Healing Line

Healing Line

Good Grief

by Linda Strickland
May/Jun 2011

While I was recently preparing a teaching on Understanding the Grieving Process for our School of Healing Prayer® Level III, I was struck with how much personal loss my own family has endured over the past year. The most significant of these losses was the death of my beloved brother Michael.

On June 26th, 2010, while I was at a conference in Vermont, the Lord took my precious brother Michael to heaven. He lived for two years beyond the doctors’ original expectations, but to be completely honest, that extra time did not comfort me on the day he died. Over the final two years of his life, pancreatic cancer ravaged Michael’s formerly physically fit body to the point where he did not even look like my handsome brother anymore. I rarely say that I hate anything, but I hate cancer!

This loss, along with several others, has had me in a state of perpetual grief for a year. In addition to three deaths in my family (all from cancer) we have sustained the loss of health, loss of employment, loss of income and loss of dreams. When grief piles on top of grief, proper and healthy processing can be challenging!

When life is going well, laughing together as a family comes easily. Crying together, on the other hand, can be just as important, especially in times of sadness and grief. I am fortunate that my family has been “grieving well.” We have been expressing our feelings and holding nothing back, sometimes through laughter, but most of the time through tears.

I am also fortunate to have many wonderful friends that walk beside me in good times and in bad. For many people, though, their friends seem to desert them when they are struggling, especially during times of grief. I think the reason is a result of people not knowing what to do or say.

Having recently been through this process myself, I now have a greater sensitivity to people who are in the midst of grief. As a matter of fact, I think we could all do a better job of supporting those around us who are grieving. A good place to start is to gain a better understanding of grief.

Grief is defined as a normal and natural response to loss. It is an enduring state of sorrow and other kindred emotions that immerse one for a period of time. It is further defined as a conflicting mass of human emotion following a loss or major change. In other words, grief is a temporary and emotionally fueled process.

Through the process of grief, allowing people to feel their pain and not disown it is very important. When grief is repressed people will often say that they feel crazy, and that they cannot figure out what is wrong with them. They are in a state of confusion, and will sometimes experience unexplained physical maladies.

For example, when interviewing a person who has suffered a major loss, they will often say, one day I feel sad, one day I feel angry, one day I am even happy. Then all the pain comes back again. Their emotions are all over the place.

Studies show that it takes three to five years to process the grief of a major loss, but sadly we usually only allow people three to five weeks before we then expect them to move on with life and “return to normal.”

As Americans, we particularly tend to avoid death issues. Culturally, we do not like to talk about dying, long term sickness, pain or death. Some of us will even avoid people who have lost someone. It makes us uncomfortable to be around someone who is grieving. But when we lose a loved one, we need the comfort of people.

The definition of comfort is to give strength and to give hope. One of the best ways to comfort someone is to validate their feelings. When emotions are erratic, people often think they are abnormal. To have someone tell you that what you are feeling is natural and normal can be a relief!

In addition to the death of a loved one, other major losses can affect us as well, such as the loss of income and employment. The inability to financially provide for one’s family can be a crushing blow! Besides the lost finances can also be the loss of identity connected to a job or position. Following the loss of a job, I have seen people weep more over the fact that they have lost their identity and purpose than the income.

Lately I have heard again and again during ministry time about the pain of letting go of dreams and expectations. As we have traveled and prayed for people, one of the most surprising things I have had whispered in my ear over and over has been “I am so lonely.” For many people, the life they are living is not the one they thought they would have, and they are extremely disappointed and lonely. People often do not recognize the loss of dreams and expectations as a valid loss and therefore they seldom allow themselves to go through the grieving process.

There are of course many more grief issues than the ones I have mentioned, but ultimately, all losses need to be grieved. Problems arise when the grieving process is cut short or bypassed. We can become “stuck” in our grief, unable to move forward. I have prayed with people who were suffering without an understanding as to the cause. After briefly discussing their lives, I often find that they had a loss that they buried. Once the loss was identified and they were able to process and grieve it, the malady went away. It is not unusual to see healing, both inner and physical, after a grief issue is properly processed.

Many of us try to get through loss and grief “by faith” or on our own, and we are not willing to seek outside help from professionals or friends. I like to encourage people that grief is natural, and a God–given blessing, and we need each other to work through it.

I have a Christian friend who experienced the loss of her health. There were days when she felt helpless, as though the wind had been knocked out of her. On those days she would call her friends and humbly ask them to “remind her of what she knew.” As a great woman of faith she knew that God loved her and had her in His arms. She knew that things would eventually get better. She knew all of that, but on bad days that fact was easy to forget, and she needed loving friends to remind her “what she knew.”

Losing my brother was one of the hardest things I have ever been through, and in addition to the loss, my heart was broken that I had not been with him in his final hours. The week after Michael died, though, I had a dream where I saw him in heaven. Michael was a phenomenal athlete, and one of the things he truly loved when he was younger was water skiing. I had, in fact, learned to ski by standing in front of him with his arms around me and my feet on his skis. He taught a lot of people that way. In my dream Michael was slalom skiing on a lake, having the time of his life, crossing back and forth and spraying water everywhere. He was healthy, happy, and laughing while yelling at the top of his lungs, “Woohoo!!” The vision was so real I could actually see droplets of water on his smiling face. It was such a wonderful dream that I woke up laughing!

The Holy Spirit can be so creative in the way that He comforts us, because for me, that glimpse into heaven was exactly what I needed. Although death had taken my brother, God had taken him away from death!

Losses are inevitable and are a natural part of life, but so is God’s love for us. As Jesus was leaving this world He said, “I will pray to the Father and He will give you another Comforter, and He will remain with you forever.” (John 14:16)

Linda Strickland Linda Strickland is CHM's Associate Director of Ministry and Assistant to Judith MacNutt. May/Jun 2011