When I woke up this past Thursday morning, the word “grief” was heavy on spirit. I didn’t understand it initially until maybe 10 minutes after I woke up. I realized that I was grieving some things from my childhood, and as the day progressed, I thought about how many in life are grieving. One of my sister friends wrote a book called “Free To Grieve,” and when I read her book, it made me think about what was going through my mind when I lost my father in 2012. I’ll talk more about that in a moment, but right now, I just want to start slow before I really get into this post.
If you’re reading this post right now, ensure that you have some tissue. My post is not to make you cry, but if you do cry, I pray they are tears of freedom, and that you’re able to cry to get the pain, anxiety, fear and anything else that’s bottling you up inside out. As my day progressed, I thought about the many types of grief that are plaguing so many. They stem from death of a loved one, death of a relationship (whether a friendship/relationship), childhood trauma (abuse), loss of a job, loss of a home, things you did in the past that harmed you or harmed others, and there are more that I didn’t mention. For this blogpost, I really want to focus on the first two. Allow me a moment to share two stories within my life that touch on two types of grief that I faced. Some of you might be able to identify with this, and some of you may not be able to – and that’s fine. They say, everybody deals with grief different, and I’ll expose the truth: that is so true. I don’t want to jump too far ahead; I’ll come back to this point.
Let me deal with first with the death of a friendship/relationship as it relates to my life. Back in 2011, I was friends with someone and yes, there was a level of emotional intimacy with this friend. Don’t worry; there wasn’t any sexual contact with this friend (as I have been abstinent for near 30 years). But the way this friendship ended shook my world to the core. Two weeks before the end of October, I went to go visit her. And I would say that the trip was a roller-coaster ride. Thoughts of “I don’t want to leave her presence when she’s near me,” and “I know this friendship is going to end, it’s just a matter of how,” were roaming through my mind. When I flew back home, I struggled trying to cope with our friendship that was hanging in the balance. On the final day of October, I get a phone call from her saying, “just to let you know, the guy that I was telling you about, we decided to date and I wanted to ask if you were ok about it.” My thought was like, “what can I say? This is your choice and I have to be ok about it.” I was numb for a good month, and to add insult to injury, my sister was getting married in December. I wrote a suicide note (reference my blogpost When I Wanted to Die: http://mayneman.blogspot.com/2014/09/when-i-wanted-to-die-world-suicide.html) because I felt that there was no reason to live beyond this. I was angry, depressed, full of anxiety, and just wanted to let my life go.
I do want to throw this out there, the day after I got the phone call and I was grieving about the loss of my friendship/relationship, I got an e-mail from a friend saying she understood my situation, but her ex-boyfriend (whom she broke up with a week or two ago), shot himself just inches from his heart. If I wasn’t crying then, I was crying after I read that e-mail. In fact, I stopped grieving over my situation to tend to her situation. In fact, I wanted her to call so she could talk and so I could pray for him and her heart.
I said all of that to say this: this is just one symptom of how someone grieves a death of a relationship/friendship. Now, I’m not saying this is how everyone would grieve, but it all depends on the person (and how they cope with situations). There is no right or wrong way to grieve (I would advise that if you’re thinking about suicide, please seek help); the key here is that there is a grieving process. I have something to say how we treat people when they’re grieving later.
Within 2012, I would suffer another blow, the loss of my father. I want to talk about this in a different light so I can address a few things. My immediate family was with my father when he took his last breath. Many people misunderstand grieving in this sense. Everyone in my immediate family grieved differently (and some people have the expectation that we’re all to grieve differently). My sister’s grieving was different than mine; and my grieving is different from my mother’s grieving; my nephew’s grieving would be different from my grieving, my mother’s grieving and my sister’s grieving. Everyone shed tears (and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that), but I didn’t. Some may say that I was/am insensitive, and that couldn’t be further than the truth. I knew my father would want me to be strong (and knowing that he rarely showed his emotions), and I knew that I had to be strong for the remaining members of family; however, I almost broke down on two occasions: when my sister cried (as I hugged her) and hearing my nephew cry. Please don’t think that I was/am insensitive because I didn’t cry when my mother cried or when other’s cried for the loss of my father.
When it comes to grieving in this sense, everyone grieves differently. I may not be able to understand my mother’s grief, my sister’s grief or my nephew’s grief (just like they might not be able to understand mine). The key here is to be a listening ear when they need it. Our processes of grieving are going to be diametrically different and there’s nothing wrong with that either. My grieving actually comes in stages, and the things that I remember my father the most, are the times he would give me advice, the times I would watch him record a tape, and certain songs he would listen to and sing. Those are the moments I treasure with him and will always keep in my heart.
Sometimes when we grieve, we have a tendency to blame ourselves for the death of a loved one, the death of a relationship, or the pain of the abuse we suffered. The flipside could be that we blame others for them abandoning us. If you are going through either of these two, you need to grieve. If you don't, anger will resonate and can wreak havoc in your life and those around you.
One friend said to me that for many people, they don’t allow themselves to grieve. Many places (to include faith communities) do a lot to comfort those who lose a loved one. But we forget about grieving over a job loss or change, a friend moves or you move, and a relationship breakup – people usually don’t grieve and heal from these correctly.
A high-school friend said to me that in this country, we don’t acknowledge hurt well. In fact, we’ve become so callous to the point where we say, “Get over it! Don’t cry! Suck it up! Don’t talk about it!” That’s what we tell others who are grieving and ourselves.
And I can’t let this slip especially as I speak heavily on childhood abuse and the many survivors who are grieving child sexual abuse. I (the Mayne Man) frown on everyone who tells a survivor to “forgive the abuser. You don’t need any counseling!” And we wonder why 1 out of 3 girls are abused and 1 out of 6 boys are abused? For many people, my high-school friend said for those who have been abused, many don’t have a chance to form a healthy thought pattern (and I can testify to that for my life, and I know many others can testify to this as well). It wasn’t denial; there was no other way to think (and I would simply call it survival). Sometimes, it takes a major crisis in our lives for us to realize that we’ve been hurt and we need to grieve.
If you’ve known me long enough, I can’t really do a post without addressing the church. There are so many people saying they’re fine, when the truth is, their heart is bleeding or they’re grieving. And I would venture to share that the reason many don’t share is because we’re pointing a finger at them, and putting our expectations on them, which is truly not fair to them. In fact, when I was going through my suicide spell in 2011, there were times where I had to suffer in silence because I was getting from a lot of church people, “pray for yourself,” or “get over it!” Attitudes like this will cause a lot of people to grieve in silence and in some cases, suffer and grieve for the remainder of their life. I didn’t say that it was the only cause, but we need to have our ears open and without offering such a word that’s criticizing. And if you read the above paragraph, I always ask the church, who is interceding for those who are grieving?
It’s interesting that we quote Proverbs 18:21 that says death and life are in the power of the tongue. So, I ask (which I did in a blogpost) are your words killing others? If you want to read it, just click here -> http://mayneman.blogspot.com/2013/10/are-your-words-killing-others.html
Yes you’re speaking life to yourself, but can you speak life to someone who’s grieving? Speaking life to a grieving heart and spirit is not saying to them “you should be done grieving by now!” If you made that comment to someone who’s grieving, I ought to personally slap you for that comment! The length of time that a person grieves is not on our timetable. It’s on their timetable and if they have a personal relationship with God, it’s between them and God (end of discussion). And we need to stop placing our expectation on the length of time a person grieves on them. People need to grieve, and granted, when you go through something, you would want sympathy from them.
There was an article called Living Through Grief that I’d like to include in this post, because I believe this will touch a life or two.
This article actually confirms a lot of what I’ve said above, but I’ll be honest, I was also convicted. This is the part within the article that convicted me (and I want to apologize if I ever said what was stated in the first sentence below to you):
Well-meaning people may say, “Jesus took your loved one away,” but that can cause people – especially children – to be angry with God. 1 Corinthians 15:26 says that death is our last enemy. Therefore, we can say, “Death took our loved one away from us, but Jesus took our loved one away from death!”
I know this was a long post, but my heart has been heavy for those who are currently grieving. Know that I’m praying and interceding for you (not that your grief is over, but that you’re going through the process to heal for there are some who have thrown in the towel and ceased from grieving, while their heart is bleeding and they’re dead inside). I have faith that your grieving will end, but it will be on God’s timetable and not mine.
I ask you, if you’re currently grieving, if you can identify with this quote (I believe Johnny Depp said this): People cry. Not because they’re weak. It’s because they’ve been strong too long.
Regardless of who said this, if you were able to identify with that quote, I would ask that you take some time where it’s just you and God. Take all the anger you have inside, the pain you have inside, the shame you have inside and just let God hear you and your heart. And by the way, He already knows you’re carrying the burden of all of that. He wants you to cast it over to Him, so He can heal you. I still believe that healing is like an onion; the deeper you cut into it, the more your eyes water. Don’t be ashamed to cry to the Father (if this applies to you), He wants your tears.
In closing, I pray God’s mercy will rain over you and that He puts your heart back together as you’re going through the grieving process. I pray that you stay through the process and that you have people who will intercede for you, and will speak life to your heart and spirit as you're going through the process. And the truth is, the process is painful to you and those around you because so many emotions can erupt and can actually push people away as you're trying to get things out of your heart and spirit. I like to call this confessing your faults (with fault meaning that there's an imbalance in your mind, heart and spirit), and it's all about getting them in balance to where you are healed when the process is over. You might be wearing a smile to the world, but your heart is bleeding. You might be too strong to be weak, because of what you have faced in your life. I understand and I commend you for your strength. I also praise God that you’re still here to testify to the fact that you’re still alive after all you’ve endured. Let His love touch you in the places you know you’re hurt and the places you don’t know you’re hurt. Please don’t defy it. I care too much about you; however, He cares more about you than I do. So, despite how others treat you, be free to grieve!
The Mayne Man