CHRONIC GRIEF IS REAL
Grieving is chronic, though not a disease. It doesn’t just come once and disappear. No, it comes back over and over. When you lose someone, you experience a grief that will never completely go away. That doesn’t mean you will constantly feel the pain of grief, but it doesn’t ever fully leave. Grief also comes to those with chronic illnesses. They have had to grieve many losses including some of their dreams. Since I had never heard the words chronic and grief used together, I have coined the phrase chronic grief, because I think it fits.
Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process……Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape. C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
I miss Stephen, our son who died in November, 2019, at the age of 29 [He had Muscular Dystrophy (MD) which eventually led to congestive heart failure.]. Through the years he had to grieve the loss of many of his physical abilities. Finally, he had to use a wheelchair full time. Chronic grief was real to him. Now I am concerned for my youngest son and three of my grandsons, who also have MD.
GRIEVING IS CHRONIC, BUT THERE IS ALSO JOY
My chronic grief is mixed with joy and a sense of peace, even in the midst of a storm.
Many things can cause chronic grief, not just the loss of a loved one. Some of us have family members who don’t see a need for God, but others who love Him and depend on Him. The state of our nation with the pandemic, political unrest, and a host of other issues can cause grief. These can all weigh heavily on a heart.
GRIEVING IS CHRONIC BUT GOD IS IN CONTROL
I’m sitting here alone in the living room. My heart has so many mixed emotions. I know God has it all under control, but sometimes everything seems overwhelming, including the sorrow and chronic grief. That’s when I remind myself that it’s not up to me to “fix” things. I can be concerned, but that should lead me to pray more, asking God to intervene, then trust Him to accomplish His purposes using whatever means He chooses.
I ask for wisdom and remember that I am only one person. There are things way beyond my control. When I put my focus back on God, knowing that He is on top of things, I can rest and be at peace. That doesn’t mean I am no longer concerned or that my sorrow and chronic grief are gone, but it does mean I don’t have to worry or fear. I still pray — and I am able to perform the tasks before me, right where I am.
GRIEVING IS CHRONIC AND MAY COME SUDDENLY LIKE A FLOOD
There are times when I almost feel overwhelmed by grief when memories of my son come to mind. These waves of grief seem to wash over me like a flood.
If I allow my thoughts to go on and on, I will start to heap on guilt, thinking of all the things I could have done differently. I might want to start blaming the doctors or the hospitals for not doing things right. I might let my anger take over and miserably wallow in self-pity. Chronic grief can be a hard taskmaster.
When that does happen, I try to catch myself and remember that God has ordained all the days of our lives. All my worrying or complaining or anger won’t bring Stephen back — and though I miss him very much, I know he is with his Savior and in no pain. The grief will always be there, but it will be tempered with joy, knowing that my son is free. I think of all the special memories and cherish them in my heart.
GRIEVING IS CHRONIC AND SHOULD BE ACKNOWLEDGED AND FELT
Knowing that Stephen is in a better place doesn’t take away the grief. Tears form in my eyes and sometimes they flow freely. My heart is sad and I miss him so much. If I ignore the grief or just push it deep inside and quote Scripture to myself, I am only putting a Band-Aid on the problem.
There is no quick fix for grief.
It’s important to let ourselves feel the pain of chronic grief. It is real. The person we miss is real. There is a hole in our lives that will not be filled, though the ache may soften over time. When I go to God with my pain, I’m not expecting a quick fix. I am trusting that He will comfort and give peace through His word and through the thoughtful acts and prayers of friends.
GRIEVING IS CHRONIC BUT GOD PREPARES AND CARES FOR US
I have experienced the death of both my parents. My dad died at the young age of 65. I am now older than he was when he died. My mom died in 2016, at the age of 93. I still miss them and there is still this chronic grief, but the grief of losing a child has been so much harder for me. It seems almost everyone has some form of chronic grief.
Knowing that Stephen was ill and that his prognosis was not very good for a long life was hard, but we always held onto hope that somehow he would get better. For a time I think we were in denial, but the reality came as we saw him gradually lose certain abilities. He also grieved his loss of abilities and dreams.
Throughout my life I have trusted God, expressing that trust in reading the Bible, praying and looking to Him for guidance. He has cared for us in many ways over the years. When we had no money, He provided food and other needs through friends. Over and over through our 46 years of marriage, God has provided. We KNOW He is real. It doesn’t take away the chronic grief, but it does bring comfort.
GRIEVING IS CHRONIC BUT PSALMS BRING COMFORT
In early Autumn, 2019, I won a journal in a giveaway; I thought it would be perfect to use as a gratitude journal as I worked through the Psalms. On November 17, 2019, I wrote my first entry. Each day I would read a few Psalms and choose a verse or more to write out. Then I would write a sentence or short paragraph giving thanks to God as I meditated on the passage. At the time I had no idea of the grief that was coming.
Little did I know that two weeks later, my son would leave us. I knew he was not doing well, and the Psalms were so helpful to pray through. I began sharing some of them with Stephen those last few days in the hospital. He also found comfort to help him in his pain and sorrow.
God knew I would need comfort and strength and a way to express my lament, and I am so thankful for my habit of reading the Psalms every day and writing in the journal. When Stephen left us, God met me in the Psalms as I read, prayed, lamented, and praised. The sorrow was great, but the comfort was real.
I am still going strong with that practice and look forward to it every day. Through His word, God has comforted and still comforts me daily. In the process He has enabled me to comfort others through my writing and the sharing of my life, which includes the chronic grief.
GOD GIVES JOY AND PEACE
When Jesus knew the time was close for Him to die, He was sorrowful — but He assured His disciples that the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, would come to be with them always. Chapters 14-16 of the book of John are filled with this comfort. Then in chapter 17 there is the prayer that Jesus prayed not only for his disciples but also for all who would believe, which includes us.
I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word. May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. (John 17:20-21 CSB)
Even though I will always have chronic grief, I also have joy and peace. It is not a peace I can manufacture myself but it comes from God, just as Jesus promised. I love how the Amplified Bible describes this peace:
Peace I leave with you; My [perfect] peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. [Let My perfect peace calm you in every circumstance and give you courage and strength for every challenge.](John 14:27 AMP)
GRIEVING IS CHRONIC, BUT DEAR FRIENDS BRING COMFORT
God has also given me special friends, friends who understand because they have also experienced grief through losing loved ones, through enduring chronic illness, and more. Some of these friends are local and some are online. We pray for each other, sharing joys and sorrows, encouraging one another to lean on Him. They understand that grief is chronic, because their illnesses also cause them to grieve their losses.
These sweet friends help me see I am not alone. We have a bond of love and grace though we live miles apart. In spirit we are close. We are able to encourage each other through our words and prayers. Many of these friends have chronic illnesses and have given up so much, but in the process they have found a closer relationship with God. He truly has comforted them through His word and through friends.
During these troubling times, I am not worried, because I know God will accomplish His purposes and He will be with me no matter what happens. When bouts of chronic grief surface, I hold on to His promises to comfort and give grace.
A PRAYER TO SHARE
No matter where you are on your grief journey you are not alone. Whether you are grieving the loss of a person or the losses you’ve had in chronic illness, your loss is real.
Would you join me in prayer?
You are the great and awesome God, full of compassion and mercy. We come before you with our grief and pain. Will you comfort and strengthen us for this journey? We are weak and sometimes feel alone, but You have promised never to leave us. Even in our darkest hour, you can bring us peace and joy.
May we look to You, not doubting, but trusting that You will meet our every need. Your answers may not always look like what we think we want, but they will always be for our good. Father, meet us in our pain and draw us close to You.
In the name of Jesus I pray,
What are your experiences with chronic grief? How and where do you find comfort?
We would love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section. In doing so, you may encourage someone else. You might even find encouragement for yourself. May God bless and keep you.
The song, Come Lift Up Your Sorrows, by Michael Card, encourages us to bring our sorrows and lament to God.
Chronic Joy® Content Coordinator and Prayer Team
Gayl is a writer, poet, photographer, artist, nature lover, crochetier, and seeker of truth and beauty. Besides having 7 kids and 14 grandkids (Some have chronic illnesses and one son is with Jesus), she and her husband Steve also hosted foreign exchange students. Gayl was a church pianist for years and homeschooled her children. She has published poems at Spillwords Press and an article in the book, Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat. Her desire in life is to glorify God and encourage others. Check out her blog, Words, Photos and Art.
Step in slowly. Sit with God. Allow yourself time and space to feel and experience your pain. When you’re ready, take up your pen, and explore the precious and life-giving gift of lament.