Posts Tagged ‘stuck in grief’

Dagwood and his outrageous sandwiches?

A slice of this, a piece of that—anything he could find in Blondie’s refrigerator or pantry to pile and stack beyond his ability to bite. He could never have consumed these comic-strip sandwiches without some serious heartburn or possible ptomaine.

But don’t we do the same thing with bruised emotions, broken hearts, or pounds of unresolved anger? We collect a big ole bundle of burden and stack ‘em in the darkness of our hearts, ready to be piled on a monster sandwich-of-sorrow and toted with us 24/7 when we lose a loved one.

And we wonder why we’re done in? Why we can’t do anything but sob or rage? Why our blood pressure goes out the roof? Why we can’t get a handle on life and move forward. Because the loss of a loved one rips scabs off everything we’ve stuffed and hidden and clung to. And that toxic mix has soaked in the acid of anger and unforgiveness, sometimes for years, before morphing into the life-threatening quick-sand of self-pity from which we can’t cry, wiggle, or scream ourselves free.

Let me be concise: Every hurt, pain, scrap of anger, thread of guilt, or wad of deception you’ve stuffed and packed and carried on your life’s journey all these years will rear its ugly head and deter or prevent your working through the loss of a loved one, unless you purpose in your heart to deal with the whole muddle. One step at a time.

We weren’t created to handle the emotional, mental, and physical turmoil and bear up under such a destructive load. God made us in His image…body, soul, and spirit. And you can’t separate one from the other, even though we all try. When a portion of your heart hurts, the pain radiates to every portion of your being. Just like consumed calories spread over our whole anatomy, anger and pain and unforgiveness gobble up the landscape of our hearts, minds, and souls and end up catapulting off our tongues into the lives of others.

But this poison doesn’t remain sealed in tidy packages. It grows. And grows ‘til the anger has turned into bitterness and the refusal to forgive not only affects your relationships with others, it strangles your relationship with God. Left to fester, these two deadly roots of sin metastasize into emotional, spiritual, and physical disorders.

This past week our GriefShare folks drew their individual Dagwood sandwiches applicable to their grief and I would suggest you do the same. Think about the state of your heart and create a drawing that applies to your grief and all its emotions today.



The rectangular shape on the bottom symbolizes the death of the person you lost. Every color strip indicates a piece of left-over anger, unforgiveness, secondary loss, past hurt, past grief, family dysfunction that you must add to your sandwich. When the left-over anguish comes to mind, if it still causes a twinge, slap it on the stack. The larger the pain the thicker the strip of color. Some may end up being burger sized. If there’s more than one death or loss, add an additional rectangular piece of bread (white fluff, of course). Then identify each slice you’ve added to your Dagwood sandwich-of-sorrow and list it beside your drawing.

How large is your sandwich?

How difficult and heavy is it to carry?

How long will it take you to surrender this load to Jesus?

God never fills full hands, especially those with fists clenched shut, screaming mine—trying to work through the ugly mess alone. I would suggest you take your drawing into the bathroom, close the door, and hold the drawing, with all the aches, pains, grief, and anger it represents, up to God and, speaking aloud, ask God to take this heavy load from you. Tell Him how difficult the chaos and despair is to bear. Choose to hold the stack tormenting your heart with open hands to the Father and give them all to Him.
And trust Him to take them from you. Don’t be an Indian-giver—asking God to take this turmoil then clutching the paper and tucking the stinky stuff back in your heart to fester and grow again. Let them go. All of them. You may need to make more than one trip to the bathroom to turn lose.
After you’ve given your sandwich-of-sorrow to God, ask Him to fill your hands with joy, thankfulness, and praise to Him! And He will answer your prayer, because He loves you, and He is faithful.

“Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7 NAS).


You may need hands on support in your quest for help, hope, and healing that only comes from the Lord Jesus Christ, through the power of the Spirit. Go online to http://www.GriefShare.org. to find the nearest GriefShare Support Group. Take your Dagwood Sandwich with you. The whole group has sorrow sandwiches, they just might not know they do—help them by sharing yours.

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If you’ve lost a loved one in the past three years, chances are on November 15th you’d like to have taken a sleeping bill that would last until January 5th of 2013.

Truth is, all of us live life from one holiday ‘til the next. February brings Valentines, then Easter is next in line, followed by Mother’s Day/Father’s Day, then the 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Of course, birthdays and anniversaries are sandwiched in between these festivities—and they are all difficult days.

Then we begin again. Next year.

But if you’re agonizing over the death of a loved one, holiday celebrations are brutal reminders of who’s not there to celebrate with you. You’re sad and lonely. Very lonely.

This year was the fifteenth Thanksgiving without Mama, the thirteenth without Daddy, and the twelfth without our daughter, Michelle. And Monday, the one before Thanksgiving, I had a complete meltdown.

You’d think after all this time I’d be able to get through a holiday event with only a twinge of an emotional setback. But when I opened Mama’s silver chest to polish those family treasures that would grace our dinner table, memories of Thanksgivings past rushed down the corridors of my mind, ripped through my heart, and tumbled out in a river of debilitating tears.

I collapsed in the middle of the floor and gave myself permission to shed tears of love and loss that honor the lives of those who’ve gone home before me.

Tears of grief are liquid healing. Tears that, scripture tells us, God saves in a bottle. Tears necessary to move us through the grief process and into our new normal.

But what happens to those who refuse the opportunity to cry and grieve? Are they stronger? Are those of us who weep and grieve weak?

Absolutely not.

Family members grieve in different manners—each person’s grief is unique. And most every family who has lost a loved one has at least one member who refuses to do their grief work. They choose instead to bury their grief alive because they believe their sorrow is much worse than anyone else and much too difficult for them to bear. Problem is when grief is buried alive there will be a resurrection one day. Or perhaps on many days, year, after year, after year—most often during holidays.

Graves of buried grief incubate anger. Anger blossoms into bitterness. Bitterness transforms itself into rage. And that rage dresses and terrorizes, in many colors and forms—sullenness, rudeness, unexplained irritability, unreasonableness, inability to demonstrate love within the family unit, stubborn refusal to participate in and accept the joy and thankfulness of the season. These reactions can damage or ultimately bring death to living relationships with family members who are dealing with their grief.

These desperate souls have stumbled unknowingly into the quagmire of grief and will not or cannot escape the devastating consequences of their wrong choices.

They are stuck in grief.

Can we do anything to help these scalded, scarred folks?

 Love and prayer. Prayer, prayer and then more love and prayer. As long as there is breath, there is hope.

But we  can’t heal them, only God can—if they seek Him. However, we must not allow ourselves to become entangled or sucked into their web of chaos. And that’s where the line in the sand must be drawn and the remedy may result in the need to create distance or space between ourselves and the one stuck in grief.

Like any other behavior, becoming stuck in grief is habitual. And habits are hard to break. However, catering to bad behavior ensnares all involved in co-dependent relationships.

There are no time limitations on grief or healing. People have come to GriefShare after forty years of being stuck in grief. And when they do the grief work, God promised to heal them and to restore the years the locust have eaten.

As we enter the Christmas Season where does Christmas 2012 find you? Like me, pausing to remember and shed those treasured tears of grief? Or are you the one stuck in grief? Or perhaps you find yourself dreading the family gathering around the tree or table this Christmas, fearing the eruption that is sure to come.

Surviving the Holidays is a wonderful place to begin the necessary healing. Go to the GriefShare website www.GriefShare.org and click on the link to find a Surviving the Holidays event near you. Ask family members to attend with you. Work to keep lines of communication open within the family. Ask God to break down strongholds of anger that have caused family discord.

Every holiday becomes bitter-sweet a few years after loss. And it’s okay to cry,  to feel sad, and to remember.

But hold onto the truth that the day is coming when there will be no more tears, no more separation, and no more death. ‘Til then, I’ve wondered what sized bottle God used for my tears these fifteen years? My guess is a giant washtub. What size bottle will He need to hold your tears?

“Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into Thy bottle; are they not in Thy book?” (Psalm 56:8 NKJ)

Ancient “tear bottles” were actually excavated by archaeologist in Israel. The vessels were used to catch and preserve the owner’s tears during their grief or difficult times.

If you need help dealing with your grief this Christmas Season, please feel free to respond to this blog. I have been  a GriefShare facilitator for the past nine years. There is help and hope available to you today.

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