Recovering From Overwhelming Grief

A friend of mine drives a technologically advanced car. Recently, she told me about experiencing car trouble. While driving she rolled over a nail and punctured one of her tires. However, one of the features of her technologically advanced car is that it alerts her when air pressure is depleting from her tires. Thanks to this new feature it did not take long for her to notice a problem existed.

Before upgrading her car, she had a similar experience. Rolling over a nail and driving with tire pressure depleting, her older car lacked the ability to alert her of what happened. As a result, she continued to drive her car like nothing was wrong. Things were seemingly ok until she experienced a massive blowout! Thank God for technologically advanced cars!

Grief Without Signals

If the truth were told, most of us operate like the older car instead of the technologically advanced car when experiencing grief. It is not that we do not know that grief exists, but sometimes it is complicated identifying the signals that show up in our lives emotionally, physically, and spiritually. We are routinely hit with some of life’s biggest punctures, but oftentimes we are completely unaware of its devastating effects. Unfortunately, many of us do not notice we’ve been punctured until we experience a massive blow out.

Grief Triggers

Grief is defined as the emotional process of reacting to affliction or loss. According to Swiss-American Psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Kūbler-Ross, people experience the five stages of grief in this order: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In our sinful world, everyone inevitably experiences grief in some form or fashion. The most common way of experiencing grief is in the death of a loved one. However there are many other ways that people experience grief. Some experience grief over:

  • Divorce, or the end of a relationship
  • Oneset of a chronic or terminal disease
  • Job loss
  • Delivering a child with a birth defect
  • Disability from an illness or severe accident
  • Loss of independence
  • Surviving an act of violence or natural disaster
  • Discovering your child/teen has a learning disability, behavior problem, or is abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Having a miscarriage or still birth

Grief Alerts

Having a theoretical understanding of grief is often not enough to move people to action. In fact, no clear knowledge of what is causing the grieving process is what causes the most damage. It is when we are not aware that various experiences in life have punctured us that we begin to experience emotional, physical, and spiritual depletion. And grief left unchecked slowly, but surely leads to deterioration. But there are some grief alerts that can let us know something has punctured us and we are depleting:

  • Crying
  • Headaches
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Insomnia
  • Questioning your belief in God
  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Guilt
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite

Any one of the above mentioned systems are overwhelming to carry. A collection of them are destructive, and often indicative of a greater issue. Leaving our grief triggers unresolved and our grief alerts ignored leads to mental and/or emotional illness along with a host of other medical conditions. The good news is that this does not have to be our reality. We don’t have to continue limping through life with a nail in our tire.

Paul’s Grief Recovery Program

As believers in Jesus Christ we have an advantage working in our favor. That advantage is the Word of God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “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.” In these verses the Apostle Paul offers us two powerful principles concerning grief. The first, and most important principle, is that God is able and willing to comfort us in our grief. He is patient, compassionate, and gentle in how he comforts us in times of need. What better example is there of how to support others than in the example God shows us Himself?

God does not put a timetable on our grief. He does not dictate how we should feel. In His compassion He comforts us until we are once again able to stand on our own two feet. However, there is another piece to this puzzle. The second principle to Paul’s grief recovery program is that God comforts us so that we can comfort others. In other words, one of the best antidotes to grief is community. When we have people who sit with us, pray with us, cry with us, talk things through with us, and simply bless us with their silent presence those grieving experience a powerful healing and restoration. And after you’ve reached the other side of your healing you now can be to someone else what others were to you in your time of need.

Seek A Grief and Loss Professional

Additionally, consulting a grief and loss professional can be beneficial during the recovery process. The good Lord in all of His grace and mercy has equipped individuals with the necessary skills and expertise to treat mental and emotional illness in our communities. There is no shame associated with asking for help. The good news is that God is in the business of figuratively removing life’s nails from our tires and help us manage the wounds that from the puncture.

Grief does not have the final say, God does! 

There is life after grief, but it requires intentional and consistent work. But what’s great is that God has the ability to console, reassure, and even deliver us out of our grief.




My Struggle With Mental Health

These Are My Confessions

I am a pastor, husband, father, and a writer. I love Jesus and I am excited about what He is doing through me and in me. Yet, there are two issues that I have dealt with my whole life: ADD and anxiety. I became aware of them pretty early on in life. The anxiety manifested itself in two ways, especially:
  1. Public speaking
  2. Dark, lonely places
I’ve always said God has a sense of humor because he called me to be a pastor: a job that requires a lot of public speaking and also a lot of traveling and staying in dark places alone. And truthfully I must confess, traveling was very difficult for me for the longest time. The anxiety got so bad that I couldn’t fall asleep. And I will never forget how my anxiety took over when I preached my first sermon. I was so overwhelmed that even though I had 10 pages of written material I only spoke for 5 minutes. My girlfriend at the time was so unimpressed with my sermon she broke up with me soon after.

You Are Not Alone

The reason I’m sharing my experience is because I find so many leaders and members alike struggle with mental health issues. And to make matters worse they’re getting terrible counsel. Unfortunately, many of us are dealing with everything from anxiety and depression to bipolar disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) by ourselves. Anyone facing these issues alone knows that isolation only exasperates the problem.

Get Counseling

You know what helped me? Counseling helped. At some point we have to be honest and admit that sometimes you can’t just pray depression away, or anxiety, or _______________ (fill your mental health challenge here). “Pray harder” may not be the best solution.
In fact, when you pray and the problem continues it can create a false sense of guilt and shame. Many begin to believe that either God doesn’t want to heal them, or that they don’t deserve to be healed. And neither of these things are true. The fact of the matter is, mental health issues are not exclusively spiritual issues. They are illnesses that require medical attention in the same way a broken arm or a heart attack requires a physician. So if you’re struggling with mental health go see a counselor.

Prayer Really Works

But in addition to the counseling, prayer really did help a lot. There is a calming effect to prayer. This calming effect is really why I believe talking to God is such a blessing. I can truly say that through prayer i’ve experienced the promise of Philippians 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Work With the Weight

I also found that doing my job regardless of how I felt helped. In spite of the anxiety, I continue to speak and travel. I’ve taken God’s instruction to Joshua to “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). It’s verses like these that teach me to trust in God’s calling more than in my issues.

Talk Through It

And finally, I learned that talking to people also helped. Because there is a stigma attached to mental health issues it is oftentimes hard to open up. But when we share our stories with others it allows people to feel comfortable saying “that is my story too!” Vulnerability breeds community.
I want to invite you to seek help. The Father says, you are worthy. Jesus says, you are loved. And the Spirit say, you are special.

 




10 Ways to Overcome Bullying in your Mind

As a kid, I hated walking down one hallway at school because I feared two mischievous seventh-grade boys. These boys had me so convinced their words were true. When a guidance counsellor attempted to console me – she told me I was “pretty” – I didn’t believe her.  I distinctly remember laughing as if she had made a joke.

Even as a young adult professional in the workplace, I battled depression and anxiety. This caused me to be hugely resistant to correction. As I wallowed in numerous insecurities, I came to believe that that no one liked me. I thought that I was nowhere near good enough.

Ten Rounds with a Powerful Bully

Though, I was no longer a bullying victim, technically,  a bully remained in my mind and  I constantly found myself going up against her. I went into the ring every time I ran into a “bossy” co-worker, or a friend who poked “harmless” fun at my expense. Or every time I was discriminated against, or crudely dismissed for a job or ignored by a not-so hot crush.

Bullying is not just something that plays out in one scene of our (childhood) and disappears the rest. Research (2013) has shown that being bullied as a child or adolescent leaves you at a higher risk of developing psychological disorders as an adult, such as depression and anxiety. While it may not be possible to completely undo the damage of the past, here are some ways you can counteract against the psychological effects bullying may have on you now as an adult.

Standing Up to Yourself

Confront your Past 

The taunts you endured in high school, could be affecting you still. Leanne Prendergast, founder and president of an anti-bullying organization called Love Our Lives, says that one of the biggest ways the trauma from bullying manifests itself later on in life, is through our language.

Frozen in time: Childhood taunts still ringing in your ears? It is time that you rewrite the script.

“There’s a script in our minds that we’ve allowed to rule our thoughts. But the moment we start to rewrite that is when we’ve taken our first step to restore ourselves. Then, we begin the process of letting go of the negativity that we’ve been carrying for so long.”

Don’t Play the Victim

We play the victim every time we blame whatever problems we are dealing with, on someone or something else. No matter what challenges may arise, we’re good at shifting blame away from ourselves, at all cost. While there is no denying the severe impact, you may have experienced as a result of distressing past events, at some point we have to look within to find what part we had to play in our own messes. Though, please don’t use this as an opportunity to fall into the trap of guilt and self-deprecation. You’ve taken a hard beating, so go easy on yourself. Use this time instead to learn from your mistakes and grow into a better version of yourself.

Recognize the Triggers 

Maybe you find yourself getting worked up when someone challenges your authority. Or, perhaps you begin to feel insecure around narcissistic personalities. Their persistent need for control may remind you of those bullies from your past. Whatever the situation, try honing in on it. You can’t resolve a problem if you don’t know it’s there.

Seek Support 

Research released from The Center for The Developing Child at Harvard University, reveals that supportive, solid relationships with adults and caregivers from early on can actually reverse some of the damaging effects of toxic stress. Though, you are no longer a child, the benefits that come from having a strong support system still apply. Shelly Wiggins, a licensed professional counselor with Driftwood Counseling, says that recognizing the value that comes from a therapeutic relationship process, is highly important. Whether this be a “mentor, coach, or therapist,” there’s something incredibly rewarding about having “someone that can walk alongside you through a process; it doesn’t have to take years.”  So, as you seek to access healing in your life, be open to having someone support you in this new pursuit.

Take your Time

When you’re dealing with deep-rooted issues, you will need to set a grace period for yourself as this will no doubt take a lot out of you. Sometimes people have this story of bullying that’s so far back in their memory that they may not want to talk about it or they think its so insignificant that it doesn’t matter,” says Wiggins. “It takes some time to work with a person to unravel the story.”

Believe you Can Overcome 

Despite the fact that studies show that being bullied can lead to significant mental health problems such as depression later in life, there is still hope. A study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that the detrimental effects of bullying decreased over time, which the authors say indicates the potential for resilience in children exposed to bullying. This is good news, because it shows people can do better, no matter what they might have experienced in the past. It starts by letting go of the pain from previous years and then choosing to cherish a resilient spirit. No matter what you’ve had to endure, believe that restoration is possible.

Speak Up About What Happened 

Confront the bullies now: Speak, write and keep a journal about the abuses you suffered. You may empower someone else.

Ignoring traumatic events does not support us in our journey to recovery. After you have acknowledged what has happened to you, the next step is to free yourself from the fear that is paralyzing you and speak up about it. Depending on where you are in your passage to healing, this could look like sharing in a private manner, with a trusted friend or family member. Or, it could mean choosing to become a public advocate at the appointed time, in order to help others come to terms with their own hurtful experiences.

Take Up Journaling

A study in 2002 found it to be a useful practice for those undergoing trauma or stress, which may be why so many therapists recommend it for their clients.

Wiggins explains this point further. ”Just the process of writing out your story can be therapeutic in of itself,” she says. “The purpose of doing this is to get the story out of you that might be stuck inside. It also helps to validate your own feelings and dispose of the negative emotions that might be hanging on, so that it doesn’t inhibit your daily functioning and current relationships.”

As an additional measure to encourage the release of painful thoughts and emotions that may be blocking you from accessing true healing, Wiggins recommends writing a letter to the person who bullied you in one of your private sessions. Though, she does not encourage seeking the person out with the intent of sending the letter, neither should it be posted on a public platform.

Head Outdoors  

A breath of fresh air can do wonders. Remember that the next time you find yourself in a toxic situation or lagging under the weight of heavy emotions. Some possible ways you can use your time outdoors well, can be a brisk walk, a cardio workout session, or a cool, refreshing swim. If you’re looking for an even quieter option, you might even choose to settle down under the shade of a nice tree with a book. “I have found significant value in taking people out to be in nature,” says Wiggins. “It gives [them] a place to be able to express [their] emotions in a complete safe environment which is different from traditional talk therapy.”

Forgive  

As the popular saying goes, Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” When you choose not to forgive, you unconsciously feed into a never-ending cycle of bitterness and resentment, which does more harm than good.

Yet, according to the John Hopkins School of Medicine, the biblical principle of forgiveness has substantial health benefits too. Not only does it lower the risk of heart attack, improve cholesterol levels, and reduce pain and blood pressure, it can also decrease levels of depression, anxiety and stress.

“Nine times out of ten when people walk into my office, I am going to have to deal with one of two things, one of which has to do with forgiveness,” Wiggins says. “We can all benefit from learning what true forgiveness is.” If you’re seeking to recover from inner wounds previously inflicted by the bullies of your past, then maybe it’s time you tried forgiving them. Believe me, you’ll be better for it.