Allowing space to grieve


Vincent van Gogh – Old Man In Sorrow

Grief. It isn’t pleasant but it is an inevitable part of our life if we choose to invest our heart and care about anything. In general our society does not deal very well with it. We avoid it. We judge it. We numb it. No wonder people choose to harden their hearts and keep them locked away. It is safer that way. Grief hurts. It is a natural response to loss. Losing dreams. Losing people. Losing your reality and adjusting to a new life. And the process of grieving is unique to each person.

I am in a course right now and we just completed a section on grieving. In general we tend to experience/judge emotions based on our family upbringing. If anger or tears weren’t acceptable then you might have a tendency to judge those aspects of your grieving process. For me, I want to hit the fast forward button and get to the healed part. I know the emotions themselves are OK and necessary…I just don’t like being in the midst of them. However, experiencing them, in their natural timing, is the only way through them. Big sigh.

If you are grieving yourself or someone in your life is, it can be difficult to know how to ask people to relate to you…or know what to say. The material I am studying gave permission to share these tips with “family and friends”…maybe sharing them on the blog is a liberal interpretation of that. I hope not because they are useful. I didn’t write them but I don’t feel comfortable revealing the source because it’s too personal.

To be helpful, those dealing with a grieving individual should…

  1. Normalize what they are going through.
  2. Not throw Scripture band-aids at the grieving individual (even with good intentions)
  3. Refrain from telling the person that they know exactly how they feel.
  4. Let them talk about it if they want to, while being respectful if they don’t.
  5. Keep from making assumptions about anything
  6. Encourage them that one day their pain will be manageable – And it REALLY will be
  7. Give them hope for better days, but be realistic about the time frame. (The first year is difficult the second may be a bit easier)
  8. Continue to support them over time without expectations.
  9. Call and leave messages without expecting to hear from the hurting one.

Basically, give them freedom and space to be authentic with their feelings without griefjudgement. Because grief can come from SO many different places. It can be having something irreplaceable destroyed or stolen. A miscarriage. Your security in your home or health might have been taken. Loss of a cherished pet. The key is being honest with the feelings and allowing them to pass through you because experiencing them is the only way to move beyond them. If you don’t…then they will continue to influence your life in negative ways. I go back to this post I wrote about the hidden beauty of pain. I truly think that we need to allow ourselves the space to experience the hard emotions in order to experience the positive. Otherwise we just get numb. And personally I would rather experience pain/joy than nothing.

So here are a few practical tips:

  1. Again I am going to come back to the journaling – write it out. If you tend to judge your feelings ask yourself why? Do you think you should be feeling something different than you are? Do you think you should be over it by now?
  2. Read “A grief observed” by CS Lewis if you need to normalize the pain you are experiencing
  3. Scale back on commitments if necessary. Give yourself some space but be aware if the space is turning into isolation and depression. You might need a professional to help you sort through your feelings. That is not weakness but courage to face the real issues head on and recognizing that you can’t do it alone.
  4. Know that there is hope. I am still in the midst of the storm but I feel the tide shifting. Things are hard but not as hard as they used to be. There is a small part of me starting to believe everyone who told me “I wont always feel like this”.

Here’s to surviving another week,



8 thoughts on “Allowing space to grieve

  1. Hey Lynnea, I guess your post of the other day really touched me deeper than I expected, and I have been looking for my Center ever since. And I found it! it is Harmony. Or Balance, Peace, Calmness, same idea. And for Ryan it is Curiosity. When facing trouble he throws his brain at the problem to understand it, while I look at the world around me for a stable ground to hold on to.

    We just spent a lovely weekend in Dublin. I will get in touch with you for a dinner plan in the weeks to come. Baby says hi!

    And also, I don’t really understand what you mean with “normalizing” the experience of a grieving person. Can you elaborate or give me a reference to look up?

    • Clotilde- Those are some good revelations…I’m excited to chat more when we figure out when dinner will work. 🙂

      Thanks for your question. From what I have found in my own experience and from reading part of the grieving process can feel overwhelming and out of control. When you are in the midst of it your emotions can swing wildly or you will have feelings you are surprised by. It is common for people to think they are the only ones experiencing these things. It is important for them to know it is “normal” to feel a bit crazy for a while…but it will pass. I think “normalizing” is just helping people to understand that what they are experiencing is expected and to walk with them while it passes. I did a quick google search and found:
      From a quick glance they do a good job of explaining things. Hope that helps. xx L

  2. Saw the original van Gogh just today at Kroller muller museum. I thot about Isaiah 53. Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Joyce

    Sent from my iPhone

    • I love the Kroller Muller museum…such a great day for it! Yes, thank goodness Jesus knows our sorrow and can touch those deep places in our heart. xx L

  3. You have an amazing way with words. I love this post and deeply connect with what you’ve shared. Tks for sharing and being real yet constructive and positive, which helps others keep it real in this roller coaster that is life…..I have much respect and love for u!

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