We don't wish this situation on anyone, but if you are, these tips can help.
Grief can be a vicious thief. In addition to the loss of our loved one, grief can rob our hope and joy, and even hurt our spiritual lives. After losing my mom this spring, I’ve learned that regardless of my feelings some days I must get up and keep moving. Mom may not be here; but I am, and I have purpose to fulfill.
In my time of mourning, I’ve found five effective ways to prevent grief from stealing my hope and joy:
1. Paying a stranger to listen to you
Therapy often gets a bad rep. If I admit I’m seeing a therapist, people might infer my faith isn’t strong enough to handle life, or worse, I’m crazy and should be avoided. In fact, when I was younger I had those thoughts about therapy. I now believe the healthiest decision I’ve made since mom’s death is paying someone to listen, and help me sort through my strong emotions. While I have many friends who I can vent to, a therapist is trained to listen. Paid to listen.
My therapy sessions allow me to say the things I wouldn’t say to others. Among the many people Christ sends to enrich our lives, one of the most welcome might be a trained therapist. I believe paying someone to help sort through the tough feelings is a courageous act of self-love. Losing a parent early and unexpectedly is a rough road. Finding someone you can talk to without guardrails will make your ride smoother.
This summer, I helped chaperone 163 senior citizens on a 14-day cross-country trip. If there was ever a time I needed to see God’s creations such as the Grand Canyon and the beautiful Colorado mountains, this was it! After losing my mom, and shortly afterwards my job, the Lord must have known I needed a break from the humdrum routine of my life.
Traveling provides time. Time needed to reflect on events and their significance in our lives. And while this cross-country trip required me to work at times, I was able to get precious time to think, while enjoying places like Las Vegas and Hollywood. In the sweet words and kind smiles of our elderly charges, I was reminded that while, yes, mom is gone, and yes, her loss cut a deep wound only He can heal, there is still much required of me. Through the deep crevices of the Grand Canyon and the peaks of the Arizona Mountains, I got to see Christ’s majesty. And I learned that in service to others He can help heal our wounds.
3. Sponsoring a child
One of my goals for this year was to sponsor a child from a less developed country. Losing my mom is one the most heartbreaking events I’ve ever had to endure, but I was determined that while still grieving, I would live a life of purpose. This determination propelled me to sponsor Anahi who is from Bolivia, sooner than I might have if I wasn’t grieving. Anahi is probably in more need than me. Even on my down days, when take the time to communicate with Anahi, I often find ways to encourage her. And Anahi’s innocence and bright view of the world encourages me. It’s another way God has helped heal me through helping others.
4. Being a friend
When I was young, I never gave much thought to friendships. I felt they were important, but they weren’t something worth obsessing over. I prayed that the Lord would place the people he wanted in my life. And now, I can honestly say that He answered my prayers. The friends He’s blessed me with are irreplaceable. Both during mom’s funeral and afterwards, my friends have repeatedly demonstrated His love to me.
And it works both ways. This year I had a best friend get married and another best friend give birth to her first child. Despite my personal pain, I was there for those moments. I’ll do little things — send a card on a random day or write a letter to a friend who doesn’t have much time to chat to let them know I am thinking of them. Friendships are good reminders that, despite my pain, there is still gentleness and kindness in this world. The opportunity to listen to a friend’s issues or celebrate a friend’s achievements reminds me God has a purpose for life bigger than me. Or my pain.
5. Celebrating birthdays
Birthdays have always been a big deal for me. In grade school, I begged my dad to give me money to buy cupcakes and party favors for my friends. I love throwing surprise birthday parties for the people in my life. My mother made her grand exit on April 9 of this year. She would have been 54 on October 2. To celebrate mom’s birthday, I played her favorite music, danced, and visited her grave. I missed her. And yet felt her presence at the same time.
The loss of a parent will, at times, feel overwhelming, and try to rob us of joy and hope. But my mom would not want me to stop living because she isn’t here. She would urge me on like she did in life: “You go live your life, girl!” Mourning the loss of my mom may be a daily reality for me at the moment, but by letting the pain run its course, not my life, I make it through the dark days, while still shining His light on others.