I have written a lot about grief over the course of counseling as it has been one of my greatest surprises during the process. Of all of the things I thought I knew, grief certainly would have been near the top of the list, but that is the rub - one can experience grief, but processing it is a whole other thing.
A. Whole. Other. Thing.
For me, a good-bye in any form from “see you later” to a season shift to death all trigger a level of grief that I am just now, 20 months into regular counseling, beginning to understand how to handle, process, yet even more….simply understand what is happening inside of my mind…body…heart. I would describe it as a random pile of fireworks and grief is the match that is lit on the end of just one….and then it is off to the races on setting off a random system of intense explosions inside of me.
My business partner describes my instincts as a ‘holy superpower,’ for which I am learning to listen, respect, and act on. That said, there is certainly pain in anticipating a season…when that season is loss and grief. Months ago before any of the loss I have experienced in the past 30 days, I felt it coming on. I talked about it in counseling. I wrote about it in my journals. The wind was shifting, and I felt it down to my bones.
Then it did.
Then. It. Did.
As I sit here in the wee hours of the morning, hands clasped, I am weak from grief.
So….I go searching scripture and land on John 16. Jesus spoke plainly about grief and references Proverbs 14 so beautifully. There is a time for grief, but there will be joy again. Joy again. I think I have never fully respected the process of grief as I should, but then again who would or does? It is painful and icky, but I have seen others grieve well. I want to learn to grieve well. Out of true grief springs joy. I have seen it. I know it to be true. But….
We want the sweet without the bitter.
Proverbs 27:7…
“A full soul loathes a honeycomb; but to a hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet.”
I wonder if the lesson isn’t that inside the bitter IS sweet.
Someone I loved had tremendous grief in their life, yet they had the deepest vat of joy. They poured it out to everyone and everywhere. It was not of this world. They passed away last month, and I have been pondering the lessons of their life as I have experienced more raw grief with their passing than ever before in my life. Could the secret to their joy lie in the deepness of their grief? Could they have figured out some formula for converting grief to joy?
A full soul loathes a honeycomb, BUT to a HUNGRY soul, every bitter thing is sweet. Is my soul full or hungry?
What are you showing me God?
When Jesus was put up on the cross, it is said that he experienced the slowest death possible, literally bleeding out slowly. He was poured out. While in Israel last year, we were able to see the tomb where Jesus was taken (and rose from). In a little garden area nearby we worshiped and took communion. I am not sure why that memory came up just now, but I am struck that where his physical body briefly lay emptied out, we ate and drank of him….in remembrance.
Jesus poured out to fill us up. Unless I am emptied, I cannot be filled. If I am full (of whatever), there is no room for a “yes” to God for I am self-sufficient.
If I am emptied out again and again, there is room for Jesus to pour into me, fill me up.
IF…I make room….for him.
If I never truly grieve the losses, storing them up in little kraft-paper boxes with red bows on the shelves, then there is only room for my grief, the pain, the loss - however neatly packaged and stored - the bottom line is that there is no room…at the inn…for Jesus.
To grieve is to pour out.
To love is to pour out.
To give is to pour out.
Last night, after a brutal yet beautiful day of saying good-bye to Gail, my friend and massage therapist of 18 years (she retired yesterday), and in some ways surrogate mother….I went to the store for some basics as I knew that today, my Sabbath, Sunday….would be a day to rest, grieve, write, etc. As I entered the store, there was a man with a sign. I had seen him when I pulled in, and I thought…I will run in with just my phone and credit card, no cash to offer, and I did. As I passed him, he asked and I indicated I had no cash, and he wished me a Merry Christmas. Inside I couldn’t shake him, and while checking out inquired about getting cash back. I could, but the checkout person was inept and I had to leave with no cash. I passed him again walking to my car with bags of food, essentials, and a clump of fresh roses I instinctively bought for myself. He wished me Merry Christmas again. I got in my car and checked for my bigger wallet that I had not used since returning from France and inside there was $8.00 cash (I never have cash.), and without hesitation I snatched it out, folded it. I pulled out and around next to the front of the store, jumped out, and walked up to the man and handed him the money. He looked at me and then grabbed me in a big bear hug saying, “Thank you,” and I whispered, “Merry Christmas to you too.” I cried all the way home.
…but to a hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet.
I don’t know the state of your soul. I do know that, from my sole experience, to love and be loved by God is not perfect or easy. It is deep, messy, beautiful, and brutal. It shakes you to your core unwinding everything the world works to convince you is true and says, “This is MY heart for you.” Being loved by God is personal and intentional.
In this season of grief I am walking through, I am learning the state of a soul. The state of my soul. Strangely enough, I am finding myself desperately hungry for more…and all that is to come.

In the midst of a brutal season of grief, there was this…pure JOY. {Dijon, France // December 2017}