I’m not naturally comfortable with grief. My instinct is to avoid pain or anything that might trigger it. Why can’t I just ‘get over it’ and keep going? What do I do with all these overwhelming emotions? Does knowing Jesus make a difference to the process? Over the years as I’ve walked with friends through their stories of loss and experienced my own, I’ve recognized the importance of engaging with the grief process.
Linda Driediger is well acquainted with loss. As director of the Addiction Recovery Ministry (ARM) within Connecting Streams, she’s developed a rich understanding of the grief process. She’s learned so much walking alongside others, but it’s been her own recent journey with loss that has profoundly impacted her story.
The pain of loss
In 2016, within the span of 10 months, Linda’s husband John passed away from terminal cancer and her son Chad died from a fentanyl overdose. Because of the two years she had with her husband before his death, they were able to do some grieving together. “By the time he passed away, it was a blessing as he was bedridden and on morphine to control the pain. I remember feeling a sense of awe that he was with Jesus.”
But Linda found the shock of her son’s sudden death to be very different.
“Having the police come to my door at 9:30 at night and tell me my son was dead was a shock. My heart started to race and I felt faint. They stayed with me to explain everything. My daughters came over. I immediately was surrounded by those who cared.”
Grief occurs when we lose something or someone we love. We aren’t meant to just ‘get over it’. The more significant the loss is, the more intense the process will be. As Linda described it:
“Denying grief leads to dysfunction and pain. It affects every area of life. We can end up with severe health problems, insomnia, depression, anxiety, compulsive behaviours, addictions, and other symptoms.”
Left unexpressed and unaddressed, grief can rule our lives.
What does a grief process look like?
In brief, grief is about letting yourself ’go there’. This is going to look different for everyone, and Linda says that it’s best not to compare yourself. For her, she experienced a rollercoaster of emotions from a euphoria knowing her loved ones were with Jesus to crying at the slightest thing. That is the most common thing about a grief process — emotions will be present.
There are so many helpful ways we can ‘go there’ to express our pain. I’ve heard stories of friends hiking to the top of a mountain and letting out screams of anger. Others find creative outlets like dance, writing, or painting to be releasing as they work through their complex questions and overwhelming emotions.
For Linda, listening to worship music made all the difference. “Everybody’s different, but for me, worship is what got me through and it still does. It’s my habit now. There’s something about music that fills your heart.”
Additionally, Linda finds that physical activity, socializing, and serving others in the recovery ministry are important components to her grief process. And her new puppy helps too! “He’s my companion, I cuddle him at night. He’s there, that’s been important for me.”
Overall, Linda believes that accepting each stage of the process and being honest about where we’re at in grief is crucial.
What difference has Jesus made in your grief process?
Without hesitation Linda exclaims, “Jesus made all the difference in my experience! I don’t know how people can grieve without the Lord.” The hope of heaven makes a huge difference for her. It’s given her the joy and confidence to walk through the most painful parts of her story.
In her personal relationship, she experienced God’s presence so deeply it’s changed her. “When you know Him and you go through something like this, you really know Him. And then His love becomes so very exciting!”
From this grief process that Linda chooses to engage with comes a profound sense of hope and joy that has impacted her ability to minister to others. Linda has deeper empathy for those who suffer. She feels more free to meet with people going through their struggles as she’s learned what it takes to walk through them herself.
The grief process has many layers to it. If you’ve gone through it yourself, you know it comes in waves and in varying intensity. But as Linda found ways to work through it, she’s gained a rich perspective and discovered her ‘new normal’.
Her story gives me confidence and hope. A confidence that Jesus will be with me when I need to ‘go there’ with my own overwhelming emotions. And hope that no matter the losses I continue to face in my life, if I choose to engage with a grief process I will do more than just survive. I will most certainly thrive, and God-willing, have the joy and strength to guide others along the way.
If you or someone you know needs support walking through grief, contact Connecting Streams to learn more about their online Grief Support groups.