I’ve always hated grief. I don’t know if you’re allowed to say that, if you’re allowed to reject something so timeless and central to the human experience, but I don’t care. I just don’t like it.
I don’t like feeling sad, or facing the darkness in our world. It swallows me whole, that darkness, so I try to avoid it as often as I can.
Joy is another story altogether. I love joy. I’m a joy junkie—a collector of beautiful things, experiences, and loved ones. I’ll take joy with a side of joy with a sprinkle of joy on top…if you don’t mind.
But something I’ve learned is that while joy is more fun, grief can’t be ignored.
A few years ago, I heard a man named Ron preach on the subject, and it changed my view of the thing completely.
“Grieving your losses is an important spiritual discipline,” he began.
“If you don’t deal with the holes in your soul, you wont be able to minister to anyone else. You’ll suck the life out of people, or worse, infect them with your stuff.”
Unfortunately, I had a pretty clear mental picture of what this would look like. Two words: Rebound relationships.
In the wake of one of my deepest heartbreaks, a guy in my French class asked me on a date. I should have said no, but in a grand gesture to prove how fine I was post-breakup, I said yes.
He made me dinner and we drank some wine and ended the evening chatting while lying on our backs on his bearskin rug. (I’m entirely serious).
After a few general questions—family, travel destinations, and favorite foods—he cut to the chase.
“Tell me about your last relationship,” he prompted.
Without even the slightest warning from my heart, I burst into tears. Through sniffles and gasps, I tried to explain my last relationship. “I’m totally over it. It’s not a big deal.” I sobbed.
I think I was probably communicating something different.
I left that night thinking maybe I should have given myself a little longer to grieve.
That night made me step back and understand there was a mess to clean up—some healing to be had before I invited someone else in.
I was learning I could only run from my grief for so long before it caught up with me in a messy, embarrassing pile of tissues, and I think I’m not the only one.
The truth is that at some point, something is going to happen to all of us. At some point someone will die, break your heart or walk away. You will lose a job or a pet or a home. Someone will attack your identity, your worth, or your heart. And you’ll end up wounded—having lost something important.
And that’s okay. It’s just part of life.
It’s ok when it’s dealt with and grieved, faced head-on and walked through. The dysfunction creeps in when those hurts are buried.
Buried wounds haunt us. They infiltrate every area of our lives. They make us angry, anger being the cheapest and most readily available painkiller we’ve got. We get angry, or we just shut down.
But anesthesia, as Ron pointed out, numbs everything. Not just the bad stuff. We can’t numb one emotion without numbing them all.
So here’s the kicker for a joy-addict like me: The more we allow ourselves to feel grief, the more we open ourselves up to feel joy.
So what do we do? We grieve.
As much as I don’t love it, we have to confront the hurts. We have to face them one-by-one, allowing the tears to flow and what’s aching inside to finally come out. And it’s only when we’ve faced our wounds, crying them up and out of our souls, cheeks still wet and hearts still tender, that Jesus can do his best work—healing, redeeming, and making us new.
What might you need to let yourself grieve?
P.S. Here is a podcast episode I had with my friend Kaitlin Wernet all about navigating grief.