Posted in grief, Raised Catholic

The Cyclical Nature of Grief

Yesterday, and old grief was triggered in me, along with all the symptoms that have come along with this grief – deep sorrow, rage, hatred, anxiety, panic, trembling, emotional and intellectual paralysis, nausea, upset stomach, etc.  When I found I could not even give words to what I was feeling, I turned to my blog archives and found exactly the words I needed to hear – the words that clearly articulated my grief and the loss surrounding this grief.  In this I have been reminded of how grief continues to come back around seeking another layer of healing.  Thank you those who shall remain nameless for inviting me into another layer of healing and to the gift of God’s healing presence. 

The Church That Turned Away from Me

(originally posted on Good Friday, 2015)

Copyright 2015  Lauri Ann Lumby

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For the past eight years, I have been fasting from the Eucharist.  To one on the outside looking in, I might be accused of turning away from my Church.  The opposite in fact is true.  It is the Church that turned away from me.

As a Vatican II Catholic, raised in a Vatican II Church, I have had a unique experience of Catholicism, markedly different from the generations that went before me.  I never experienced the Latin mass or was drilled on the Baltimore Catechism.  I attended Saturday evening folk mass accompanied by Kumbaya’s, Up, Up with People, and To Be Alive! Fish on Friday was reserved for Lent.  Ecumenical dialogue was encouraged and instead of Heaven being the privilege of Catholics only, the pearly gates stood open to all who lived in love. I was brought up with a rock n’ roll Jesus Christ Superstar who in his humanness pleaded to be released while weeping tears of blood at Gethsemane and to whom we desired to “see more clearly, love more dearly and follow more nearly,” as he danced around us in rainbow striped suspenders, sporting a Superman t-shirt.  Speaking out on matters of social injustice and working for peace; feeding the poor, clothing the naked and setting captives free was the understood responsibility of every person sitting in the pew.  Divine retribution and punishment had been left on the editing floor of the Holy See – along with indulgences; and even the unbaptized had a place in God’s loving kingdom. The only God I knew was the God of love. Jesus came to know this love and taught us how to love and was set up as the model and example of how every Christian was called to live.  We were called to be Jesus’ hands and heart through the unique charisms gifted to us by God’s Holy Spirit (sometimes even spoken of as a woman!).

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This is the Church I grew up in and the Church that I deeply loved.  Strengthening this bond was the mass that provided sanctuary and support for my inherently contemplative nature. Gothic arches, painted statues and stained glass windows serenaded by artistic soul.  And the stand up, kneel down, bow and sit of Catholic choreography nourished my need for a spirituality that was as much physical as it was emotional and intellectual. Devotion to Mary satisfied my need for a Divine Mother and the saints became my superheroes.

If I love my Church so much, you may be wondering why I have been fasting from the Eucharist?  What went wrong?  In short, it seems I took what I learned about God, Jesus and our Christian call too literally:

  • I believe in an unconditionally loving God, a Son that is both fully human and fully divine; the call to follow Jesus as an example of how to live my life and to be and do as he would in the world.
  • I love God above all else, my neighbor as myself and I consider ALL of humankind to be my neighbor.
  • I judge not (lest I be judged).
  • I pray for my enemies.
  • I try to forgive 70 times 7 times.
  • I pray without ceasing.
  • I feed the hungry.
  • I clothe the naked.
  • I give sight to the blind.
  • I set captives free.
  • And, I heal the sick.

Oshkosh WI 2/9/11: Photo by Jeannette Merten.

In the end, it was the last three actions that caused my Church to turn away from me.

After eight years in Catholic school and an equal number of years in academic and professional education and formation as a lay minister and spiritual director, I was guided by God to study hands-on-healing and Eastern Energy Medicine (Reiki). Out of this training and experience, God guided me further to develop a protocol through which people found healing from the spiritual wounds that separated them from God’s love, thereby healing them of their sin.  Right in line with Jesus’ teachings, right!? Apparently not, because the practices that I had learned and successfully applied were not “explicitly handed down by the Magesterium.”  I was challenged and confronted, hateful emails and letters were sent. I was accused of every nature of evil. Local bishops, fueled by the fear of the vocal minority, challenged my work and eventually handed down a prohibition calling it “witchcraft and sorcery,” in spite of my attempts to reason with and explain things to them.  Through this, I endured, but when I was attacked by a newly-appointed  pastor for a course in “Christian Zen” that I was sponsoring, who claimed it to be “outside Catholic teaching” and who identified Eastern practices as “dangerous,” I broke.  My heart was broken and my resolve with it.  The Church I had loved and out of whose embrace I had come to know God’s love – the Church who had called me to continue the work of Jesus – had betrayed me.  My gifts, my call, the unique way I had come to know God was no longer welcome. More than that, my ministry had been condemned as “dangerous,” “witchcraft and sorcery”….some even called it, “the work of the devil.”

ChristianZen.jpgOn that fateful autumn day, I listened beyond the voice of the fearful priest, the self-appointed inquisition, and even the Vatican II teachings that provided space for the ecumenical nature of the work I was doing and the unifying discussions that might arise out of this work.  I listened instead to the still, small voice of God within.  God’s voice was not small that day.  God spoke directly and loudly to my heart, “Lauri, you are my beloved daughter.  I have placed my word within your heart.  I have anointed you to be my servant.  Who will you obey?  Man or Me?”

Of course I chose God.

With God and the echoing support of Peter and the Apostles who similarly responded to the Church who turned away from them, “We must obey God rather than man, (Act 5: 29)” I handed over my keys and walked away.  Buoyed by God’s eternal promise of freedom, I knew that I could more freely do the work God had called me to absent the on-going scrutiny of the Church and the fearful minority.

Some would suggest that in leaving the Church I have also left behind my faith.  The opposite, in fact is true.  My faith has remained intact, and in truth, has been fortified.  I start every morning in prayer and meditation over the daily scripture.  Jesus is my constant companion, teacher and guide. I discern daily the ways in which I am being called to continue Jesus’ work in the world. I have seen the clear evidence of God at work through me as I witness the profound healing experienced by those who have become part of my ministry, and I am continually amazed at how God works through me to bring people more and more deeply into love and more closely connected to their own gifts and vocational call in the world.  I see the power of faith at work as I witness the empowerment experienced by those who come to me for counsel, attend my classes, read my writing and partake in my weekly services; and with each passing day my faith is strengthened and affirmed.

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Regarding the Church, I wish I could say that like Lot, I never looked back.  I find, instead, that I am more like Lot’s wife, forever gazing back in profound longing – grieving the loss of my home, my sanctuary, my community, my Church.  Beyond my own grief, however, I weep for my Church.  I long for the Church that I had come to know – one that is firmly rooted in the truth of God’s unconditional love and acting as that love in the world.  I long for a Church that works for unity and empowerment of all humankind – regardless of their gender, beliefs, or sexual orientation.  I long for a Church that is willing to set down its wealth and its power and get in the trenches with those who need its help – the hungry, the poor, the imprisoned, the fearful, the wounded and the broken. I long for the Church that takes Jesus’ example seriously by being humble, giving the seats of honor to those without honor and washing the feet of strangers.  I yearn for a Church that supports people in becoming self-actualized, mature disciples – fostering the psycho-spiritual growth of men, women and children so that they can find the God they have forgotten in their hearts, discover their own unique giftedness and vocational call and become empowered in the fulfillment and use of these gifts in service to the betterment of the world.  I long for a Church that recognizes the earth as holy and sacred and works to be a steward for the gifts God gave us so that all of humanity may not only survive but thrive.  I cry out to the Church to work for justice – justice for all – not only for those who “are Catholic in good standing.”  My heart yearns for a Church that welcomes ALL people to its table – inviting all to know the unconditional and infinite love that is their truest nature. This is the Church that I once knew and I often wonder what happened to that Church – or if all along it had really just been a figment of my imagination.

 

 

Lauri Ann Lumby, MATP is a published author, ordained interfaith minister, spiritual director and teacher.  She ministers to a world-wide audience, most of whom were raised Catholic but who were also turned away by the Church.  Lauri lives in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  You can learn more about Lauri and her ministry at www.authenticfreedomacademy.com.

Posted in grief

Education in Wisconsin – Budget Cuts, Grief and Anxiety

Today’s blog goes out to all those men and women who are educators in the state of Wisconsin, and specifically to all my friends who are on the faculty and staff at the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh and the Oshkosh Area School District. All of these talented and hard-working men and women are suffering under the effects of recent legislative decisions, including a $250 million cut to the UW system. (Read the details HERE: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/07/13/gov-scott-walker-savages-wisconsin-public-education-in-new-budget/). Many will lose their jobs. Those who are chosen to remain will still have a job, but likely with a lower rate of pay, significantly reduced benefits and an ever-increasing workload. Schools will have to do more with a LOT less and everyone is afraid.

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I’m writing on this topic because I have been a part of several major institutions that have experienced similar traumas and I have seen the effects these kinds of losses have on an institution, most importantly, on its employees. While the administration may be skilled at making the difficult decisions about which programs need to go, where expenses can be reduced and where benefits can be shaved, they typically have no experience in addressing the “soft” issues of grief, anxiety and fear. This was recently confirmed for me when I offered my services as a grief and transitions expert to a local institution and was told (in so many words), “Thanks, we got this!” Based on the conversations I have had with various faculty and staff who related to me the deep grief they are feeling, the chaos that is unfolding, and the fear and anxiety that have now become part of the academic culture; No, you don’t “got this.”  The administration does not “got this” because, as is common in our culture, they have no knowledge of, or experience in dealing with grief or anxiety. Instead, they take the typical attitude of “get over it and move on.” This is NOT a helpful response to grief and anxiety especially when you desire productivity and effectiveness in your employees.

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The analogy I like to use when addressing budget cuts such as those currently facing Wisconsin schools is that these cuts are akin to receiving a cancer diagnosis. For those who will be impacted by these cuts (not likely to be the person in charge), the greatest and unspoken fear is that of death. In this case, that they will be without a job or that the salary for the job they retain will be greatly reduced forcing them into financial hardship. The second fear is that they will not be valued for the work they are doing. When professors have to fundraise for their own programs and research, or do the work of three professors, this greatly devalues their gifts, along with the experience and passion they once brought to the job. When these fears and their resulting grief are not acknowledged and tended to, the anxiety, fear and grief begin to come out sideways. Morale decreases. Apathy sets in. Productivity decreases and company loyalty is all-but eliminated. Soon the institution suffers a mass exodus of its greatest assets – its teaching staff.

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Perhaps this is what the academic institutions want – a mass exodus of their greatest assets so as to make their job easier. If people leave (in droves) of their own volition, the institution doesn’t have to make the difficult decisions of who or what to cut. I must believe, however, that this is not what our academic institutions want. I want to give educational institutions the benefit of the doubt in believing they do want to retain their quality staff and provide a supportive environment, in a difficult time, for those who choose to remain. If, this is true, then educational institutions need to be providing sound grief and transition support for their employees, faculty and staff; including training on how to manage the inherent anxiety of these kinds of transitions.

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Grief support provides effective tools for moving through the faces of grief including: denial, bargaining, depression/apathy, anger and sorrow and provides resources in helping the grieving manage their anxiety. Grief support gives individuals the tools for identifying grief when it shows up and effective means for dealing with that grief. Supporting the grieving process and giving people tools for managing anxiety clears the ground for the new life that is waiting to emerge on the other side of the loss. In the case of education the new life that will emerge will be more creative, efficient and cost-effective ways of providing a quality education for people of all ages. The question facing Wisconsin schools is, do they want to arrive at this new life the hard way by denying and ignoring the grief, anxiety and fear; or through the easier path by tending to their grief?  Only time will tell.

 

Posted in Death, grief

A Little Lesson About Grief

As some of you know, I am currently traveling to Minneapolis to be with my family as we celebrate the life and love of my beloved Aunt, Patricia Evans Borg, who recently died from complications of COPD.  As I grieve the loss of my aunt and accompany my family (parents, cousins, siblings, my own children, other aunts and uncles) in mourning her death while celebrating her life, I have had an opportunity to learn a few lessons about grief. I share these lessons with you so that we all may have better tools for managing the losses of life.

Patricia Evans Borg November 25, 1939 - August 19, 2014
Patricia Evans Borg
November 25, 1939 – August 19, 2014

Lesson ONE – Grief Unacknowledged Comes Out Sideways

The news of Patricia’s imminent death came Sunday morning in an email.  She had been admitted into the hospital after going into respiratory arrest and being resuscitated.  She was on a ventilator and the prognosis was grim.  We were in the wait and watch period.  Soon, I found myself overwhelmed with anxiety, obsessive thoughts and compulsive planning.  I also found myself irritable, impatient, intolerant and even a bit angry.  I lost my temper with my son, snapped at my daughter and suddenly found myself obsessively worrying about money (unnecessarily so).  I looked at my calendar and realized the Universe had given me a few days off in the following week and decided I needed to make arrangements to go home to see Pat and be with my family.  I then felt peace.  Then my son asked me for something I wasn’t ready to give him and I lost my temper.  After losing my temper, I realized, “I’m sad about Pat.”  Then I apologized to my kids, shed some tears and acknowledged that I was grieving. Until I acknowledged my grief, it came out sideways in impatience, intolerance, frustration, anger, anxiety and all my typical expressions of anxiety.

Lesson Two – Grief Has Its Way with You

On Tuesday morning, I received the phone call that Pat had died.  SCREECH…..everything came to a stand still as my body and my spirit went into shock.  I couldn’t think straight.  I knew it was too early in the morning to contact family and find out more.  I sat down and tried to work and found I could not.  I thought about yoga and my heart said, “meh!”  I cried for a little bit.  Then I took a nap.  I felt numb and in a haze.  A couple hours later I had energy to get some necessary work done.  Then I needed another nap.  I called my kids to tell them the news and I cried.  I tried to eat and couldn’t.  I tried to force myself to at least accomplish the pieces related to the Virtual Church service for this week and couldn’t.  I decided, as “Pastor and Spiritual Director,” I had the freedom to excuse myself from this task on account of death.  Then I watched What Dreams May Come, and cried and laughed, and mourned not only my aunt’s death, but that of Robin Williams.  In all of this – paralysis, sadness, exhaustion, shock, foggy haze, lack of motivation, and sudden spurts of productive energy, I was reminded that in grief….WE ARE NOT IN CHARGE!  Instead, it is grief that is driving the bus.  Grief has its way with us…in its own way…in its own time.

Lesson Three – the importance of storytelling

After I lost my sh.t on my kids (as the grief was still coming out sideways), and after I acknowledged my grief and shed a few tears, my children spontaneously joined me at the dining room table and started telling their stories about Auntie Pat.  “Mom, remember that hilarious and awesome outfit she wore for Halloween that one year?”  “Mom, I love the time when Pat … I love the story Pat told us about…Mom, what was Auntie Pat like when you were young?”  The stories went on and on as we shared the many loving memories we had of our Auntie Pat.  I was acutely aware as we were sharing our stories, the healing power of narrative.  In remembering Pat, we were remembering her love, and finding healing through these shared and sometimes new memories.

Lesson Four – New Grief Brings Up Old Grief

As I have been grieving Pat’s death, I found past situations of loss reappearing.  In particular, I found myself overcome with anger and resentment over past relationship in which I had experience hurt and subsequent loss.  I found myself ranting and raving about “so-and-so” who had hurt, slighted, or insulted me in some way.  In the middle of day three of ranting, I suddenly realized, “Oh yeah….I’m grieving….here is the anger stage of grief….but instead of being angry at Pat, or about Pat, it is showing up in other unhealed losses.”  When I shared this observation with my daughter, she said, “Well, that would explain when I was sad about ….., that angry thoughts of … showed up.”  Who knew???  New grief brings up old grief.  My guess would be that the purpose of this is that new layers of healing can now be accomplished related to both (or all) experiences of loss.  HMMMMM

In Conclusion

Grief is the amazing and miraculous way in which we process the inevitable losses of the human condition and through which we find healing from these losses.  Grief is not something to be suppressed or ignored, but something to embrace, especially if we want healing from the pain of loss.  In a culture that tells us to “get over it…and move on,” it is ever more important to RE-LEARN the lessons about grief that were known by our ancestors and somehow forgotten in our quest to be “intelligent and rational” beings.  Grief belongs to all of us and the more we try to resist or suppress it, the more it will hound us.  So instead of resisting or suppressing grief, my invitation to all of us is to risk being vulnerable enough to grieve….and when we grieve, to grieve big so that we can find the new life that is promised on the other side of the loss.

 

Posted in grief, Uncategorized

Surrendering to Grief

Today’s blog explores the process of grief as it relates to the losses and disappointments of our lives.

Wisdom from a Friend

A wise friend once shared with me regarding grief, “When you are grieving, your emotions are not your own.”  How true I have found that to be, both in the process of grieving my divorce and now grieving the loss of a significant relationship.  As a Spiritual Director, I know all about the grieving process and have been a source of witness and support for many of my clients as they have moved through the losses, disappointments, changes and deaths in their lives.  I should have this all figured out and grief should be easier for me because of my knowledge and experience in this area, right?  WRONG!  The good news is that I know that I am grieving (which is a far cry from what most people seem to know about their emotions related to grief) and that I have had enough experience in this area to know that instead of resisting the grieving process (as most of us do), I can simply SURRENDER and in surrendering to the process and letting it have its way with me, I will find quicker healing and will be more prepared to find the new life that is promised on the other side of this loss.

Pinball Wizard

The emotions that come with grief are kind of like being the ball on the inside of a pinball machine – getting battered about the walls, getting hit by the paddles of sadness, pummeled against the buzzers of rage, flipped about by the hammer of denial and wishing and hoping you could just sink to the bottom of the machine and that this is really just a dream and none of it has really happened or that you will get that magic email or phone call that says, “I’m sorry, I was wrong, can we start over?”  (that is called bargaining…..also a face of grief.)  Like the ball inside the machine, we really have no control over where we are getting hit or in what direction we are being thrown.  We simply get tossed about in our emotions as the Spirit within us works at healing our pain.

The Mummy

The good news is that while we are getting haphazardly battered about, with every punch of rage, collapse into depression, flood of tears, negotiations in bargaining and denial, strands of what has been fall away from us, like a mummy being unwrapped from its death dressings. Some of these strands are the illusions we might have created around the situation.  The things that we may have made up in our heads or the way we wanted to hear or see things fall away so that deeper truths can be revealed.  Some of the strands are those of deep pain – rejection, fear, loneliness, rage, anger, confusion.  Other strands are the hopes and dreams we had created around the relationship and as we peel away the strands of these dreams, we are prepared for the new dreams in our life to begin to take root.  Many of the strands are memories – all the things that made up the relationship – the good and the bad, the joy and the sorrow, the gift and the challenge.  All of this unraveling is happening so that we can be cleared of what was, examine it for “what is mine in this” and “what is theirs” and so that we can be made ready for the new life that is promised on the other side of the loss.

It

It describes the hardest part of this journey for me….and probably for anyone that has been through the loss of relationship – the evil clown demon that seeks to torture us in self-loathing, self-flagellation, relentlessly coming at us with our own unhealed inner wounds.  This is the evil clown that taunts us with all the negative self-talk it knows we are expert at inflicting upon ourselves.  I will spare you the gory details, just know it is as scary, disturbing and disgusting as Pennywise – the evil clown demon of Stephen King fame.  And to me, there is NOTHING more scary than clowns in general, let alone this demon clown!

I Can See Clearly Now

Ok, not yet…..but I know that in addition to the promise of new life, lies the promise of clarity and beyond clarity – compassion.  I know that all this grieving will bring healing (and much has already taken place).  I also know that it will be greater clarity and understanding  – what really happened and why?  And even more than this, is the promise of compassion – that moment when the finger of blame that hangs in midair pointing toward “them” and then back at “me” will finally fall to rest at my side.  In that moment, I know that I will love myself for all I brought to this relationship, that I will love them for all that they brought, that I will look upon it as a happy and gifted time in my life and that I will be able to bless both of us as we move forward in our own respective truths.  And for the record, this is my highest intention in this loss and the ultimate goal that keeps me going even in the face of grief.

Brought Together

In closing, I share a poem that I still believe to be true – if not for a lifetime, at least for a reason and a season….and for this I will always be grateful!

Brought Together

Copyright 2012  Lauri Lumby

They asked them, “How did you meet?”

“We were brought together,” he replied

She stood in stunned agreement, with the truth hanging in the air like

an overfilled raincloud anxiously wanting to quench the earth of its thirst.

Brought together?

How true this feels.

The silent, invisible workings of a benevolent Universe

Answering the deepest longings of their hearts

Across time and space

Through dreams and imaginings

And the supposed haphazard circumstances of life.

More than luck, beyond Karma,

Something meant to be

And in this their deepest thirst was quenched.

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in grief, mental illness

Mental Illness and Grief

It is Mental Health week at Authentic Freedom Ministries and Your Spiritual Truth.  The goal of this series is to provide support, education and information for those who may be suffering from a mental illness and for family and friends of those who are experiencing mental illness.  Yesterday’s blog discussed the definition of mental illness, diagnosis, the effectiveness of early intervention and treatment and where to find support.  Today’s blog explores the topic of grief as it relates to a mental illness diagnosis.

Stigma

In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned that the greatest obstacle to the diagnosis and effective treatment of mental illness (Please read yesterday’s blog if you haven’t) is the negative stigma associated with mental illness.  Contrary to what many believe, recovery from mental illness is not simply a case of “mind over matter.”  Mental illness is a serious medical condition that affects people from all walks of life, gender, race, socio-economic status, religion, level of intelligence, etc. and can be effectively treated through a combination of supports.  The negative stigma associated with mental illness prevents people from receiving the help they need and for most, the help that can lead to a happy and productive life.  In my personal opinion, the second greatest obstacle to effective treatment of mental illness is grief – specifically grief that is unacknowledged and therefore unmanaged.

Grief as a Healing Tool

Grief is the healing tool that arises naturally in the face of any significant change, loss or disappointment that we experience in our lives.  Grief presents itself as a vehicle through which we can process the loss and eventually move beyond it so that we can be open to the new life that is promised on the other side of that loss.  Grief is a profound gift because it allows us to experience healing from the loss while it cultivates fertile ground on which new life can begin.  When acknowledged and processed (often with the support of a helping professional like a counselor, therapist or Spiritual Director), grief frees us from our attachments to “what has been” and opens us to the gifts of “what will be.”  It is only through acceptance of the grieving process and all of its faces that new life can emerge.  This is as true in the case of a diagnosis of mental illness as it is in the case of any other kind of loss, disappointment or diagnosis.

Faces of Grief

Many are familiar with the work of Elizabeth Kubler Ross and her exploration into the process of grief.  Grief, as she explains it, happens in various stages which include:

  • Denial
  • Bargaining
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Unfortunately, grief has often been presented to us as if it is a linear process with a somewhat predictable progression and endpoint.  In my experience, this could not be further from the truth.  In fact, I think of grief as a spiraling pathway, much like a labyrinth where we move back and forth between the “faces of grief” (as opposed to stages which imply a linear process) and back again.  I have also learned that grief is not a finite process.  In the face of significant loss (death, terminal diagnosis, loss of cognitive or physical functionality, divorce, etc.); grief can be a life-long process.  We may think that we are “done” with grief, and will find ourselves surprised when it resurfaces as a result of certain triggers.  It is important for us to recognize these truths about the grieving process so that we can navigate the hills and valleys without doing further harm to ourselves.

Grief and Mental Illness

When we first begin to experience the symptoms of possible mental illness and when a diagnosis is received, grief enters into the picture.  Specifically, in the forms of bargaining and denial.   No one wants to be depressed, have panic attacks or be “labeled” as mentally ill.  Unfortunately, the negative stigma attached to mental illness often prevents us from remembering that this is not something to be judged as negative, or to be ashamed of, but something that can likely be managed and effectively treated through proper medications and other supports.

Seeking Support

If you or someone you love is facing a mental illness diagnosis, it is of vital importance that the grieving process be tended to in conjunction with the proper medical and cognitive care.  Meeting your grief head-on will not only help you to process your grief more quickly, it will also hasten the successful management and potential relief of your symptoms.  Support can be obtained through your counselor or therapist, Pastor or Spiritual Director.  As not all professionals are trained or have experience with grief, it may be helpful to ask before setting up your first visit.  Local mental illness support groups can also provide a vehicle through which you can process your grief when facilitated by a trained professional.  The bottom line is that tending to grief is an integral and often overlooked part of the journey toward management and potential recovery in those with mental illness.

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in grief

Holidays and Grief

Today’s blog explores the topic of grief and the ways in which holidays can trigger the grieving process within us. 

 

Happy Holidays?????

We live in a culture that has created an expectation of celebration and joy that accompanies the holiday season.  Holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, etc.) are supposed to be times of family, fun and celebration.  Well, for many, if not most, this could not be farther from the truth.  Instead, the holiday season serves as a reminder of our family dysfunctions, our own personal loneliness and the people we have loved and lost in our lives.  Mix these painful memories with the anxiety of the financial as well as social expectations that come during this time of year and you have a Christmas punch that is not only toxic but just might indeed prove to be fatal.  (The highest rate of suicide is during the holiday season.)

 

Symptoms of Holiday Distress

The best thing we can do for ourselves and for those we love is to be attentive to the possibility that the upcoming holidays might stir up new layers of grief around the past losses and disappointments in our lives.  The healing process of grief is something that continues throughout our lives, resurfacing every time memories of loss are triggered.  And, every time these losses are triggered, we have an opportunity to experience another layer of healing….if we are present to the grief and surrender to the healing.  The challenge is that we are not always conscious of the symptoms of grief and may neglect acknowledging that it has resurfaced so that we can be present to grief’s promise of healing.  As support for all those who may be experiencing the re-emergence of grief during this holiday season, here are some possible symptoms of grief to help you identify that grief has made an appearance, either in yourself or in someone you love:

  • anxiety
  • sadness
  • depression
  • general malaise
  • low-grade sicknesses
  • lack of motivation
  • impatience or restlessness
  • anger or frustration
  • lack of direction
  • avoidance (not wanting to go to holiday parties, celebrations, etc.)
  • fanatical, pressured, forceful holiday participation (a face of denial)
  • loneliness
  • boredom

“Treatment” for the grief

The good news is that there is an effective treatment for grief…and it is really quite simple.  The treatment is ATTENTIVE PRESENCE.  In other words, to allow our losses and disappointments to heal, we need only be present to the grief.  Here’s the quick prescription:

  • Acknowledge that you are grieving
  • Name the loss/es
  • Be present to the emotions that surface – anger, sadness, loneliness, despair, denial, etc.   In other words….LET YOURSELF be sad, angry, etc.
  • Surrender to the process of grieving….it is not something you can control, manipulate or hasten along
  • ALLOW support   in other words…..DO NOT grieve alone…let your friends, loved ones, family members, counselor, spiritual director, grief support group, recovery group, etc. be a source of support for you as your grieve!

EMERGENCY Support

It is important during times of grief to invite support.  Whether it be a friend, family member, spiritual director, pastor or loved one, DO NOT grieve alone.  And…..if you feel suicidal…..GET HELP NOW.  And here are the numbers for the National Suicide Hotline if you or someone you know are entertaining thoughts of despair or death during this holiday season:

1-800-784-2433

1-800-273-8255 

How might grief be making an appearance for you during this holiday season?

What tools do you have for identifying and being present to grief?

What support can you invite to help you through the grieving process? 

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in grief

Revisiting Grief

As a Professional Spiritual Director, I have learned that grief is a valuable and critical tool in helping us to heal from the many losses of the human condition.  Today’s blog explores the ever-unfolding process of grief.

 

Grief Comes Back Around

It is not a coincidence that as I prepare to offer a workshop on grief  (to be held at Inner Sun Yoga Studio tonight at 6:30..drops in are welcome!), that my own grieving process would decide to pay me a visit.  Without revealing the gory details, suffice it to say that certain circumstances have re-opened some recent and not-so-recent losses and brought me back into another layer of healing through grief.  Tears have been shed.  Sadness felt.  I have experienced the depression-related shutting down of my brain.  I’m exhausted and just want to sleep.  In this I am reminded that the grieving process is certainly NOT the linear, goal-oriented process theorized by some, but is an on-going process of healing and release that in fact may never truly end.  Isn’t there, afterall, always a wound somewhere in our hearts where love once dwelled and was torn out through disappointment, loss, death?  I am beginning to think so.  The good news is that over time, with patience and attention to our grieving process, these wounds are soothed, comforted, and healed, little by little by little.

 

Holding Space for Grief

As I will share with the participants of tonight’s grief workshop, the invitation when grief decides to pay a visit is to be present to it.  The process of grief is a profound healing tool through which we are able to find healing for our losses, move past the “old” and be open to the new life that is forever promised on the other side of the grief.  It is in being present to and allowing the grieving process that we can facilitate this healing.  Breaking the rules of Western culture which say, “Move on, get over it,” we enter FULLY into the grieving process and cry, scream, shake our fists at God, sleep, sleep, sleep some more, retreat from the world, lick our wound, allow ourselves to be mad as hell, spend moments in the respite of denial.  When we allow ourselves to surrender to the process and BE PRESENT to whatever shows up, we are allowing the healing to take place.  When we suppress it, stifle it, ignore it, feel guilty about it, we halt the process of healing that is trying to take place.  So for today, I surrender to the face of grief that decided to make its home in me today, and invite the workshop participants (and you readers) to do the same when grief pays you a visit.  I promise that you will find healing and release in the surrender and that there IS new life on the other side, just waiting for you to discover and accept it!

Grieving our Losses

September 15, 2011

Inner Sun Yoga Studio

6:30 – 8:30 pm

Suggested Fee:  $10.00

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in grief

Let’s Talk About Grief, Baby!

Grief is a spiritual process that shows up in times of death, change and loss.  If there is ever a time to grieve, divorce is one of them.  Today’s blog explores the gift of the grieving process.


Grief a Gift?????

While it sure doesn’t feel like it most of the time, the grieving process is a gift given to us by our Divine Source that allows us to move through the many losses of our lives, find healing and release of these losses and be made ready to accept the new life that waits on the other side.  As I have been moving through this process of divorce and witnessing the many faces of grief in both myself and in my children, I am reminded of all the ways that grief shows up.

The Faces of Grief

Grief shows up in many ways as we move through the process of loss.  There are the Kubler-Ross phases:  denial, bargaining, anger, depression, sadness and acceptance; but even these come in several shades.  It is also helpful to recognize that grief often comes out sideways and shows up in normal behaviors that somehow seem disproportionate to the situation.  So….here is a brief run-down of some of the subtle shades of grief:

  • Rage
  • Depression
  • Emotional and mental paralysis
  • Not being able to get thoughts from your brain to your mouth, or not being able to form a cohesive statement
  • Lowered resistance to illness – being sick more than usual or feeling a general feeling of malaise (just feeling like crap all the time)
  • Loss of focus, difficulty holding attention
  • Impatience, irritability, heightened frustration
  • Tears Tears Tears
  • Disproportionate responses to general irritation, anxieties, etc.
  • Anxiety, panic, trembling, shaking, not being able to keep warm (some of these are symptoms of trauma)
  • Sleep Sleep Sleep
  • EXHAUSTION
  • Not wanting to get out of bed
  • Sleeplessness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Seeking out avoidance tactics
  • headaches
  • physical pain and body aches

I know there are more…..but this provides a good reminder of the subtle ways in which grief shows itself in our lives.

Some real life examples

As we are moving through this divorce process, I am truly grateful for my own experience working with clients on grief.  It has allowed me to acknowledge the grief as it is showing up in myself and in my children and be present to myself and to them in that grief. (I am also grateful for my friends, my Lumby family, my therapist and my Spiritual Director who have been a source of support as we move through this divorce and its related grief.)  Here are just a few examples of how I am witnessing this grief show itself:

  • Maggie has missed more days of school than any other year due to illness.
  • Our whole family has been plagued by some strange coughing virus since November.
  • Wil, who is rather impatient anyway (he’s only 11, he’s supposed to be impatient!), is now even more impatient and less tolerant of his sister’s very presence.  (projecting his grief through anger and frustration on to Maggie)
  • Yesterday as we went shopping for bedding for our new home (and spent $200.00 on pillows and mattress covers…..AAARRRRGGGHHHH), I felt all of us getting more and more stressed and more and more frustrated with the whole shopping process.  We left the store in an impatient and irritated huff.
  • Wil got disproportionately frustrated with a video game and threw his IPod across the room.  (after which he got a stern warning about what would happen to the IPod if I ever saw him do that again!)
  • Tears—–I cried all the way through Grey’s Anatomy last night….

What to do when grief shows up

So, what are we supposed to do with all this grief stuff as it shows up?  BE PRESENT!  In the grieving process, the invitation is to be present to the grief and all that shows up with it.  We are invited to be present to the feelings, the emotions, the energy of grief, accept it as part of the healing.  As we allow the faces of grief to show themselves, and hold space for them to move through us, we find healing, comfort and release.  It is ok to grieve – in fact, it is necessary for it is only in being present to the grief that we can be open to receiving the new life on the other side.

PS

DO NOT BE ALONE in your grief.  Find close friends, family, a counselor or therapist or a spiritual director who can be a source of support for you as you move through your losses.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

Where have you experienced a significant loss in your life?

How did grief show itself?

How did you allow yourself to be present to the grief?

What was the new life that you discovered on the other side?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in grief, Healing

The Healing Balm of Grief

Grief is the medicine that helps us to heal from the wounds of change and loss. When grief surfaces, whether it be sadness, anger, bargaining, depression or denial, surrender to its healing balm. It is only in surrendering to grief that we are able to find the new life waiting to be revealed.

Today my thoughts turn to grief.  Grief is the healing process given to us by the Divine to help us recover from the loss and change that are all part of the human condition, and helps to prepare us for the new life waiting to be revealed.  While the process of grief is never pleasant, it is only in surrendering to this process that we can find healing, release and the freedom to step into the new.  Grief is a journey unique to each individual, yet we all share the same faces of grief, in varying degrees and manifestations.

Rage or Anger as part of the grieving process allows us to purge those parts of the dying situation, relationship or experience that were not and are no longer life-giving.  Anger allows us to tap into those pieces within ourselves that need to be transformed into something new.  For example, if co-dependency was part of my role in a dying relationship, anger may surface related to situations where I indulged my own co-dependency.  This surfacing of anger allows me to examine the parts of co-dependency that need to be released from within me so that I can be open to something new.  Anger can also serve as a sort of defense mechanism, protecting us from the hurts of the loss that we are not yet ready to face.

Denial – Denial serves as a form of deep protection.  If we do not face the loss or the death, then we do not have to be affected by the pain of that loss.  Denial is our companion until we are ready to be touched by the pain of loss and enter into the process of release and transformation.

Bargaining is a close friend to denial.  Bargaining allows us to cling to the hope of avoiding the loss.  In bargaining we rationalize, justify and make exchanges for what we know on some level really needs to end.  Bargaining  can surface in the form of these kinds of phrases, “He really is a good provider.”  “What if we try this next medication?”  “I promise I will try harder.”  Bargaining allows us to hold the pending death or loss at bay until we are ready to face the hard and difficult truth.

Depression – Depression in the process of grief (not to be confused with clinical depression which is something else all together)serves two functions.  It is frequently said that depression is anger turned inward.  This is especially true in the process of grief.  When we are afraid of our anger, or have been told that it is not ok to be angry, instead of embracing the anger as it surfaces, we repress and suppress it.  Denying the healing properties of anger does not help us, but harms us as the anger is contained within.  Suppression of anger eventually turns into depression.  We find ourselves paralyzed, trapped and unable to move forward through the grieving process.  Depression in this form stalls the grieving process.  Depression when it is part of the grieving process can also serve to give us the necessary time we need to really integrate the loss.  Depression is like pressing pause on a cassette player.  It gives us the opportunity to retreat to a place of silent solitude.  It is in this place of guarded silence that the deep inner work of healing can take place.  It is in this place of dark mystery that the miracles of the healing process can take root and begin to grow.  When we start to feel anger again, that is a sure sign that the depression stage is ready to let go so that active healing can resume.

Sadness Sadness, tears, active grieving, mourning and wailing are all part of the sadness of grief.  We need to shed the tears of loss in order to be healed.  We need to grieve the pain of loss.  We need to join with our brothers and sisters who have or are also experiencing loss give movement to the deep sadness within.  Crying, wailing and weeping are all active and beneficial tools of healing. 

The invitation as we face the deaths, losses and changes in our lives is to be open to the process of grief – with all its mysterious faces and manifestations.  It is only in surrendering to and engaging in the process of grief that we can find the healing that we need to embrace the new life that is waiting to be revealed.  While death and loss are never pleasant, we are reminded of the Divine promise that out of every death comes new life.  Can we be open to the new life that is waiting to be revealed? 

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://www.authenticfreedom.net

Posted in grief

The Hiding Places of Grief

I am continually amazed at the way in which grief hides in the secret recesses of our soul only to rear its ugly head in the most expected ways.   Yesterday, I received a completely innocuous email from friend that was only informational.  As I read the three lines of the email and perused the attachements I found myself overcome with rage.  Now, that came out of nowhere – or so I thought.  I went to bed in an unnamed fury only to be met with a marathon of dreams that left me feeling exhausted at morning’s light.  As I pondered the topic of today’s blog, it hit me- DUH, the rage I felt upon reading this innocent email was simply another face of grief.

Grief is the mysterious gift granted to us from our loving Source to help us move through the losses and transitions of our life.  While moving through the grieving process is rarely pleasant, it is only in being present to this grief that we can move through the loss and be open to the new life promised by our Divine Source.  In every death/loss, there exists the promise of new life. 

In the contemplative life, we are invited to be present to our grief and recognize it as a necessary tool for healing.  Being present to this grief allows us to recognize the bizarre appearance of depression, sorrow and rage as symptoms of a loss as yet unhealed.  This was exactly my experience as rage stared me in the face over a seemingly insignificant email.  Today, I can recognize this rage as related to a significant loss in my life and honor that perhaps this loss remains unhealed.  So for today, I will be gentle with myself as my spirit moves through another layer of this loss trusting that this process is leading me on a path to new life and greater spiritual freedom. 

As a side note – it might be helpful to know that this journey through grief can be supported and facilitated through the loving support of an accomplished Grief Counselor and/or Spiritual Director.    Know that in those situations where grief surfaces in your own life, that you do not need to make this journey alone!