A monthly column on purpose, passion and power in Jesus.
Have you ever given yourself entirely to something and it didn’t work out the way you’d hoped?
Maybe you loved someone — gave them and the relationship everything you possibly knew to give — and they still left you.
Or you had to leave them…
The loss could’ve been a business, a job, a friendship, a non-profit you passionately started. There are so many things we might give so much of ourselves to that come to a very painful end. Has that ever happened to you?
What do we do when that happens?
I know for most people the logical answer seems to be: “Move on”…
And I agree — but before the moving on happens I think we need to take some time to grieve.
It’s part of our nature as humans to just get on with it — our survival instinct drives this. In nature it’s rare to find a creature that just gives up. An animal will be badly hurt but it keeps going. It tries to keep up with the herd, pack, flock or pride.
The wild is brutal.
There’s no time for weeping and licking wounds there. The moment an animal shows that kind of weakness, it becomes easy prey, or it gets left behind, or is simply kicked out of its community.
It’s survival of the fittest out there – if you’re not the fittest, you don’t make it.
We’re not animals but our survival instinct is just as hard wired.
Even though everything inside us is falling apart, most of us think: “If I don’t keep going, I will not make it.”
This would be great if it worked. But it doesn’t.
Because how often do we hear of people burning out, or suffering a severe breakdown? Or getting chronic illnesses like depression-induced-diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, or even addictions and heart attacks because they just “kept going”.
None of us truly knows our capacity to endure loss, hardship and deep pain — but we can.
The question isn’t can we survive — it’s can we be gracious to ourselves to acknowledge the times when we’ve suffered a blow?
I recently heard that “pain avoidance is built in us as a survival mechanism”.
Hand on hot stove — pain. Remove hand from stove. Do not ever put hand on hot stove.
That’s how pain avoidance was meant to help us survive.
However, somehow, we also got the memo that we had to avoid all pain at all cost. Sounds great — only problem is that avoiding some pain is a recipe for a lifetime of hurt.
Prime example: Hurt in love. Remove self from love. Do not ever love like that again.
Sounds logical. Only problem is most of us are hard-wired to love.
As much as we may want to avoid this part of us we can’t. So inevitably we fall in love — but the pain avoidance mechanism in us refuses to go all in — you know the drill.
The bulk of problems in relationships stem from this dire need to avoid pain.
Grieving and starting over
But what if we loved, started over, tried again without the debilitating need to avoid all pain?
What if, somehow, our grieving allowed us to acknowledge and process the pain of an experience, but also freed us to move on without forever carrying with us the hurt of what we went through?
At times we don’t grieve because it hurts too much.
But if we go through the process we realise that the pain doesn’t last forever. And we can leave it behind to enjoy what’s left of our lives.
Oh Lovely Ones, this life is hard. It’s broken and damaged in so many ways. There’ll be times when no matter how much we give, things will not go the way we hoped.
Despite that, the majority of us will pull through — because we’re wired to. My hope is that we not only survive but that we learn to thrive — because thriving is what “moving on” should mean.
No matter how alone you may feel in your loss, I can promise you: There is someone there to love you through it.
While you may have to carry on to survive, you can still give yourself moments to grieve. And heal.
Grieving is a vital part of closure. Without true closure we can never truly move on.