SUFFERING: Grief As Gratitude, by Tim P. VanDuivendyk

From The Unwanted Gift Of Grief

The Wilderness Of Grief: The “Way” To Transformation

Many words and pictures come to mind when I think of the journey through grief, but I keep coming back to the word “wilderness.”  The wilderness is not just a physical place but also a spiritual and emotional place.  In the wilderness of grief we may not know which direction to take.  Feelings of fear may paralyze us.  We may not be able to see through the thick forest to tomorrow.  Our courage may fail.  In the wilderness the body, mind, and spirit journey through dry deserts, blinding rains, lonely storms, long nights, and dormant winters – searching for springtime.  We search for light and hope and have no assurance that the direction we travel will lead to either.  We wait for morning while stuck in mourning.  We hope we are mourning toward morning.  When I use the word “wilderness,” I am describing a “way” rather than a physical place.  The grief wilderness is the “way” of the journey toward healing and a promised life again.

Grief As Gratitude

This book was not written to make you feel good.  Reading this statement must seem strange given that this book is designed to attract readers who are in the midst of grief and those who minister and care for those grieving.  Although this book is not offered to make you feel good, it is offered to help you feel what you feel and hopefully better understand what you feel so that you will go into and through the wilderness of grief toward better healing.

Grief as gratitude may sound crazy, but don’t put this book down yet.  Give me a chance to clarify myself.  I believe that grief is often the expression of our gratitude.  Grief is a painful adjustment period after any significant loss.  It affects our body, mind, emotions, and spirit.  We go through this painful adjustment period because we have lost a significant person with whom we had a meaningful and treasured relationship.

We only grieve profoundly for those with whom we have had a relationship and close connection.  We may be momentarily sad and sympathetic regarding another person’s loss, a friend’s divorce, a tragic suicide, a schoolyard shooting, or a terrorist attack taking many lives.  For a while we may be struck with identification, sorrow, compassion, and empathy for them.  However, we only experience ongoing and high volumes of grief, pain, and confusion when we have had significant involvement with the deceased person.  Unless a person was close to us, we tend not to grieve at length and depth.

We only grieve profoundly for those with whom we have had a significant relationship and close bond.  We treasure them and are grateful for their closeness in our lives.  This gratitude is the source of our pain.  When we express grief for them, we are expressing gratitude for them.  The pain, anger, and sadness are our expressions of gratitude for them.

After a loss, our hearts may feel broken or throats may tighten with emotions.  Our tears may flow or leak uncontrollably.  Our thoughts and emotions may collide in confusion, anger, and frustration.  Sadness and depression may pull us into a pit.  We experience this because the person was important to us and we love him or her.  These grief experiences are expressing gratitude to God and life for that special one.

I do not mean that we are grateful for the loss.  On the contrary, we hate and mourn the fact that our loved one is not here with us.  Nor do I mean that we should be grateful for the pain.  On the contrary, with all our might we want the pain to lift.  Nor do I mean that this is God’s will, so therefore be grateful.  No!  This is not what I mean when I say grief is gratitude!

What I mean is that our emotions, groaning, angry laments, broken heart, and emptiness are expressions of our gratitude and praise to God for the person who is no longer with us.  After a loss, we may cry out in anger or frustration toward God and life.  Even this is an expression of gratitude.  After a loss we may plunge into dark sadness or depression.  This also is an expression of gratitude.  So do not let anyone hurry you through your tears and grief.  Don’t let anyone try to take away your grief until you are ready.

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