We may be doing fine, going about our daily lives and functioning well and then, all of a sudden, we are in tears.
It was September 15, 2008 when I heard the news.
I had retired from the Fire Department in 2003 and was living comfortably on my pension and an annuity that I had purchased with my deferred compensation and investment money amassed over the years. $350,000 to be exact. With the monthly payout from that and my pension I was bringing in almost the same money as when I was working. Not a fortune, but enough to be comfortable. Things looked good.
Then banks started failing. The subprime mortgage scheme that the banks had encouraged started to tumble like a house of cards, which is exactly what that particular monetary program turned out to be. Still, I wasn’t concerned. My investment was with one of the oldest investment banks in the United States. Founded in 1847, Lehman Brothers had withstood multiple recessions, and even the Great Depression. Surely, if anyone would survive this, they would. Then came the government backed bailouts. Every bank in danger of bankruptcy was rescued, save one.
To some, 350K is a lot of money. To the banking industry it’s not even pocket change. My entire investment was wiped out overnight. In the end I recouped $33,000 dollars (insurance) and $6,000 of that went to pay taxes since the IRS now determined that the 33K was a windfall. Oh I could write off the rest of the money … over ten years, but for the 33K, the IRS wanted their pound of flesh.
You wouldn’t think that suffering such a financial disaster would be a cause of grief. But it surely was.
Grief coupled with anxiety, depression, anger, a profound sense of failure.
It was all there and of course a questioning of God’s purpose in allowing this to happen. As I researched the issue, I came to realize that there were thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people in the same boat with me. Some had lost millions. Some had lost their homes, farms, livelihood and more. Some took their own lives. Of course the one big question was why was Lehman Brothers allowed to fail when Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank and others had been bailed out with government grants and loans. Simplest answer (usually the right one) was politics.
Just one more example of how and when grief can inject itself into our lives. In the first part of this series I discussed the causes of grief and how we react to them. The five steps of grief if you will. To refresh your memory they are:
In this continuation of the discussion I’d like to offer some methods and ideas that will help mitigate the effects of grief. You’ll notice that I did not say “cure,” grief. Much like PTSD, grief must slowly and over time simply fade away. It can’t be cured and it can’t be eliminated. It can only be dealt with. Here’s a few tricks of the trade if you will.
How to deal with the grieving process:
- Acknowledge your pain. Admit to yourself that you are hurting.
- Accept that grief can trigger many different and unexpected emotions.
- Understand that your grieving process will be unique to you.
- Seek face-to-face support from people who care about you.
- Support yourself emotionally by taking care of yourself physically.
- Find and practice your faith.
Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, loss of a job or other grief inducing event, don’t try to “man up,” and simply walk around with the hurt inside of you. Recognize that something traumatic has happened to you, and you are in pain. Society may require that you put on a brave face in public or at work, but find quiet moments, by yourself, and cry. Let the emotion out and if it comes in tears, so be it. As I will discuss later, if you are close enough to someone who loves you and cares for you enough to let you cry on their shoulder, seek that person out. Let the real emotion out because keeping it in can cause a lot of problems later.
Grief causes us to feel anger, hurt, physical pain, heartache, stress … I could go on and on but suffice it to say, the list of feelings and emotions brought on by grief are many and often profound. We may be doing fine, going about our daily lives and functioning well and then, all of a sudden, we are in tears. No warning, no chance to get off by ourselves, no opportunity to hide. It’s just there. Or we may suddenly get angry. No apparent reason, no triggering event, no understandable cause, we are simply angry at the world.
When these things happen, be kind to yourself. Don’t chastise yourself and argue that you shouldn’t be feeling these things. It’s normal. Try to get out of the public eye. Ask your supervisor if you can take a break. Take a few minutes in the bathroom. But allow it to happen and don’t try to stuff the genie back in the bottle too quickly.
Everyone grieves differently. Your grieving process will be yours and yours alone. Don’t judge how you should grieve by observing someone else who went through a similar event. Just as you are a unique individual in the eyes of God, your ability and method of dealing with grief is unique to you. Try and find YOUR way, not THE way.
There are numerous counseling groups and vehicles for dealing with grief. One of the most effective groups of this nature I’ve observed is the Overcomers group here at Orchard Church. This is a group of widows who come together weekly to support, care for and reassure each other. Their empathy and understanding cannot be taught nor can it be replaced. I’ve worked with and in other groups who deal specifically with the loss of a child. Others deal with job loss or financial hardships. Find and join one of these groups. Friends, family and coworkers are valuable resources as well, if they know enough to walk beside you and not try to lead you. It’s important that you find your own way. Support is important and necessary, and I encourage all who are grieving to find some.
One of the worst things that can happen to us when we are grieving is that we stop eating right, let ourselves go physically and stop caring for our health. We put off that dentist appointment or the annual physical. Don’t. Get out to the gym. Go for long walks or engage in some strenuous activity on a regular basis that keeps you healthy. Take the dog for a walk. By the way, pets are an excellent source of comfort when we are grieving. Scratching a dog’s ears can relieve more stress in you than in him.
Finally and most importantly, read your Bible. Go to God with your worries, your pain and your anguish. Pray. Remember that whatever happened to you was not of God’s doing. What happens to us in this world is OF this world and not of God. He loves us and wants what is best for us and sometimes we just don’t understand why something has to happen the way it does. But HE understands. One day you will understand, but not until HE is ready for you to see. Hold onto that and hold onto your faith. Remember that eternity is a long time and this world is but the blink of an eye in the scheme of things.
Ask yourself this. A hundred years from now, will anybody even know of the tears I shed today? Will they really matter? Ponder that question and know that HE is always there with you just as through our savior, we will one day be there with him.