The Grief Walk

Image result for griefAs a nurse, I experience many emotions with families that cross my path. The spectrum involved in one day can sometimes be dizzying and is often exhausting. The powerful emotions surrounding loss can easily overwhelm even the most veteran nurses when tragic loss arrives during a “normal” work day, unannounced and uninvited. A chaplain offers a prayer, nurses gather to cry and hug, and then the serving resumes. We proceed through our shifts and appear to be unscathed…but loss always leaves a mark, whether acknowledged or not. The grieving process is the healing process. As nurses we talk through our losses. We manage them alone at night while the rest of the world sleeps. The goal being to walk all the way through the grief and experience healing that can then ignite deeper compassion and nursing care that promotes true health and wellness for our patients as well as ourselves.

Our response to loss initiates an extensive ripple effect through our lives. It is worth acknowledging and discussing. I think people don’t understand how many losses are really experienced throughout life. Things that we may think are “just a part of life” create losses/wounds that need to be grieved. It is easier to disregard the impact of loss then to address the emotions of these difficult times. Left alone, these emotions destroy us. They build up and become distorted and impact us physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. However, when we are willing to grieve and walk through the pain and out on the other side, we transform a gaping wound to a small scar. We can lift our heads and embrace a new normal.

So why have I brought up such an uplifting topic? My work allows me to see new life coming into the world every shift, and I wonder what lies ahead for these small miracles that have landed in this family called the human race. Hatred seems to be growing like a forest fire after a drought and I have to wonder…is this a ripple from grief and loss that have not been healed but rather passed down through generations? When the response to tragedy is finding someone to blame…a seed of hatred is planted. When the response to loss is jealousy of others who haven’t experienced that same loss…seeds of contempt and entitlement are planted. When the response to loss is isolation and self-pity…seeds of bitterness and resentment are planted. Destructive coping skills can impact families through generations and create deep chasms of pain in stone hearts. These hearts turn into nations imploding.

Loss is a given, but grieving and healing areImage result for grief choices and not mandatory. When we acknowledge our feelings and our grief, we are accepting the hurt and pain that come from the healing process. We must be vulnerable and welcome uncertainty and that is not in our comfort zone. However, the beauty is that as we journey, we grow and develop new skills. We meet others that reach back to aid us in our assent. And we stop the bleeding and heal. Then we can turn around and extend a hand to others with soft hearts and eyes filled with tenderness instead of hatred. I have walked a few roads that involved extreme loss and I have many scars. These times were dark, heavy, and oppressive. I would not want to experience them again. But the emotional stamina, faith, strength, confidence, hope, and clarity of thinking that I have today were all developed and nurtured during the grief walks of my life. Now, my scars offer common ground when others that are hurting. Ripples of empathy and non-judgmental kindness instead of hatred, bitterness, and pain are the result.

Take a moment and think about losses you have experienced. Some will be enormous, like loss of trust or control from an abusive situation or loss of a loved one or wayward child. Some may seem insignificant like the loss of a pet or a friend moving away. All loss leaves a mark. When kids move away we experience loss. When we retire there are losses to address. When loved ones pass and there are no answers, the loss is immense. We all experience loss and must choose our responses carefully.

I pray for you today as you read this blog. My journey has led me to a deep faith in God that sustains me each day. I know that He can be trusted and is my unwavering foundation of security no matter what losses come my way. Maybe I just lost you there. Maybe you have been hurt by something that happened to you at church or someone’s actions who said they were a Christian. I understand and I truly am sorry. My prayer is that you take it up with God. His shoulders are big enough and He can handle even the most rambunctious human heart. This is encouragement for healing, a hand reaching back, an acknowledgment of need. Please stop the bleeding and find rest and peace.

 

 

“May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14, New Living Translation)

 

 

 

 

 

Have we Forgotten?

flag2 I remember where I was. I remember going to work as a labor and delivery nurse that night and having the hospital on lock down and the presence of fear heavy in the air. I remember celebrating with families as new lives came into the world at the same time not knowing how to handle the wide variety of emotions I was experiencing due to the day’s events. So much tragedy, so much loss, yet so much opportunity for America to stand together, unified, and be reminded of what is important. All lives, our freedom, safety, and many blessings we take for granted everyday like jobs, families, running water, electricity, and emergency responders ready and waiting to help.

My heart pounds as I write this morning. Our country has changed a lot, but the American flags that flew on 9/12/01 are not on every car and every corner today. Lives are randomly taken because of hatred and self-centered arrogance. The value of being an American is discarded and traded for entitlement. The most common first response is to take instead of give. Tears come to my eyes this morning as I write, I have so much emotion about the many crisis points in our world today. Refugees and homeless, war, disease, poverty, economic instability and depression, politics…I get so weary of all the conflict that seems to be the common denominator of our world.

When I remember September 11th, 2001, I am so sad for all the people that suffered such immense loss. The loss spread across the country and across generations. I am sad for those who lost loved ones on that day, it must be heart-breaking to watch a country rocked by such tragedy slip back into apathy. We vowed to not forget…have we forgotten?

I am a peace-maker by nature. I don’t like conflict and avoid controversial topics of conversation because I don’t like to argue. So the hesitation to write this post is present, but my heavy heart just wants to salute the country that rallied that day. Americans felt united that day, fighting the same fight, protecting each other, praying for those hurting and those still missing, and reaching out to help. We were proud to stand together…have we forgotten?

This anniversary seems especially important as relationships between our police force and the communities that they serve have gone off the rails. Have we forgotten? Priorities need to be re-aligned and selfishness, arrogance, and single-mindedness need to be tamed no matter who you are, your profession, your race, or your citizenship. We all need each other. We all have a part to play in determining if our society will thrive or experience catastrophic collapse.  This morning as I write I also pray. I challenge myself and each one that reads this post to stop and remember what your true priorities are. Are we reaching and striving to promote peace in our communities and respect for all people? Are we teaching our children how to be good citizens and neighbors, or are we perpetuating prejudice and disrespect that lead to destruction? Are we remembering the impact of 9/11/01 and allowing it to change us for the better and learn from our history?

Please don’t forget.

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he deliver them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Ps. 34:17-18 (NIV)

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