The Importance Of Grieving A Tough Year
2016 was an absolute beast y’all. I don’t know why, I don’t understand all of how, but this last 12 months on this little spinning blue ball did a real number on me, and so many that I love. This last year held more loss, heartache, and tragedy than I have known in my entire life, and the struggle to hope in the face of such difficulties has been a true battle of the soul.
Our first and most natural response to such hardship is to slam the door shut on this hell of a year and sprint forward- trying to put as much distance between us and these experiences… hoping we can deal with the memories better than the actual experiences. But, if there’s anything I have learned this last year, it’s that you cannot over-value true, personal grief. It is perhaps the most powerful emotional process of the human experience, and you cannot control, nor rush it. The work of processing what has happened and is happening in your heart, mind, and body can test everything you are made of. It is intimately challenging and can cause you to feel deeply vulnerable, but it is monumentally important. If God went to all of the trouble to walk you through it, He must have had some very important things to speak to us.
You want to hear something funny? I started 2016 believing that this was my year- this was the year that I was going full force, all-in, and I even started a Video Blog called “Confessions Of A Dreamer”. I recorded ONE episode. The introduction. Hah! That’s it! As soon as I put that out there, life took off- the first half of my year was spent on the road playing major stages all over Texas, buying my first home with my husband, and moving back to San Antonio. I thought this was really it- we were finally going to get all of our ducks in a row and take over the world.
But, In June, (6 months into 2016) two of the biggest things in my life came crashing down, and I never saw it coming.
Just about 2 months after we moved into our new home, in our hometown, with our new giant backyard- we found out our beloved pup, Bella, got suddenly terribly sick with cancer and would not make it through the summer. I was beside myself. No matter where I was, how far I had to drive, how small the crowd was, Bella was always there- with a happy tail, kisses, and a snuggle. She was “home” to me, she was my kid. I always assumed she would help me learn how to be a mom to our first baby- but she left us long before that could happen. Ryan and I were beyond shocked- she was the most energetic, happy, healthy pup for all of her almost 8 years until this. She lived 10 weeks to the day that we found out she had cancer. It spread to her lungs and we had to do the hardest thing of all- we had to put her to sleep. We have died a thousand deaths in our hearts- it was just the worst. The ache, the hurt, and the grief started the day we learned she was sick- and still hasn’t ended.
In addition, this all began around the time I started to realize that the particular division of the music industry/genre I had invested the last 3 years in trying to win over, impress, and give me a chance - was never going to happen. It was basically caving in on itself already- a good old boys club, with no room or support for female artists. Sure, they’ll let us in the room- but the ceiling was so low for us, it was miserable. I had felt it for some time- but when one of the longest standing radio charts shut down, I couldn’t deny it any longer. This was not my future. I was downright MAD. I was mad that I couldn’t change it. I was mad that I had to accept it. I was mad that I knew it meant I had to do what I always knew I had to do but had been avoiding at all costs because it was going to be SO hard- go my own way. No systems, no path to follow- just going for it on my own. My heart was already exhausted and the thought of such an uphill battle made me weep.
I felt like the house was crumbling down on top of me, and I was in so much pain and disbelief that I could not move. So many times through my grieving process I would say to Ryan- “I feel like I am just hemorrhaging out. The hurt is so deep that I can’t do anything to stop it, I am just bleeding out and I can’t move.” If you know me, you know that I NEVER accept laying down to die as an option- but I honestly could not find any fight in me. For perhaps the first time in my life, I was truly beat. My heart was broken, my mind was mad, and my body was exhausted. I was about the farthest thing from a “Dreamer” or “Believer” that you could find.
I stumbled my way through the summer and ached and bled my way through the fall. I desperately clung for life to the truth that my God is for me, and that He does not waste my sorrows. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4) was a verse I would just repeat out loud and cry through. Praying that somehow He would meet me here in my broken heart, scattered dreams, and disillusioned mind. I don’t know all of why He took Bella from me, or why He let me invest 3 years in what feels like a wasted process, but I am beginning to see tiny sparkles of truth- diamonds, that have been the result of this fire.
This was my first full-on adult experience with grief, and good Lord- it is a force to be reckoned with. I was so completely ignorant on the topic that I had to google and read about grief and emotions these last 6 months, just to try to survive the daily crashes of emotions going on inside of me.
One of the most powerful things that I read was this: When properly felt and processed, grief leaves us with a greater capacity to love and to feel- not a smaller one. I wept over that truth more nights than I could count- I owed it to my sweet furry friend to love bigger and better because of her in my life.
I’m sure if you’re not an animal person this may sound all extremely ridiculous- she was just a dog, there are bigger things going on in the world than a pet, etc. Those are true- I know it. But losing my dog affected me in the deepest way- a way only God Himself knew could affect me, and it is a BIG deal in my life.
But here’s the point- this is about what has deeply affected YOU, the losses you have experienced. They are meant to be a BIG DEAL in your life, so let’s quit downplaying them. They’ll make themselves known one way or another. Often times we experience our feelings of loss in a more pronounced way over less important things than over the actual bigger ones that upset us!
For example- you learn your significant other has been cheating on you and you have to end the relationship. Surprisingly to yourself, you are rather calm and collected about ending it. You may even think, “Man, I am handling this pretty well! I really am better off for losing that guy!”
Then one random day, someone cuts you off in traffic and you absolutely lose.your.mind. All of a sudden, all of the feelings of being taken for granted, run over, not appreciated, and rejected come flooding over you and you are firing ALL of it, full force, at some spaced out teenage girl in the car in front of you who had nothing to do with your cheating boyfriend.
The funny thing is - your emotions don’t care that the spaced out teenage girl is not what really upset you this much- they are on a mission to be expressed, and so here they come, ready or not. And then you are left looking like a certifiable crazy person- panting from all of your screaming, baffled at how mad that made you, and asking yourself, “Now where did THAT come from?”
There is no way around it. You cannot ignore it, you cannot rush it, and you are fool to ever mock it. Grief is a big deal, because loss is a big deal.
Loss, death, hurt, rejection, tragedy- these are tremendously powerful points in our lives. We can try to run from them, or we can take a deep breath and walk through them now. They don’t go anywhere if we run from them- we will have to walk through them at some point. No matter which direction you run, you’ll be sucked back to that place like a magnet over and over again until you look it in the eye and feel your loss, walk through your grief. It will haunt you ruthlessly until you do. Why? Because it’s a big deal. Because some of the most precious things we will ever know on this earth as humans come out of grief and loss.
Loss hits all of us differently, and in many different ways. I have come to really believe that if we allow it (loss) to, through the process of grief, it will take us on an incredible journey and leave us with more, instead of leaving us with less.
So here is my challenge. Let us not race into 2017 having not fully grieved our losses, our pains, and our deaths in 2016. They are not wasted. They are not a mistake. They are designed for our good. What often looks like the meanness of God is more often His mercy at work in our lives- we just can’t see it yet.
It was God’s mercy that let things come crashing down in my idea of what my dream and career were to look like. He refused to let me continue to labor towards something that was not His absolute best. He protected me from my own stubborn will to not give up- and made it not an option. He removed the opportunity. It was His MERCY.
The Importance Of Grieving a Tough Year
Alright- so we’ve established that this grieving thing is extremely important, now let’s talk about HOW to do this. It’s rather simple, but will take your best courage. So chin up darlin’- you won’t be sorry.
Start with setting aside and protecting some time to reflect on this last year. Really walk through it, and feel it. I’d give yourself at least an hour, but depending on your year- you may need more or less.
As you reflect through all of the experiences of 2016, fully celebrate the joys, but when you find points of pain, regret, death, and loss take the time to do the following.
Take the time to re-live it, feel it, and grieve it. You may be emotional, you may not- but be intentional about letting yourself go there.
Acknowledge and respect the work you put in, honor the love you invested, cherish the things you have learned, and grieve what you have lost. Cry, yell, think…. and then when it comes time, release it. Release the loss- set down your pain, shake off your resentment, and pick up and cling to the love, the good things.
Although you may not want to, and it may feel dishonest at first, but thank God for these tough experiences. Thank Him that He cares enough to walk you through them! Thank Him for the Promise that He never wastes your sorrows, that He knows every tear you've cried, and that He never left you alone. He’s not looking back in this with you for the first time- He has been there every step of the way. Be specific- especially with the hardest ones.
This may sound funny- but it’s a very powerful step. Ask Jesus to BLESS, with all that is above and beyond, to BLESS the fruit of these painful experiences in your life. Pray that it will bear much, much incredible fruit in your life. Again, be specific, especially with the hardest experiences.
Remember- God’s heart in this process is that we come out with a greater capacity to love and feel, NOT to close ourselves off from life! Ask Him to do that- to use this to make more room in your heart, in your life!
Ask Him to heal any fractures from these experiences- parts of you or of your life that you have cut off, or separated from yourself. Ask Him to make you WHOLE- all parts of you.
Finally my friends, hold precious and dear these experience, these pains, these challenges, for it means you have LIVED.