Featured Article: Grief is Not an Option

By: Mark Fenton, M.A. Chaplain

When we love someone and experience the separation that death brings to the relationship grief is a normal natural outcome of that process. As Queen Elizabeth II once said, “grief is the price tag we pay for love.” It is interesting though to hear the comments some people make regarding their loss: “I just don’t have time to deal with this now.” I’ll have to grieve later, I have too much to do now.” “I can’t change what happened so why feel bad about it.” “Our family doesn’t believe in grief.” To think that grief is a switch that affords us the option of turning it on and off whenever it is convenient is a huge mistake. When we are in relationship with others that we care about, their death sends a signal to our internal hard drive to grieve. Grief includes all the feelings, thoughts, and emotions that tell us something does not feel right. These may include sadness, confusion, hopelessness, despair, longing, anxiety, depression, fatigue, loss of appetite, decreased libido, and loss of faith to name a few.

Grief speaks to our bodies and our bodies listen even if we want to deny it. It is not uncommon for people who have experienced a profound loss in their life to show up at their Primary Physicians office with symptoms ranging from insomnia, digestive problems, irregular heart beats, bowel issues, headaches, and other pains. Several Johnson County physicians specializing in internal medicine have said that as many as 50% of their patients may in fact have unresolved grief as the core issue related to their symptoms. Grief is going to be heard, it speaks to our bodies even if we think we are hitting the grief “off switch.” The time to acknowledge and own our grief is now, while it is occurring. Do not take lightly the old saying of “died of a broken heart.” Hearts that never grieve, but run from the pain are prone to break. It is never a convenient time to feel pain, it’s just that if we want to find healing from this loss it requires feeling the pain associated with it. Our friends in A.A. have it right, “You have to feel it to heal it.”

If you write a check for more than the amount you have in your checking account the bank charges you and overdraft fee and there may be additional penalties tagged on by the merchants. A notice is mailed out to you to correct the problem. At this point you have a choice to make. You can make sufficient deposits to correct the overdraft or ignore the problem and assume it will go away. Far from going away the second choice can result in serious legal problems. Grief is a notice that has been sent to you that there are insufficient funds in your love bank. Death has created an overdraft in your account. Reconciling this account is not nearly as simple as making a quick bank deposit. Take a careful inventory of your loss. Who was this person, what did they mean to you? What role did they play in your life, family, faith community? What unique features did they bring to your life that made your life better because of them? How has your life changed with their absence? What did not happened in the relationship that you wished had? What would you undo if you could? Have you forgiven them for leaving you? Have you forgiven God for not answering your prayer the way you thought it should have been answered? How will you remember them? How will you go about being OK for them to be where they are and it being OK for you to be where you are? These questions pondered daily, weekly, monthly, and even longer are key components to grieving and reconciling the overdraft on your love account. When we make room for appropriate grieving ultimately we are making room for living. Since grief is going to be heard take time to listen to it today, you will soon learn that it speaks not just of pain, but of love and love never dies.