.jpgEncouraging Your Whole Heart

  • Some inspiration from testimonies from a WHOOP participant and a friend who is an avid journaler:
    • I had recently been thinking about the WHOOP classes and how helpful they were. They encouraged me to be deliberate about WHOOP-ing. The journaling in particular made a big difference in my life.  It was like it made sense of the daily events of life.  All of a sudden I could see the narrative that was happening to me and around me.  Every single time I journaled about anything, it had an answer, a result, or a conclusion.  No matter how monumental or how trivial my thoughts were, God moved when I put it down in that journal.  I suspect He is always doing that, but the deliberate act of journaling made it plain to me.–Anne (How many of us miss God’s signs, help, and answers to us?  Love it that journaling did this for her!)
    • I was thinking about what you said in your blog that journaling song lyrics or other things that capture our attention will speak to what we like or desire to be reflected.  I am so drawn to the line from a praise song that says, “you calm the raging seas”.  My reading today was about Jesus and the storm on the Sea of Galilee. I was able to connect the song lyric attraction, the bible reading, and more–I was reminded that as a child I often thought what I wanted more than anything was peace– peace of mind.  “Calm my raging seas” is an accurate description of that desire. I was nervous and anxiety ridden as a child, always feeling like my world was out of control.  I see the connection now with my need to control my circumstances, always wanting to maintain order and “peace”. –Nancy (God is putting puzzle pieces together for her!  I wonder what that insight will do for her now and what God has for her next.)
  • I’d love to hear what you do to make journaling more meaningful for you. Do you harvest? What do you do with that?  How do you use a journal to keep your heart in God’s will and focused on what He wants for your life?

JOURNALING Part 2: A Taste of WHOOP—Whole Heartedly Opening Our Purpose

If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.

—Vincent Van Gogh

 

OVERCOMING THE JOURNALING BLOCKS    Journal-20-May-2010

Many people won’t even attempt journaling because they think they can’t:  that they can’t write, be consistent, have anything worthwhile to say, fear someone might read it.   To that I will have to concur with Mr. Van Gogh, if you hear anything that is keeping you from journaling, then by all means journal, and that voice will be silenced!

The number of attempts I made at keeping a journal was reflected in the number of journals I had in my possession–at least a dozen!   I had numerous journals with 3-5 pages written in and then nothing!  It seems that with each new attempted, I’d buy another journal and say, “I’m really going to do it this time,” but once again there would be 3 or so entries and then nothing!!!  My good intentions were halted by these stumbling blocks:

  • I don’t have the time
  • I am so not a “writer”…everything I say is drab, uninteresting, ineloquent, and frankly it sounds like a big, fat pity party
  • I don’t know what to write about
  • I can’t write that down…what if someone reads it
  • I keep saying the same things; nothing seems to be changing or it doesn’t seem to be helping

Have you heard yourself say any of these things when attempting or even just thinking about journaling?  Let’s look at these for a minute:

  1. TIME

If you really want to start to journal and are pressed for time, set a timer to an amount of time you would like to devote to journaling…5, 10, 15 minutes…and then just write for that amount of time.  You can journal in the morning, lunch time, nap time, or before bed. Whatever time is best for you is the best time to journal.    Time is the easiest one to overcome if you really want to journal.   If you haven’t decided if journaling will benefit you at all, reread last week’s blog or check out these articles about the benefits of journaling.  I bet you will find a couple payoffs you never even knew can occur with journaling.

http://apt.rcpsych.org/content/11/5/338.full  (read the grey boxes!)

http://www.appleseeds.org/100_journaling.htm

  1. I AM SO NOT A “WRITER”…everything I say is drab, uninteresting, ineloquent, and frankly it sounds like a big, fat pity party
    • First….you are a writer. If God has blessed you with the opportunity to learn to read and write, the fingers to hold a pencil or plunk at a keyboard, or the ability to speak into a machine that will write down what you are saying, then you are a writer!  All of that is a gift from God and God doesn’t give us gifts to sit unused.   Believe that you are a writer because you’ve been given that gift.
    • Second…journals aren’t necessarily meant to be novels or books or articles, so grammar, spelling, prose, and fancy words can all be thrown out the window! I say ‘necessarily’ because someday you may realize there is something worth sharing with others in your journal that can be refined.  But for day to day journaling, no editor, English teacher grading or neatness is necessary!  Be free to make as many mistakes as you wish.   Just write!
    • Third…if your journal, on many occasions, sounds like a big, fat pity party or in some other negative way that you wish it didn’t, I’ll say, “HOORAY!! You are on your way!”   In the introductory blurb to the Psalms in The Message Bible, the author says that Psalms are prayers from people being human!  (As I encouraged last week, try reading some Psalms.)  He goes on to say we tend to think prayer is what “good” people do when they are doing their best, but when you read the psalms you will note that they are pouring out their thoughts and feelings often in a very unpolished and impolite way!  We would think the psalms would be prayers by “nice” people because they are in the bible, yet when we read some of the things they pray for (smiting, send to the pits, heap with coals), we realize these are just humans crying out to God for help during their times of anger, fear, grief or lament.   So if your journal sounds like a big, fat pity party or something else negative, “Hooray”, you are being honest and human!
  2. I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT

Bluntly, anything and everything!  Even write “I don’t know what to write about” over and over if you need to!   There are lots of great resources about WHAT TO JOURNAL and I will share some tips, ideas and these resources in the next blog.

  1. I CAN’T WRITE THAT DOWN…WHAT IF SOMEONE READS IT

If you are using your journal to process feelings, things from your past, or any current painful situation, you probably will write things you hope no one ever reads.   If you are really concerned, tear out the page and get rid of it.  Writing out and putting what you are feeling or processing on paper is what is important.  If you rip the page out and burn it, the benefit of having written it will still be there whether the page is or not.    I have put some post-it note disclaimers on a few of my journal pages that say, “This was a really bad day”.  The only reason I didn’t toss the page is I want my daughter to know, if she ever reads it, that it is okay to have really bad days.  It is important that you feel your journal is safe, so be mindful where you leave it.  Do whatever you need to do to feel safe about keeping a journal.   You can choose to never write out your negative thoughts and feelings and have your journal be focused only on your life blessings and gratitudes.   That will produce incredible benefits, as well.

  1. I KEEP SAYING THE SAME THINGS…Nothing seems to be changing or it doesn’t seem to be helping

This comment makes me laugh because I was saying it looking at journals where I only journaled 3-5 times, then stopped, then attempted again a year or more later!   What I would tell myself now, after journaling consistently pretty much every day for the past 7 years, is trust the process, give it a chance, and give it time.   Things have shifted, insights have been gained, wounds have been healed, and many areas of my life have improved 100% due to time, consistency and dedication to journaling.  This does not mean you can’t experience a change in one journaling session, you can!  I just want you to know there are long term benefits to journaling as well.  Offer yourself the opportunity to try journaling, commit to be consistent, and jump back in if you miss a few days or weeks or months.

Encouraging Your Whole Heartedness:

  1. Still not sure about taking the time to journal and the benefits you might receive, here are a few more resources along with the ones above:

http://stress.about.com/od/generaltechniques/p/profilejournal.htm

http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-health-benefits-of-journaling/000721

http://apt.rcpsych.org/content/11/5/338.full  (read the grey boxes!)

http://www.appleseeds.org/100_journaling.htm

  1. If you want to give journaling a try, treat yourself to a new journal and a really nice pen. Go shopping this week for those.
  2. Sit down and journal at least one time this week. Need something to get you started before next week’s ideas on what to journal?  Fill in the blank to this question:   When my life is ideal I will be/have/or be doing _____________.  Don’t think too much about this, just start jotting down a list!
  3. Are you still having some fears or blocks about journaling? Tell me what they are in the comment section!  Thank you!