Facing Our Feelings

by Gerry Hiebert

Covid-19 has dramatically changed our lives in ways nobody was prepared for. Change is stressful at the best of times, but in times of stress we usually reach out to friends, family, and community for support. Not so much today! Our new reality stirs up feelings of isolation, fear, uncertainty, insecurity, anxiety, loneliness, hopelessness and more.

There’s a word for these feelings. The word is grief. We don’t usually think of these feelings as grief. We tend to see grief in the context of death. But grief also surfaces when we face other losses and changes; loss of a job, a move to a new city or someone we love moving away, a fractured relationship, a dream we realize will never come true, a betrayal, or some other loss.
We’re out of sorts because we’ve lost familiar routines and connections, perhaps our financial security, the certainty of needs being met, and maybe even our purpose. We can be overwhelmed by isolation or by the people we are confined with. We don’t know when we’ll return to normal, and we don’t know if normal will look the same. That’s a lot of loss and change, and our souls respond with sadness, fear, grief.

I’ve known loss. As a teen my family left everyone I knew and moved halfway across the country to start over. I lost a marriage and thus daily connection with my children. I lost a dream job. I lost my identity; not my ID cards, I lost everything that I thought defined me. In 23 months my parents and my youngest daughter all died. I know loss, I know cumulative loss that feels like piling on. And I learned how to grieve. Grief has a purpose and we are wise to attend to it.
 
Responding to Grief

  • When I realized I needed to grieve, I discovered I didn’t know how. I needed help, so I did what we do in the 21st Century and Googled “grief”, “dealing with loss”, “grief models”, etc. I found a LOT of information, some extremely helpful, some not so much. Use your discernment and see what works for you but do your homework.
  • I had to start by accepting that my feelings were legitimate and deserved attention. That can be hard for some of us. Identify your feelings; are you afraid, lonely, anxious, bored? Write the words down and accept them as your reality.
  • Then ask God to show you the root of each feeling; are you afraid you’ll run out of money or food, why does being alone upset you, why are you so anxious that you can’t sit still or why are you watching TV 13 hours a day? Expect God to show you WHY you’re feeling what you feel, ask Him to show you what you need to change, then ask Him to remind you of His promises that bring peace.
  • Practise self-care! I wasn’t taught self-care growing up, I was taught sacrifice, self-control, denying self, and that anything else led to pride. But my wife Sylvie showed me Luke 10:27, “You must love your neighbor as well as you love yourself.” God showed me that if I don’t take care of myself, I won’t be able to effectively help others. What’s self-care for you? Walks, reading, talking to friends and family by phone or online, eating healthier, finding a routine in your new normal?
  • Our world has changed, and we must make adjustments. Don't expect yourself to feel or act or think the way you did before Covid-19. Your internal resources are likely depleted; you may lack emotional, physical and cognitive energy. You feel like you can’t do what you used to. The reason is that part of your subconscious is using energy to grieve and adapt. You may only have 80 or 60% of your usual energy or intellect available. Do what you can, but don’t necessarily try to do what you used to do. Focus on the most important things and do them. Some things can wait.
  • Practise Gratefulness! A couple of Thanksgivings ago, Gary Best’s message on gratefulness helped me at a time of incapacitating grief. He shared that neuroscience has proven that gratefulness can reverse depression and deep sadness. Gratitude releases natural chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin that enhance our sense of well-being. In fact, journaling gratefulness 5 minutes each day for several months will impact your state of mind just as much as doubling your income! I tried it; it works.

In closing, here's my personal perspective on a season of loss and grief; every experience, including this very challenging one, is a chance to grow, to learn, to evolve into a better, wiser, more self-aware and compassionate human being. And because we have a faithful God who could never forsake us, we’re going to make it!

"Sorrow is a necessary consequence of loving others and being fully engaged with humanity. It is through the work of grief that we carve depth into our souls and create space to be filled with comfort from another. In this way, grief is understood, not as a reality to be denied, but as a work to be attended to. In refusing to attend to the work of grief, our soul becomes a vast, bleak, featureless wasteland--a kind of barren salt flat where nothing grows."                
- Brian Zahnd, Beauty Will Save the World
 
“Failing to grieve properly is like taking a deep breath and never letting it go." This is Us

Helpful Scriptures
Read these passages, and others that help you, in various translations to see how people have interpreted these truths.

Lament –Psalm 10, Psalm 22, Psalm 55, Psalm 71
Intercession – Psalm 140, Psalm 141, Psalm 142, Psalm 143, James 1:2-8
Comfort - Psalm 23, Psalm 138, Psalm 139, Isaiah 55, Psalm 37, Psalm 138
Security – Matthew 6;25-34, Philippians 4:6-9, Psalm 18, Psalm 27, Psalm 46,
Romans 8:35-39
Gratitude – Psalm 30, Psalm 34, Psalm 147, Psalm 150
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