Sunday, March 29, 2020

Grief, loss, and mourning: What do I do?

Grief, loss and mourning are an unavoidable part of life and living. We all experience it to some degree, but no one is quite sure of the right way to navigate it. That's because while grief is a common to us all, and there are feelings and coping means we all share, grief remains a very individual and unique experience in many ways. There is no right way to grieve, but we all sense we can ease the process and complete it in a satisfying way...or stall, even halt, its progress and our ability to heal. 

Grief is a normal response to loss. It may be momentary based on the the extent of the loss, or continue or an extended period of time. We suffer minor losses every day, perhaps calling them inconveniences. Other losses are more profound and may result in a deep sense of mental anguish or grief, and sorrow.  While there are various levels of loss, the feelings of grief we experience are real at every level. 
Examples of Losses may include and not limited to:
  1. Close Family Member (spouse/parent/child/sibling) including Divorce
  2. Friendships and Pets
  3. Health
  4. Home/Personal Items/Comforts of Life
  5. Jobs/Clients/Contracts/Prestige/Promotions
  6. Time/Sleep/Missed Appointments
We may begin with feeling shock, especially if there was no anticipation of the loss, such as in an accident. It seems unbelievable and we want to deny that it is happening. We go numb, performing daily tasks on auto-pilot, going through the motions and only doing what is immediate and essential.  
Shock can buffer us for a time from being overpowered by our emotions and allowing us to continue to do what needs to be done. It can be a comfort to deny what has happened and live in avoidance and numbness, or medicating and dampening their emotions, but this can lead to being stuck in that moment of grieving and never truly moving on or forward. Grief must have an outlet or these stalled emotions may cause physical or emotional problems. 
When the shock wears off, and we must fact the reality and aftermath of what has happened, some rely on their faith and confidence in who God is and what He offers to the grieving. Others become unable to function or unable to begin the process of grieving, staying in a continual state of loss. Some people may travel the road of grief in a straight line always moving towards the goal of peace, others take detours or circle back, but the journey is unique to the individual. 
Common emotions are helplessness and confusion. You may discover you were emotionally unprepared, even if the loss was anticipated. While there may be “stages” of grief, going through each stage does not mean grieving has necessarily ended or that you will not experience one or more stages again. There are many events that may continue to trigger varying levels of grief as we move through time, for some these may result in the remembrance of treasured memories, for others a re-experiencing of loss. 
Common questions we all ask are: will I recover, will I get to the point it won’t hurt so much, will I regain some sense of normalcy, be able to cope, stop grieving, get through birthdays and holidays, and how long will this last? The answer is that there is no definitive answer for everyone because we each look at loss from a different perspective over time, and we each have a different level of willingness to move on from pain.  For some, the pain keeps a sense of connection with our loved one or even acts as penance for guilt, or punishment, or becomes confused with letting go of the love and the good memories, instead of simply letting go of the pain, guilt and blame. 
The answer to, will my life return to normal, is no, because we will never be the same and things will not go back to what we considered normal, however there is a new normal, and it has the possibility of being hopeful again.
In your new normal, life as you knew it before your loss will not be the same, however you will continually adjust to life as it is now. You may doubt it will happen, but remember that adjustments take time, and it is more helpful to allow yourself to simply begin to accept and adapt, instead of trying to rush forward and adopt a certain feeling, belief or way of thinking, or make permanent choices based on how you feel or are processing information, right now.
You have never experienced this particular and unique loss before, even if you have experienced other losses. Do not put yourself, or allow others to put you, on a particular time schedule to adjust to this loss and embrace the reality of your present life.
The pain inevitably lessens in some ways even if we do not want it to, and it lessens even more when we are willing to be in it, experience it (not necessarily all at once or in a short period of time, but when it presents itself) and even allow it to impart positive meaning to the loss. If you allow it to, this wound in your soul, like those in your body, will heal. 
God designed us to heal, but we can certainly choose not to. If we heal, our thoughts about our loved one, or what we lost, will remain in some form, however true healing will bring about insight, wisdom, gratitude, and peace.
There is hope for the lowly in spirit, the depressed and the broken hearted. Jesus promised, 
“The mighty Spirit of Lord Yahweh is wrapped around me because Yahweh has anointed me, as a messenger to preach good news to the poor (humbly, lowly, depressed). He sent me to heal the wounds of the brokenhearted, to tell captives, “You are free,”and to tell prisoners, “Be free from your darkness.” Luke 4:18 The Passion Translation

What happens if we don’t allow our process of mourning and instead remain in a state of continual grief? Often the result is anger towards others, ourselves and especially God, bitterness, an inability to experience joy, withdrawal from relationships that matter to us and from the people who need us, and we may either immerse ourselves in our work or feel unable to focus on work. We may create shrines in our home to keep our loss in the present, be unable to engage in holidays and happy rituals because believe we cannot gather in that treasured place or with those loved ones. As a result, the loss takes over our lives, defines us, and truly entraps us. There are few loved ones who would want their death to trap us in grief.
We can begin to release ourselves from what was, begin to adjust to the new reality, and even allow for new traditions, relationships and futures, by remembering what was good, finding meaning in the loss, and cultivating gratitude for what was, is, and is to come. 
We must allow ourselves to begin to be comforted, even by God. Do not expect for the loss to be “undone” or expect to quickly stop feeling pain, but do expect that Jesus will keep His word to never leave you or forsake you on this road you will travel. It may feel lonely, that others do not understand, but He will, He does. Lean in to the grief, and lean up to Him.  When you mourn with the Lord, you will find the comfort you long for. Matthew 5:4.
The following definitions are sourced from Webster’s 1928 American Dictionary of the English Language. 
  • Loss - to be separated from a person or thing, to have no knowledge of where a person or thing is, to forfeit or be deprived of, waste or squander, people, property, money, health, reputation, destruction, ruin, defeat, waste of time, labor, or possessions. It is not a detriment when we lose bad company or evil habits.
  • Grief - the pain of mind produced by loss, misfortune, injury or evils of any kind; sorrow; regret. We experience grief by sympathy for others. It may be occasioned by our own misconduct, sorrow or regret that we have done something wrong; pain accompanying repentance; when we have offended or injured a friend or the Supreme Being.
  • Sorrow - the uneasiness or pain of mind which is produced by the loss of any good, real or supposed, or the disappointment in the expectation of good or happiness, loss of friends or loved one, in misfortune, calamity to friends or country. Frustrated hopes, sad, depressed, dejected.
  • Mourn - to express grief or sorrow with weeping or audible sounds, sobs, sighs, or inwards silent grief. To wear the customary habit (traditional clothing, behavior or time) of mourning.
  • Comfort - relief from distress of the mind, hope and consolation; from pain, ease, rest, cold, distress or uneasiness of the body. That which gives strength, support or cheers in distress, difficulty, danger or infirmity. New strength and quiet invigoration.
Grief and sorrow are a normal response to any loss, of any kind. They are natural and even necessary emotions. Grieving enables you to sustain yourself and adjust to loss. You are expected to grieve when you experience a loss.  How you do so is up to you, it’s a moment in your life, unique to you, and one that you must personalize and give to it your own meaning.  
Mourning is your outward response, the voice of  grief. Mourning is what you say and do not say, what you wear, where you go, what you do or do not do, and how long you remain in that state. It is individual but may bring comfort to mourn in ways traditional to your family, your faith, your community or to others that also seem meaningful and helpful to you. 
Give yourself the space and time to mourn. Allow yourself to be comforted in different ways. Allowing comfort does not mean forgetting who or what you lost, that you don’t care, that you are “all o.k.” or that you are anything other than choosing to not dwell only in pain, all the time. 
Treat yourself the way you would someone else who is in mourning: with compassion and kindness. Let go of what you should need, should be, and do or do not deserve. Try not to compare yourself and your grieving process with your expectations about grief and mourning. Your coping methods may not be the same as someone else. You are not the same person as you were before the loss, so try not to compare you, to you.
Accept that the normal range of emotions, experiences, feelings and sensations, beliefs and cognitive processes are wide and deep, and that you fit in there somewhere. While it is not helpful, and is even harmful, to continually focus on the emotional, physical, and spiritual pain of loss, it is just as detrimental to avoid it completely or try to shut it down every time, or deny that it is a natural and necessary part of grieving and healing. 
You wouldn’t ignore a physical injury or deny it exists, demand it heal faster than natural, judge yourself for having pain or evidence of the injury, and neither should you with grief. Acknowledge and care of your needs, your wounds, even as they change over time. Find constructive ways to heal, to participate in the process, not rushing, but also not stagnating. 
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is accept help from others. We don’t want to be a burden  but when we don’t allow others to comfort us in some way, we actually create a burden for them, in that it’s more difficult for them to relieve the pain and helplessness they also feel. It’s ok to say, “I don’t know what I need.” Start with allowing friends and loved ones to initially do some minor tasks or chores, like dishes, preparing or serving food, walking or feeding pets, doing laundry, writing cards, making calls, etc. 
Take time off of work, socializing, business and focus temporarily on meeting your basic needs, including food, water, warmth, rest, security and safety. The authors of What’s Your Griefi website add, 
“While many people think coping with life after loss is only about confronting and coping with difficult grief emotions, we believe that coping encapsulates anything that helps you feel better and gives you a boost of positive emotion.”
Don’t be afraid to continue to love and feel bonded to a loved one - without apology. After my son died I continued to celebrate his birthday for a time, I still wanted cards from family members or some acknowledgement that he lived even though he died; I talked about him and how his short life affected and changed mine; and I continue to place his ornament on the Christmas tree. A death does not negate their life or their place in your heart. 
You will continue to develop your relationship - the way you relate to them - for the rest of your life and I encourage you to honor that relationship in varying ways as you move forward. For the some the greatest honor may be to meet grief with the courage to feel what must be felt and to dare to grow into a new life with new joys and sorrows. 
If you feel you are not moving forward over time, and you need help, reach out to friends, clergy, and grief groups and counselors or coaches. We cannot all be experts in all things and often we need help in learning to adapt to a new normal or learn more effective ways to cope, let go of the pain, and embrace a new way of living. 

For more help, visit Renewing Your Mind Transformational Counseling and Coaching.
This blog post relies heavily on chapter one of the NCCA course, Joy in the Midst of Mourning, by Dorothy M. Dye, PhD, and the article, “Seven Ways to Treat Yourself With Kindness While Grieving” on the website, What’s your Grief?

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Is marital abuse a Gospel issue?

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

In the U.S. currently, abuse legally refers to "physical or mental maltreatment which results in mental, emotional, sexual or physical injury. For example child abuse, elder abuse, spousal abuse and animal abuse."

We all agree, abuse is bad and someone needs to do something about it. But, is abuse a Gospel issue?

Pastor Mika Edmundson, 
Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused puts it like this,
When Christ submitted Himself to this experience at the cross, He made abuse a gospel issue. It was part of the oppression that He bore at His cross and overcame at the resurrection. So when we fail to recognize various forms of abuse as “gospel issues” we lose an important aspect of the freedom Christ has won for us. He came to reveal God’s great hatred of abuse and His great love for the victims of it. As pastors, we must help God’s people understand the solidarity, empathy, and deliverance that His risen Son holds out to victims of abuse. In Christ, they have a savior who understands exactly what they are going through because He has been there Himself.

Jesus was mocked, spit on, scourged, blindfolded, beaten with fists and with reed whip, slapped, nailed to a cross, publicly humiliated and ridiculed, suffered, talked about behind his back in his home town, called names, verbally grilled and questioned constantly, his answers received with derision and disbelief, sentenced and punished despite being declared not guilty, despised, loved and praised one day then accused and abused soon after, had his friends turn their backs on him when he needed them the most. 

He gets it in a way many of do not.

Jesus came to do many things, one of which was to set the burdened and battered free.

Jesus came to Nazareth where he had been reared. As he always did on the Sabbath, he went to the meeting place. When he stood up to read, he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written, 
God’s Spirit is on me; he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind,To set the burdened and battered free, to announce, “This is God’s year to act!” (Luke 4:14, The Message)

There are two levels (at a minimum) to this purpose and message. Yes, spiritual freedom, but Jesus also "cared about oppression in a physical and relational sense."

Contributors of the book, 
Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused, consisting of law enforcement, abuse advocates, attorneys, speakers, interventionists, counselors and pastors agreed the “captive and oppressed,” must include not only those who are in spiritual bondage to sin, but also those who live in fear of abuse in their homes or churches, those who are raped, those who are preyed upon as minors, and others like them.

What if the abuser says they are a Christian, asks for prayer, cries, says they are trying to change? Aren't we supposed to forgive 70 times 7?

If someone believes they have a relationship with God but fails to guard his words then his heart is drifting away and his religion is shallow and empty. James 1:26

If your fellow believer sins against you, you must go to that one privately and attempt to resolve the matter. If he responds, your relationship is restored. But if his heart is closed to you, then go to him again, taking one or two others with you. You’ll be fulfilling what the Scripture teaches when it says, ‘Every word may be verified by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ And if he refuses to listen, then share the issue with the entire church in hopes of restoration. If he still refuses to respond, disregarding the fellowship of his church family, you must disregard him unrepentant sinner. (Matthew 18:15-18 TPT)

So what do we do? We have had teaching in the Church that God hates divorce (Malachi 2) and many women (and men) have been discouraged from legally protecting themselves from a spouse who has broken their vows to love (I speak of action, not emotion.) However, as often happens, the "rest of the story" is somehow left out.

To be clear, yes God hates divorce, that was not in His perfect will for us. That does not mean there is not Biblical cause for divorce, and that's not the focus of this particular blog post -that's a whole n'other thing. 

If abuse is a Gospel issue, then how do we respond as believers to abuse and abusers?

Part two of the Malachi verse is what else God hates: violence and treachery against your spouse:

This is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and sighing, because the Lord no longer regards your offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, “Why [does He reject it]?” Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously. Yet she is your marriage companion and the wife of your covenant [made by your vows]. But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth.................................
For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong and violence,” says the Lord of hosts. “Therefore keep watch on your spirit, so that you do not deal treacherously [with your wife].” (Malachi 2:13-16 AMP)

God hates violence and also treachery (abuse) against our spouses. 

Guess what else God hates:
Cowards and unbelieving (or incredulous about God) abominable (those who are devoid of character and personal integrity sexually, and practice or tolerate immorality) - murderers - sorcerers (those who prepare or use magical remedies, intoxicating drugs, or poisons) - idolaters and occultists (those who practice and teach false religions) - and liars (those who knowingly deceive and twist truth.) (Revelation 21:8 AMP)

Based on the above descriptions, abuse can include

  • not coming to your defense when others physically or verbally attack you (perhaps even joining in or agreeing); 
  • ridiculing and undermining you, even for your faith in God; 
  • being sexually abusive, manipulative; 
  • being unfaithful (sexually including pornography; emotionally; financially; spiritually; etc.); 
  • being verbally, emotionally, sexually or physically abusive; 
  • pressuring you, forcing you, or administering to you without permission drugs of any kind (legal, pharmaceutical, or otherwise); 
  • routinely putting other people and desires in place of you (and before God) such as being a workaholic, overspending time with friends, spending joint money without agreement; over-focusing on t.v. or computer games instead of time with a spouse or children; 
  • lying 

God hates it all and so must we if we are to reflect His image.

What are we to do then when we become aware that someone we know is suffering under abuse? 

Pray for their abuser to repent? Of course. 

Pray for the abused to have relief - absolutely. 

Is that the full scope of our responsibility?

1. Start with comfort:

Comfort those in any affliction with the comfort we share through our relationship with Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3)

2. Move on to action:

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy (Proverbs 31:8-9 NIV)

Isaiah 1:17 says "Learn what it means to do what is good."  
What is doing good according to God? Isaiah continues with examples - examples that are not exhaustive or inclusive but serve to point us to those who need help:
Seek righteousness and justice, rescue the oppressed (also translated vindicate the victim), uphold the rights of the fatherless and defend the widow's cause!
James 1 - for those who don't understand the New Testament is fulfillment of the Old Testament, (it's just a blank piece of paper separating the books, ya'll):
Don't just listen to the Word and don't live out the message you hear! (v.22)
True spirituality (since you're not religious - you're spiritual, this is for you) that is pure in the eyes of our Father God is to make a difference in the lives of the orphans, the fatherless, the comfortless and the widows in their troubles, and to refuse to be corrupted by the values of the world. (v.27, TPT)
Does that mean simply blog about it, post on FaceBook about it, or spread fear and hatred about other people, or... does it mean get off your laptop and actually do something helpful. Even  something that involves a sacrifice perhaps of your time, your money, your belongings or even, your plans? 

What do you say? What will you say? 

Live your faith. Be a follower of Christ, be a doer of the Word. Look for opportunities to help in a real way, in a way that makes a difference in the day to day life of someone in your town, your church, your neighborhood or may be your home. 

Look for the signs of abuse and ask questions. 

If you need help or support through counseling, visit Renewing Your Mind Transformational Counseling and Coaching or email me at

Here are resources you can have on hand to find more help and contact numbers for your local Family Support Network, Support Within Reach, and more:

Help for women:

Help for men:

Saying yes to God

Photo by Drahomír Posteby-Mach on Unsplash
This is a repost from June of 2019 which caught my eye because I am re-reading this book.

Isn't it amazing that you can read or watch something, feel you have gotten everything out of it, then revisit it later, and there it is, fresh insights.

 I'm still in the season of "yes" to God nearly a year later and I can truly say that every "yes" has been worth it:

I'm spending time reading Kevin Zadai's book, The Agenda of Angels, which is eye-opening and well worth my time, and he was speaking to me about being yielded to the Lord. Have you noticed that God softly asks us to do something just outside our comfort zone, keeping it easy for quite a while, but is still asking us to do something for Him, that we probably wouldn't do on our own?

How do you respond? Do you say, "Ask someone else, Lord." Or, "What if they think I'm weird?"
Let me assure you, you're weird, I'm weird, we are all weird.

Yet, those of us who initially say "No, Lord, no way," are often the same people begging God for an encounter with Him, or His angels, or a near-death experience, or a waking vision, etc. We want God to move big for us, but we can't even tell a stranger (who we will never see again and does not know one of our friends or family members)  that God knows their problem and He loves them.

The great thing about God, is that He makes it so easy for us. He really does all the heavy lifting. The most difficult part for us, is saying, "Yes."

Sometimes, I say yes right away (when I am being in my smart mode.) The cool thing is that I get that sense that God is happy, and proud of me right away and the weird looks of not understanding why I am giving a stranger money or going back to give the over payment back to the store clerk or telling a stranger God loves them just don't matter because my Heavenly Father is proud of me!

However it's not always the simple thing because we all need to grow a little more today than we did yesterday

When God has asked me to give something up that we both know is not good for me or my life, the biggest struggle for me is that I don't want to suffer. So, instead I dangle and twist, making myself miserable with anxiety about taking that step for weeks or months at times. I begin to pray for God to help me to obey Him, to help me want what He wants for my life, and then suddenly, I wake up one morning and I just know, that I know, that I know that I can do this.

And I say yes. And suddenly it's all easy, it feels so right and natural to be doing just what I am doing. I wonder why I resisted for so long. Of course God is right! Duh.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jer. 29:11

In fact, He makes it easy...our part is simply to say "Yes." 

"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30

For support in saying yes to God, visit Renewing Your Mind Transformational Counseling and Coaching or email me at