How to Know When Your Journey Through Grief is Complete

09 Aug

Several months ago I asked my psychiatrist how I’d know when I had completed the grieving process. My most pressing need in recovery is/was to reconcile my losses and Gracen’s prognosis with my beliefs about God. I defiantly needed the Holy Spirit to make sense of it all within the context of scripture. That process has been impacted by the overwhelmingly raw agony of emotion cursing through my system. Anger, fear, discouragement and defeat cycled and recycled through my heart and mind constantly. There was, there is, no escape from that cycle without processing both my thoughts and feelings.

Frankly, following the death of my daughters everything I saw, heard and thought was filtered through loss. My perspective shifted and words, actions and thoughts were interpreted in a far more literal and somewhat cynical sense in spite of recognizing the good intentions of others. I understood the intention but was frustrated by others inability and/or refusal to see things from my perspective. Others fairly vibrated with the need to fix the unfixable. To justify with some grand overall plan and purpose. To extinguish the palpable pain. To escape the negativity so they were not inadvertently soiled by it. Those individuals probably felt the same frustration with me. 

Unbeknownst to most, inside an intense desire to be understood refused to be appeased or denied. It took root and demanded attention, refusing to be placated and demanding validation. And every bit of it was entwined with my faith in Jesus Christ.

So I set about entangling my seemingly contradictory thoughts and feelings with the truth of scripture. I did my best to ignore the advice of the untested and sought refuge with broken believers who shared my struggle to cling to and reconcile my faith. I withdrew to escape judgment and rebuke and carve out a safe, secure, silent space in which I could wrestle with the complex truths of scripture. And in that place I made peace with the contradictions of what love in action looks like. I meditated on the complexities of God’s promises and plans regarding my earthly existence and eternal purposes. In time, my internal struggle ended. I found answers that satisfied and let go of the unexplainable. I made peace with my losses . . . with Gracen’s prognosis. 

However, just as Jacob walked away from wrestling with the angel limping, I have also paid a high price in the search for understanding and peace. Depression dogs my steps and anxiety chases after me. And I wonder, have I processed grief only to be handicapped by the mental health issues that rode in on the coattails of loss? Will I ever escape them?

When I asked my psychiatrist how I would know when I had completed my journey through grief he responded that I will have healed when I no longer processed everything through the filter of loss. I will no longer analyze every thought, feeling and action in minute detail in regards to death. He told me I had not yet arrived at that place; but I know I’m making progress.

A long time ago, before Bethany and Katie died, I came to the realization that disease had thrust me into a constant grief cycle. As Gracen and Katie’s bodies changed, as hard won abilities were lost to the ravages of disease, I would grieve, rebel, adjust and adapt to new and painful realities. I would strive against, and then for, acceptance of less than palatable changes. 

I am not sure I will ever completely succeed at living life without filtering it through loss. Loss is destined to color my life and future. However, I always come back to Ecclesiastes 7:2,

“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting, for that is the end of every man, and the living should take it to heart.” 

And the living should take it to heart . . . 

The living should take it to heart . . . 

Maybe I’m right where I’m suppose to be.

There are valuable life lessons that are only learned through the crucible death and suffering. That is not so much a negative thing as it is a painful reality. At times I will conquer the fears and sorrow that share space in my heart and mind and at other times I will once again find myself overwhelmed by them. That is the curse of humanity – the cost of the fall of man. For as many times as others have suggested or implied that I should move on I wonder if my Savior is whispering, “Stay. Linger with Me here in this hard place for just awhile longer. Talk to Me. Don’t turn away. There is a gift of great worth awaiting you.”

“Call on me in prayer and I will answer you. I will show you great and mysterious things which you still do not know about.” ~ Jeremiah 33:3 NET Bible

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor], Who has called you to His [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:10 AMPC


Posted by on August 9, 2017 in Faith, Grief


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6 responses to “How to Know When Your Journey Through Grief is Complete

  1. Carol Payton

    August 9, 2017 at 11:12 pm

    As always…Beautifully written. Janet you have such a gift.


  2. Kim Nolywaika

    August 10, 2017 at 2:14 am

    I think maybe I will have accomplished something in my grieving when I can be truly thankful for our loss and for the sorrow, too. I am thankful especially for Hans’ sake but in a reserved and subdued kind of way. I found this entry from Streams in the Desert to be helpful.


  3. findingjoyinhim41

    August 10, 2017 at 6:45 am

    One of the verses that I cling to in the midst of overwhelming waves:

    So don’t try to
    get out of anything
    Let it do its work
    so you will become mature
    and well developed,
    not deficient in any way.
    James 1:4

    I want the precious fruit of patience’s work. I want to see unseen things; to keep my eyes fixed on things above.. especially on the author and finisher of my faith who is working to complete His work in me. I want to cooperate with His work in me by taking up my cross and following Him. I want the eternal perspective that seeing everything through the lens of loss is giving me.

    Thank you for writing. (((Hugs)))


  4. gene

    August 10, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    Excellent post! For me, I thought I’d be done grieving if I could just stop feeling the pain, but a change in me took place after realizing that both pain and joy could coexist within me at the same time. That helped me find my new normal in life. I not sure if we will ever finish grieving…we may just do it differently as time goes on.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tammy Bailey Huston

    August 11, 2017 at 11:35 am

    Thanks for this beautiful post! I pray that the Lord will open my eyes to what it is he wants me to do with my life! I feel so lost without my sweet precious Heather! God Bless you all!💞



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