Grief In All Its Agonizing Colors

Denial. Anger. Bargaining, Depression. Acceptance. Whether through self-initiated change or the traumatic, heart-wrenching death of a loved one, grief stinks.

As a young psychology major in college, I came to know this experience as DABDA. A simple acronym for the not so simple stages of grief. No matter what the impetus or cause of loss, these emotions greet us like predictable, but unwelcome friends.

This week I finished an almost year-long venture in full-time employment and I lost a friend to a life-ending stroke. Both endings. One was planned. One was not.

My favorite photo of Anne (far right) on a girl’s trip to NYC.

Though they may not appear to have much in common, since one is clearly far more tragic than the other, I found myself thinking about endings. And this grief cycle. Even when change is within our control and planned to the last detail, there’s a residual fallout that accompanies it.

Here are the 3 ways grief finds us:

  1. Planned & Purposeful: What? Why would we plan grief? Every time we terminate a job, we plan grief. Each time we end a relationship, we plan grief. Choosing to relocate invites grief. Even when we intentionally and purposefully leave something, even when we’re excited about the prospect ahead, we invite DABDA into our lives. It may not be severe and crushing, but if you look for it, it’s there, bubbling just below the surface.
  2. Natural & Seasonal: Ecclesiastes 3 makes this clear, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Kids will graduate from high school and college. Athletic seasons will come to an end. Cars will break down… and so will our bodies. With age comes more experiences with the natural cycle of these inevitable, seasonal changes of life. DABDA lives right alongside each one of them.
  3. Traumatic & Unexpected: A stroke. A car accident. A terminal diagnosis. These are likely the most anticipated and understood opportunities for DABDA. The closer these incidents are to us, the more intensely they engulf us. These are the gut-wrenching, suffocating emotions that threaten to pull us under and not let us up for air. We’re not ready for them. Confusing us all the more is that these stages are not linear. We can’t anticipate a distinct transition between each emotion. They ebb and flow. But find refuge in the fact that there is acceptance. Eventually.

Today, I take heart knowing there’s a God who understands and carries us through the pain. And the grief.

Can’t see Him?

He’s right there next to you.

He’s the friend who hugs you. He’s the co-worker who extends words of sympathy. He’s the family who surrounds you and unites you with stories that make you laugh and remember with joy.

“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. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort”.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Don’t miss Him. Look for him. You’ll see Him. Even as the tears slide down your face.

And find comfort.

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