Eventually though, I did need to feel it and did need to face headlong into it. I was trying to intellectualize my way through sorrow (which never works)—Where is my map? But grief is an unpredictable and elusive journey at times. Something we can’t control, yet vital to our healing process and one of the most important tools God uses if we allow Him. There are four areas of life which grief and sorrow can play an integral part in our restoration.
Losing Our Ways of Coping
My story is fraught with a long history of compulsive and addictive behavior. When I was younger and had less skill verbalizing my pain and regulating my emotions, addiction was about one thing–survival. But, getting older and starting to attend WGA, I realized, these bad coping skills which developed over time were actually in my way. Shame and avoidance were keeping me from experiencing authentic connection and intimacy.
I had to let go of these destructive ways of coping, but was very scared. No matter how unhealthy these strategies were, they stayed predictable, and gave the illusion of control. Porn, alcohol and cigarettes had become like those bad, toxic friends you have sometimes. Grieving the loss of these unhelpful companions would be needed if I was going to move forward into health. But this was just the “tip of the iceberg—what was underneath?
Revisiting Our Wounds
We’ve all been hurt—emotionally, verbally, physically and possibly even sexually. Sometimes the wounding can be minimal on the continuum or moderate all the way to severe abuse. A lot of addiction’s purpose is to avoid and kill the painful memories associated with these wounds.
As I mentioned earlier, my father’s passing had many agonizing facets. Losing a parent. Joyful and difficult memories within our relationship. The void of an important father figure in my life for guidance and care. The fact that grief is present only highlights how important the relationship is or was. Avoiding our wounds and the grief surrounding them doesn’t honor our own dignity and worthiness. Taking time to grieve the pain in our past and present honors relationships, ourselves, and our growth forward. It takes a lot of courage open that door.
Unmet Emotional Needs
One part which frequently gets left out of the equation is our legitimate God-given emotional needs. When someone is in the throes of addiction or making destructive life choices relationally, it’s very easy to get impatient and judgmental. But what is driving the behavior? Well, rebellion and control of course. But what about the longing to be loved, seen and known? What about wanting attention, affirmation or a place to simply belong? Rather than running around like a crazy person getting these needs met in false ways, what is a healthy response to grief?
Sometimes it looks like uncomfortably “sitting with” unmet needs, not letting it take you somewhere destructive. And though we know all our needs aren’t getting met, acknowledging some still are and being grateful can be helpful. A final piece of grieving is remembering we were created for fullness in all our needs, but we live in a fallen world and our needs will never truly be fulfilled. Accepting this reality continually is still difficult, but a way forward.
The Grief Which Leads to Repentance
Yet, recognizing our legitimate emotional needs and also the grief surrounding them can throw us into uncomfortable vulnerability. Rather than embracing the vulnerability as good and even biblical, it’s tempting to choose our unhealthy desire to stay in control. Vulnerability and the need for belonging, connection and care can feel like weakness—aren’t we supposed to be strong and self-reliant? Isn’t independence the goal? Nope. With that “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” mentality our emotional needs can become sexualized or ignored.
God has created us for connection. To attach to people in a healthy way requires vulnerability and transparency—Including our relationship with Jesus. We need Him. The best kind of grief is to feel the weight of conviction in all the ways we bypass God to stay in control. To grieve our sinful responses—this is called repentance and always a good place to start.
What’s Needed in the Process?
Tackling grief is no easy thing—it truly is the gift that nobody wants. In fact, if you’ve come to the end of this article…thank you, I appreciate it. I imagine when people see the word “grief” in a title, it’s easy to pass right by it. I know I would. But the encouraging thing is, even with our propensity to “go it alone”, we don’t have to do this on our own. What is helpful in this journey of grief work and recovery? We’ll explore that in my next blog—stay tuned.
A staff member since June of 1992, Scott is a key player in the WGA discipleship ministry. He plans, organizes, and implements every aspect of the Thursday night support group. In addition to public speaking, counseling group participants and training leaders, Scott maintains personal contact with many group members and it is to Scott’s credit that many group members feel personally welcomed, cared for and loved.
Although he holds a degree in graphic arts, he attributes his ministry qualifications to the “school of hard knocks.” God’s abundant grace continues to be the instrument of growth in his life, and he desires to be firmly grounded in the forgiveness and freedom of relationship with Jesus Christ.
Scott attends a Presbyterian Church.
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