In a fallen world, tragedy strikes all of us. How we face loss is vitally important. While loss is universal, responding well to loss is haphazard, at best. It takes intentionality.
“The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them.” Ecclesiastes 2:14
I’ve learned it matters how you embrace your journey of grief. While I do not claim to have done everything right, I learned some lessons from my experience that proved helpful. Some lessons were learned the hard way, and some lessons were learned by listening to trusted counselors.
Here are five intentional topics I had to address. These are issues I had to think about that you don’t realize until you’re in the fray.
- Early Days and Weeks: I took five weeks away from work. I would have never thought, in advance, I could stay away that long. However, I needed all of it and could have taken more time. Don’t be surprised by how much time you need.
- Daily Schedule: I had to think about my daily schedule. I was intentional. I blocked the morning for mourning. I started my day slowly and gently. I took time to read about grief, read devotionally, read my Bible, pray, and exercise. Then, the remainder of my day was as normal as it could be after loss.
- Important Dates: Birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays are important. It takes planning to prepare for these dates. I chose to be with all three children on or around their birthdays the first year. My whole family came together on Mother’s Day. Of course, it was already planned by Kim, a providential gift. I was with Kim’s parents for Father’s Day. I chose to be with my sons on my birthday. I spent Thanksgiving with my sons, Paul and Trevor, and Kim’s parents. I was with my daughter, Emily, and my son, Trevor, for Christmas. My anniversary was the most significant decision I made. I went away alone to celebrate and honor my marriage and mourn my loss. It was a spiritual high complete with what I believe are miracles of God’s presence to remind me he is El Roi, the God who sees me.
- Clothing and Belongings: Pictures of Kim are everywhere. A countertop held her hair products, complete with a curling iron and a straightener. Her closet was filled with her clothing and shoes. I chose not to hurry to move or dispose of any of these personal belongings. I left them where they were left by Kim. I was told I would know when to remove her clothing. Left in place, it reminded me of what I had lost. If removed, I’d have a half-empty closet which would also remind me of my loss. It’s better not to hurry and simply invest in facing the loss. I was ready emotionally to deal with Kim’s personal belongings by the ninth or tenth month. However, we were closing in on Christmas, and I decided to wait until February when all my kids were coming back to mark the one-year anniversary of her death. Additionally, there are decisions to make about our home. In my case, I didn’t rush that one either. I’m taking my time.
- Disciplined Thinking: This may or may not make as much sense, but you must be intentional about disciplining your thought-life. It’s easy to follow a path toward despair. You are in a battle. The onslaught must be embraced and battled. It must be faced. It must not be ignored or diminished. It must be recognized for the loss that it is, but it must be met with disciplined, biblical, and godly thinking. While a different context, the admonition in 2 Corinthians 10:5 to “…take every thought captive…” applies here, as well.
Intentionality in the topics you address during a period of grieving and mourning help you navigate the difficult journey. Walking in a healthy manner will pay dividends, enabling you to honor your loved one, your God, your family, and yourself. Be intentional. Build a foundation for a healthy period of grief and recovery. I’m so glad I have been intentional, and I’m so glad my family has welcomed the time together as we have weathered the turbulence of loss by taking steps together.
“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” Luke 14:28