Let the waters flow out or you will implode or explode. Recent conversations with Prince Harry of Wales identified how unexpected grief can totally overwhelm all systems and cause breakdown. This process can bring anger and shock along with fear as well as the body, mind and spirit being overcome. C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed referenced grief as feeling like fear. He was talking about the cancer caused death of his beloved friend and wife Joy. In the photo above, taken by my cousin and landscape photographer, Douglas F. Frank, the water is escaping or flowing out over the lava rocks in a Pacific Ocean grotto.
The cave-like rocky hollow concentrates the waves as the tide rises. Have you stood on a beach as the tide rises? Has your blanket ever been unexpectantly overtaken by the rising waters? I certainly remember a beautiful night in college when several fraternity brothers and I hit the Jersey Shore for the day. We ended the adventure by lying on the beach staring upwards into the incredible beauty of the stars. We were gruffly wakened by a rogue wave running over us sometime after midnight. Grief is like that. It can ambush and trigger us to very uncomfortable places. It is part of a process with steps that need to be traveled to redefine or reframe the loss of a loved one.
One of the difficult aspects of grief is the disabling of normal coping mechanisms. We cannot function with clarity and memory as usual. Our senses are both dulled and enhanced at the same time, rushing in and out like waves.
People who want to help but personally have not experienced the messiness of mourning will say and ask dumb or inappropriate amenities. Unfortunately it can be like the splash of cold water when we need a hot cup of tea. I recall leading a ministry called Griefshare with the moniker, Turning Mourning into Joy. Several attendees were angered at the thought of ever being joyful again. It just seemed an affront and a cruel thought early in their grief.
Can you see the dark rocks in the grotto photo, unscaleable and harsh? Our souls feel like this in mourning. We cannot crawl out and feel right. We can’t take a run and have the endorphins refresh, or a glass of wine relax us. Normal coping mechanisms are not very useful.
But God is there with us; He never left. He speaks truth and love in His words of comfort through Paul saying, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer” (2 Corinthians 1:2-6). These words are about a God who comforts us in the trial, trouble and valley pain.
Don’t hold the water in, let it out through prayer, other godly people or journaling. It is true that exercise can be helpful, but your mind may play tricks on your way. God’s living word is sharper than a two-edged sword, cutting us to our marrow. The pain will be gain, because God’s word does not return void. For like the rain it falls and refreshes, cleaning the wounds for healing. Oh yes, go to the ocean shore and hear the rush and feel the spray. Listen as Elijah to the whispers and even roars from God. He is still speaking.