Am I Stuck?
Have you ever felt just plain stuck? Some days it seems as though this season of grieving will never end. I think I’m doing fine, and new purpose and joy have entered my life…. And then out of the blue a moment, a day, or even a season of grief appears that presses in on my mind and my heart. I pick up my phone to text him that I’ll be home in 15 minutes. Or something fun happens with one of the grandkids and I momentarily think I should tell him about it. Or I face a week full of decisions and I just wish I could talk things over with him. Those times feel like I’m starting all over again from the beginning place of losing him.
Does this mean I’m stuck in grief? Maybe, but not necessarily. Generally speaking, being stuck means that I’m pretty much immobile. I can’t go forward, and I can’t go backward! Chances are that you’re not really stuck, but rather are experiencing those periodic waves of grief that just want everything to be the way it used to be.
In the Midwest we understand being stuck in terms of driving in ice and snow! Sliding off the road in the middle of a snowstorm can mean that you are immovably stuck in a snowbank! You can rev up your engine, you can rock the vehicle back and forth all to no avail! You will sit there spinning your wheels and going nowhere until someone comes along to help…or you decide to help yourself! (We have learned little tricks like throwing kitty litter under the tires!)
Or maybe at some point in your life you’ve been stuck in the mud – literally. Again, you’re temporarily paralyzed and not going much of anywhere until someone comes along to dig or pull you out. Being stuck is being unable to free yourself from your present situation.
This sometimes happens to widows at the point where their husband dies. It feels as though all of one’s future hopes and dreams, all of the well-made plans, and all of the possibilities you talked of together have died along with him. Most are able to move past this point, eventually finding new purpose, and, yes, maybe even still accomplishing some of those dreams and plans. But others are not and find themselves somewhat paralyzed emotionally – unable to move on with their lives.
This is sometimes referred to as “incomplete grief” and is quite simply what happens when our grief gets stalled or pushed aside for some reason. Most often this happens when one is required to step up to assume responsibility, or maybe when multiple losses require just putting one foot in front of the other and not really processing all that has been lost.
How do we identify when this has become something abnormal? One of the most obvious symptoms is an obsession with the loss of the loved one such that even mentioning them causes tears…even years later. Sometimes the individual will internalize emotions and become angry, hyper-alert, or overreactive emotionally. At other times, the individual will shut down emotionally, slipping into an emotional numbness, apathy, or low-grade depression. There seems to be no point to living.
To continue our earlier illustration, you need, first of all, to realize that you are not helpless or hopeless in the situation. You can make choices to free yourself and move on. You can reach out for help by talking with a trusted friend, a spiritual mentor, or a grief professional. Or you can make the choice to manage your thoughts and emotions – throw kitty litter under the wheels, so to speak.
We’re clearly told in II Corinthians 10:5 to take every thought captive. That means we don’t just let our thoughts take control and lead us down the slippery slope of isolation and depression, when the truth is that God has plans for us that have yet to be fulfilled! Jeremiah 29:11 says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” I can guarantee you that God is not in heaven wringing His hands wondering what to do now that you’re a widow! No, He knew this was coming, and He’s been preparing and equipping you to be able to process the grief, find new purpose, and thrive in this season of your life.
If you find yourself struggling, let me encourage you today that your journey has not ended! God still has “good deeds” laid out for you, and He desires that you will still accomplish them. Proverbs 4:18 tells us, “…the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day.” This means that what God has started in you will only grow brighter until it reaches the fullness of what He intended for you. Much like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress we are moving constantly towards the Celestial City! Be bold, be strong, and keep putting one foot in front of the other!
Your thoughts and comments are welcome here or you can email me at email@example.com