Reaching Out for Help While Going Through Grief
- Katie T. Kennedy Contributing Writer
- 2021 29 Jun
Grief has a negative stigma attached. We try to avoid grief and suffering as if we can run away from it. Let me tell you, I tried to outrun grief, and it caught up with me seventeen years later.
Instead of running from grief, what if we changed our mindset? Grief is not a bad thing. The feelings are real, uncomfortable, make us vulnerable, make us unproductive, and are difficult. Yet to grieve is to have loved. It's part of the human experience. If you are grieving a loved one, you have opened your heart to someone else and formed a relationship—what a beautiful thing.
C.S. Lewis said, "for the greater the love the greater the grief, and the stronger the faith the more savagely will Satan storm its fortress."
Let's be clear. I'm not a counselor. I'm a woman who dealt with grief in her own life. I needed guidance processing my loss, so I sought the help of a professional Christian counselor. She helped me sort through my past and pain. We will discuss how to reach out for help while grieving. We will look at when and how we should get help. We will also discuss some of the stumbling blocks that prevent us from moving forward.
Biblical Examples of Reaching Out
When we suffer and get stuck, where can we turn? Let's look to the Bible for how they handled trials.
"But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless." (Psalm 10:14)
When discussing grief, a lot of us think of the book of Job. Job lost pretty much everything. He could have chosen bitterness and anger towards God; instead, He chose to praise Him. After Job learned his children were dead, he fell on the ground and worshiped God. "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised" (Job 1:20-21). David was forced to run and hide when his life was threatened. He cried out, "Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord, for I call to you all day long" (Psalm 86:1-4). Gideon cried out for help as he looked for confirmation from God that he was supposed to fight the Midianites. In the book Israel Under Joshua and the Judges, Alfred Edersheim explains Gideon's cry for help like this, "When in such hours the soul in its agony is seen to cast its burdens upon the Lord, we feel that we stand on holy ground."
Even Jesus cried out to God before his crucifixion in the garden of Gethsemane. The biblical examples give us a model for when we are suffering from loss, hurting from human encounters, or nervous about the road ahead. The action is the same, cry out to God.
Why Don't We Reach Out for Help?
What blocks us from getting help from others? Lots of things. Pride is a big one. Maybe we don't want to "bother" others with our problems. Or we might not be ready to move on from the loss, and we want to sit in our grief longer. Some are learning about grief for the first time and aren't sure what grief looks like.
This was my case. My mom committed suicide when I was twenty and in college. I had no idea how to grieve, so every time someone tried to discuss my mom's death, a lump appeared in my throat. I shoved my emotions back down and changed the topic. What I didn't know at the time was that everyone grieves differently, and all those feelings I was experiencing were normal. It was healthy to feel when suffering such a loss. Instead of releasing those emotions, I held them captive inside for seventeen years. Eventually, I hit a wall where emotionally, I needed help. After attending a class on anxiety, I suspected my anxiety was stemming from something deeper, grief. The loss of my mom needed to be properly grieved.
I was scared to sit in the counselor's office. I didn't like the idea that I needed help, let alone that I needed to talk about my emotions (not a strength of mine). As I look back, this season was a blessing. The time with the counselor was a time of healing that I could not have done on my own. God guided me to someone who could help me, and I reluctantly accepted the help.
Who knows why we don't ask for help. Is it stubbornness, pride, self-righteousness? What prevents us from acknowledging our pain and need? The reason isn't important. What matters is that we overcome this block and get help when we need to.
Who Should We Ask for Help?
Where do we go to for help? I would start with one person, God. I would cry out to Him and ask for His guidance. Acknowledge your need and hurt, and turn to the only person who is all-knowing.
"When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me." (Psalm 86:7)
As you cry out to God, keep your eyes and ears open to how He might answer you. Be open to the people He puts in your life. Ask for a recommendation for a Christian counselor. Seek guidance from your pastor. These are trained people equipped to help you recover from your pain. If you have friends or family members who have suffered from loss, ask them how they got through their grief. Talking with someone who can empathize with you is invaluable, and it can be refreshing and life-giving. Learning your emotions, thoughts, and lack of motivation is normal can be very reassuring.
The point is to ask someone. Talk to someone about your grief. If they are unequipped, they might recommend a professional who is full of experience, wisdom, and training. When you are sick, you see a doctor. When your child is struggling in math, you get a tutor. When you are sad and need someone to process your pain, find someone to help you. Don't let fear or pride hold you back from taking steps forward.
I was hesitant to see a counselor over my mom's loss. It turned out to be a significant decision in my life. I needed the consistent nudging of a professional to process my pain. I needed someone to guide me through the grief journey. Once I released my pent-up emotions, I was free from the heavyweight I had been carrying around.
When to Ask for Help?
Grief can be debilitating. It's normal to feel unproductive. The feelings are real and should not be ignored. The Bible is full of examples of humans grieving. Their suffering didn't last a day or two but rather weeks and months. (Deuteronomy 34)
Today, we don't like to feel pain. We want to fast forward through the suffering. That's not the way God's kingdom works. Suffering is part of the journey. In the end, He might use your suffering to relate and help others. God made us all unique. We process and experience grief differently. There is no clear-cut formula, no two-step process to overcome grief. It depends on how you are knit together. Some feel more deeply than others. This might mean it would take longer to get back to a functioning capacity.
When my grandfather passed away, my dad grieved by keeping himself busy at work or golfing. He wasn't not grieving; he handled it differently than my mom, who went to the gravesite of her father and cried.
In the book Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman, she shares grief is not linear; it's cyclical. After a period, we will feel better and be able to resume life. Then a holiday or birthday will hit, and the feelings of grief will flood over us again. This is normal. Pausing to acknowledge the feelings and recognize the loss is healthy. There is no finish line with grief. At any point, we can get "stuck" in our grief. We can stop functioning and not be able to complete day-to-day activities. When you can't get out of being stuck, that's probably when you need to reach out for help.
If you are hurting and stuck, please reach out to someone for help. Especially reach out to God. He will help you if you ask. When I finally acknowledged I could not do it alone, I reached out to the Lord for help, and He provided all the resources I needed. Acknowledging our human limits shows wisdom, not weakness. God can't help you if you think you can handle everything on your own. Pride is a barrier to getting the help you need. Taking action by asking for help is one step towards healing your wounds. God will not leave you stranded alone to fend for yourself. He created others along your journey to help you when you need it. Once you get yourself to a healthy place, then He can you use to help others.
Photo credit: ©Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/fizkes
Katie T. Kennedy lives in Richmond, VA. She is married to a wonderful husband Jonathan and they have three girls. She is a writer, blogger, and employee of the family business. After a mid-life spiritual transformation, she discovered her love of writing. She loves to travel, read, be in nature, cook, and dream. She would love to connect with you online at www.katietkennedy.com, Instagram or Facebook.