By Njeri Muchunu
Grief is a natural response to death or loss. I perceive the grieving process as an opportunity to appropriately mourn a loss and then heal. The process is helped when you acknowledge grief, find support, and allow time for grief to work. We do not only experience grief on the death of someone.
People can be grieved when:
1. They become separated from a loved one;
2. They lose a job, position, or income;
3. A child leaves home;
4. They have a major change in life such as getting a divorce, moving, retiring, significant change in lifestyle; etc.
I felt compelled to write this article because there are a number of Leaders experiencing grief and loss and there is not much information out there speaking to how we should deal with it as leaders. I will share my own story of how I have handled grief and loss. Remember, this is my story and I hope it will add value to you on how you can deal with grief and or loss.
Many of us get angry at God during such times and many lose their faith in Him. We say to ourselves, if He is such a good God, why does He allow so much pain? If He is such a good God, why would He let this happen to me/my dad, my brother, my mother – my loved one? Why did she/he have to experience so much pain only for me to lose her/him in the end? And guess what, God can take your anger and He does feel your pain, and perhaps this is a good a time as any to direct all those questions to Him instead of ignoring Him. You know as well as I do that He does exist and your ignoring His existence will not change the fact that He is there. However, this newsletter is not about that.
There was a time I used to feel this way “If I admit my thoughts to someone, they’ll think I’m crazy. Am I going crazy?” And I said conclusively, No. I’m not. And I say this to you with certainty, No, you’re not!
I was tired. Really tired. I was edgy and emotional and anxious. I began noticing that I felt exactly like it looked outside – gray and miserable. Numb. I questioned God….why? I sank further and further and I found myself breaking down often. I just couldn’t go through the motions anymore when I felt like I was dying inside. I was privileged to have been able to literally leave the country and be alone….i needed time to cry and cry and cry and try and understand what was happening. Yes, I cried and the more I cried, the worse it felt and I cried even more.
There is a common misconception, especially among Christians, that one should always be happy. God has got this so I should be strong and courageous. Well, in my view, no one can be happy all the time – even the Godly one’s. The world is filled with a lot of sadness; there is a lot of pain in this planet and at times the only response is grief. The appropriate response is not to fake it, it is to face it. Mourn your losses, disappointments, sins, the suffering in the world and do not be blase about it.
I spoke to God often and asked Him “Why won’t you lift me out of this pit? I’d cry. “Aren’t you a deliverer? Why do the voices of despair sound so much louder than yours?”
I could not read about God’s promises and I know that when you are in the pit of it, you too I can’t read about God’s promises. It hurts too much. I went to the book of Psalms and prayed and cried to God like David did. “Why are you downcast oh my soul”? I learnt a number of lessons along the way and I want to share these lessons with you.
Before I get into this, I want to remind you that grief is essential to your health: emotional, spiritual, physical and mental health. If you are never sad, you are either out of touch with reality, with your own emotions or you simply don’t love. When you love and see sad things, that makes you grieve. There is no loss without pain. This will not happen. It is important to grieve the losses of life. If you don’t grieve these losses, you will get stuck emotionally at that stage and take it out on others/ or on your own body. When you swallow negative emotions, your body gets sick. David mourned all day long. You can either moan or mourn. If you are silent, your distress will only get worse. You must talk about it.
Choose to allow yourself to feel the sad emotion. Not everything that is healthy feels good. Remember this, deep love cares and is strong.
You may be asking yourself right now. How do you get over it? Njeri, how did you get over it? Well, the truth is, you will never get over it, you get through it. You can’t go over, under or around grief, you MUST go through it. You must express your emotion otherwise you get stuck.
Here are a few things to remember as you work your way through the pain:
If you don’t recognize your emotional condition, because you don’t want to appear weak, unspiritual or whatever, you can’t deal with it. Allow yourself to feel the pain be it of abandonment, rejection, whatever the feeling and confess your feelings of confusion. Feelings of guilt and rejection are common symptoms when one is grieving a past life, death, sinfulness, loss etc. There is often fatigue, a loss of motivation to do anything, difficulty in concentrating, sleep disturbances (either insomnia or excessive sleep) etc. Admit them all.
It may take you a few cycles of ups and downs before you get through it. What is crucial is that you are aggressively dealing with it and not just drifting with the circumstances. You need to get in touch with and accept your feelings.
YOUR INNER MAN
God has given you the resources to be an overwhelming conqueror in even the most desperate situation. You are confused and it feels as if everyone has rejected you. Feel free to confess those feelings. I want you to think about this. Most of your unhappiness is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning; you have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. So change the narrative and start speaking positively to yourself and saying to yourself that you will get through it….
You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’- what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’ -instead of muttering in this sad/low/feeling empty, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do – to prosper you and not to destroy you. To give you a hope and a future.
I don’t believe there is another way to get through grief expect speaking to the Manufacturer Himself. The One who created you knows why you have to go through so much pain. Afterall, we are created in His image and likeness and this then tells me that He also feels your pain. Animals, birds, fish don’t grieve, but you, as a man, grieve. The only reason you have emotion is because God is emotional. God grieves when humanity is in pain, his planet being destroyed, He grieves. I want to remind you that though you may not see it, it does not mean that it is not there. Trust the process of what is happening inside of you.
PURPOSE TO THE PAIN
There is a purpose to this pain that you are going through. God does not want you to waste a hurt. He wants us to use this pain to help others. Who can better help a person who has lost a sibling than a person who has lost one? Who can better help someone who is going through a divorce better than a divorcee? We need to comfort others with the same comfort we receive. Your greatest ministry will come from your deepest hurt. This is because you can relate…been there, done that. The world is not impressed at how our successes but rather how we conquer adversity. It is our suffering that gives us credibility. We live in a broken world and therefore hurt will always happen. However, remember to use this experience to help others. Be a wounded healer.
I need you to grieve and expose the pain you are feeling. I need you to face it and confess it. The bible tells us that “happy are those who mourn/are in pain/grieve because they shall be comforted”. God knows you are in pain and though you may not feel Him, He is right there with you. What we see is not as powerful as what we don’t see. Though it may not feel, look or seem like it, there is a lot happening inside of you that will make you a better person. God is more interested in your character than in anything else and through the pain, you have to look for Him.
Finally, do not lose heart. Though your outer self is wasting away, your inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing you an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
If you are a leader and have been feeling stuck reach out to us and we will be glad to walk with you. We are here to serve you and ensure that you understand who you are, your potential and get to the place where you can maximize it.
The author is a leadership curator. Contact Njeri Muchunu