Grief is a brutal journey.
What I've learned over the past twelve years, is there are certain universal grief truths. Regardless of your loss, you can probably identify with many on the list.
My grief journey started on October 13, 2006. It was on this day I learned my husband, 5 1/2 year-old daughter, and 19-day-old son were killed in a fatal car crash.
In my worst nightmare, I could not have dreamed up what was suddenly my reality.
The only thing I say for certain is that God is bigger than I knew Him to be. He has sustained me, given me a peace that passes all understanding, and by His grace, I get out of bed each day and move forward.
None of those things would be possible in my own strength.
If you are on your own grief journey, I desperately want you to know you aren't alone in your thoughts and feelings. The pit of grief feels deep and dark, but there is light and there is hope on the other side.
On to the list...
21 Grief Truths- What I wish I had known
Grief Truths 1: The devil will lie to you and make you believe you will always feel this way.
You won’t. You won’t be the same person you were before, but you will not always feel like you are in the depths of hell. The acute pain lessens over time.
Grief Truths 2: People mean well, but they will say stupid things
I know exactly how you feel
It happened for a reason
Just give it time
God never gives you more than you can handle
You’ll remarry/ have more children
People want to connect with you in some way. They want to help. See below about giving grace.
Grief Truths 3: Night time is the hardest
I don’t know what it is, but night time is harder than daytime. I had a hard time sleeping for a long time. Night is lonelier. Night feels scary and never-ending. If you’re not sleeping, I’d strongly recommend talking to your doctor. Grief coupled with sleep deprivation is a brutal combination. And there’s no need.
Grief Truths 4: It’s not day by day…. it’s second by second
After the initial shock of grief wears off, pain sears through your body, the take-your-breath-away, kind of pain. It’s normal. It’s terrifying and horrible and scary. I urge you not let your mind wander too far in the future. It’s too much to process. Get through 10 seconds… then 10 more.
Grief Truths 5: Take help, even when you don’t want to
There comes a point when you have to go back into the world and start seeing people. Let those around you help. You don’t have to entertain them. The devil uses isolation to feed your fears. Combat this. Especially when you don’t want to.
Grief Truths 6: Find people willing to listen.
They are a rare breed. The ones who just listen. When you find them, cherish them.
Grief Truths 7: Grief makes people uncomfortable
We live in a world where we want rainbows and unicorns all the time. We avoid pain at all costs. Seeing you in pain causes the people around you pain. They don’t know how to deal with it. They’ll get busy in a hurry or run to grab you a box of tissues at the first teardrop. It’s not you. It’s them. (And unfortunately, it was probably you before you experienced soul devastating grief.)
Grief Truths 8: Your friendships will change
You will deepen friendships with some, and you will lose friendships with others. It’s normal. You’re not crazy. It’s just grief. It’s hard. It’s hard on you and hard on those around you.
Grief Truths 9: You will not get a gold star on the one year anniversary
People kept telling me to get through the first year. The way they built it up, I just knew I was getting a certificate or a gold star or a medal of honor. I thought I’d be fixed. I wasn’t. You won’t be either. The truth is, you will never be the same. You’ve lost your innocence to that level of pain. You are different, and that’s okay. I don’t say that in a negative way. You will be wiser, more empathetic, but still wounded. Deep wounds take time to heal.
Grief Truths 10: The days leading up to the anniversary dates are typically harder than the day itself, but not always
It’s as if your body knows the impending date before your brain. Again, do what you can. But know that the intense range of feelings is normal. You are normal. If you feel like being around people, then be around people. If you need time and space alone to process, that’s okay too. There’s no manual for grief.
Grief Truths 11: Don’t look for love in the wrong places. It won’t fulfill you
Everyone handles grief differently. And, if someone tells you they have all the answers, they’re lying. The only thing I can say with absolute certainty is that anything aside from God will not bring you lasting peace. The hole in your soul can only be filled by Him. Even if you’re mad. Even if you are struggling with Him. He’s still there.
Grief Truths 12: Give yourself grace
As you know, some days are harder than others. On the hard days, do what you can. Some days are a win when you get out of bed. Other days you may get a few things done on your to-do list. You’re not superwoman. Be kind to yourself.
Grief Truths 13: Give others grace
Those times when people say the “stupid things” and you’re frustrated, give them grace. Give them the benefit of the doubt. The last thing they want to do is cause you more pain.
Grief Truths 14: It’s okay to talk about or not talk about your loss
If you feel like talking about your loss, talk about it. It’s also ok not to talk about it. Some days talking is therapeutic and others it’s draining. When you’re in the thick of grieving, do what you can do.
Grief Truths 15: Grief might knock you down walking around the grocery store on a random Tuesday
There’s no rhyme or reason to grief. At first, you may feel panicked like you’ve gone down the slippery slope of grieving and are starting over again. You’re not. It may last a few minutes or even a few days, but you’re not back at square one. Oh how I wish I had known this one.
Grief Truths 16: Tears and sweat are healing waters
There were times I feared if I allowed the tears to fall that they would never stop. They will. Your body can’t hold that much pain in forever. You can avoid it for a period but your body will eventually rebel. Tears are not weakness. Tears serve as a release of pain. Sweat does the same. When I felt as if my insides were racing a million miles an hour, doing something physically exhausting gave me release.
Grief Truths 17: You’re not crazy
You may feel crazy, but you’re not. Your emotions will be all over the place for a while. You will probably cry at the drop of a hat. You may be raging mad the next. You may feel like a zombie. You know, like your arms weigh a thousand pounds each and you’re walking in quicksand. Again, you will not always feel this way. Eventually, your emotions will even out.
Grief Truths 18: There’s no magic bullet
I kept wishing over and over that I could fast forward through that first year. I thought if I could just get through the first year, I would be healed. The only semblance of a “magic bullet” is when you realize that you can’t do it in your own strength. That level of grief requires someone much stronger than you. And grieving is hard work.
Grief Truths 19: The hardest part is getting your head and heart to match
Reconciling the facts and finding peace within your heart… that’s the lifelong process of walking out grief.
Grief Truths 20: God doesn’t hate you and isn’t punishing you
If this thought crosses your mind, it’s a lie. I’m not going to throw the hundreds of scriptures on you that back this up now, but this is a lie straight from the enemy. Disciplining your mind becomes paramount to your survival. There is no truth to that thought.
Grief Truths 21: God’s grace is sufficient, and you will know joy again.
I have to share this truth even if it makes you mad right now. You may be in the stage of grief that any thought of happiness or joy repulses you. This is where I need you to trust me. I will never lie to you. I’m no different from you. I am you.
I thought I would never smile again. I thought I would exist my days out filled with excruciating pain, sorrow, and loss. There are still those excruciatingly painful days, but there are far more days with peace and joy. I couldn’t do it in my own strength and neither can you. A mustard seed of faith is enough….
The grief journey is one we will all walk one day.
It’s hard to know what to do next. If music feeds your soul, here is a playlist you might enjoy.
If you don’t have words to pray, this might be a great next read for you.
If you’re looking for a Bible study, this might be a good fit.
As hard as these grief truths are, I hope you find comfort in knowing what you’re feeling is normal… as abnormal as it feels. You will never be the same person you were before your loss, but you can know joy again.