Podcast: Transformational Loss: Grieve Well, Live Well
Join Co-Founder Tova Kreps and Licensed therapist Vicki Gray as they explore how to let grief become a transformational time in your life.
ON THE SHOW
Vicki Gray, LCSW
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
Welcome to wellspring on the air. We're professional Christian counselors share practical life and Bible insights. Why? Because hearts and minds matter. We're glad you joined our show today to hear from our host Tova Creps, president of wellspring counseling in Miami. Tova is a licensed therapist with many years of experience as a Christian counselor. Tova teaches rights and consults and life. FM is pleased to have wellspring counseling, restoring hearts and minds in our community. Welcome to wellspring on the air and I'm Tova and with me
Speaker 2: (00:31)
today we have Victoria Gray. She's one of our therapists at wellspring. She's excellent. She's experienced. Hi Vicki. Welcome to the show hi till, but thank you for having me. It's really special to have you here with us. You guys out there, listeners, she's just the best. So welcome to getting to know Vickie. Today we are going to talk about how God wants us to grieve well so we can live well. Vicky specializes in grief and loss. This is her passion and love is helping people go through these hard times and actually be better because of it. And so that's why Vicki is joining us today. For our talk. So don't change your dial. We'll have some helpful comments for you coming up on that. But today I'm going to start our program as we're trying to do, this is only our second time on the air and we're going to start our program with me doing a little bit of Bible teaching and some hopefully some practical insights related to grief and loss.
Speaker 2: (01:20)
And you know, it's timely today for us to be doing this show because recently we've had this huge loss at Sutherland springs church in Texas. The a terrible mass murder that happened there recently. And so I think our whole country is kind of shocked and figuring out, w how do, how does any group of people handle something so hard and how do they grieve? Well, and what does that look like? And so today I want to talk about grieving. Well, and maybe that's an unusual concept for some of you listeners out there. Uh, Christine Schlattman man who was on our show last time and cofounder with wellspring is someone who quotes often to us. He who grieves well, lives well. And I want to talk about grieving well and living well and what that means today. So we live well if we grieve well because it means that we've learned to adjust to living in a broken fallen world.
Speaker 2: (02:11)
For us as Christians, that's an important concept that we are not home yet. We're not in heaven or not in the Garden of Eden and God designed us for permanent relationship with him. Permanent, a fellowship with him, a place where we have no more tears and no more loss and no more grief. And so we're not there yet. We're not home. We're living in a fallen world. We're in an enemy camp enemy territory and we're in the middle of a battle, a war here on earth. And so part of grieving well and living well is knowing that to expect that we are not home yet when we expect, and I think this is hard for us as American, but when we expect that everything will work, that somehow we're not going to be one of those hunters present. People who die of that, our loved ones are not going to be gone.
Speaker 2: (02:55)
That things will not be lost and it'll all work out. We're much more unhappy. We really don't know how to prepare and how to handle it when we have those losses. And yet scripture tells us that our suffering actually makes us better people, that God uses our suffering to give us endurance and patience and to form us into his character and to look forward to the day and the hope of his calling and our going home and being home with him where he's going to wipe away all of our tears. So I think the first point I want to make on grieving well and living well is that we need to expect that bad things will happen if you're in a war, if we were living in the Middle East right now or something, if you're in a war you, you actually expect to not always have your food easily accessible.
Speaker 2: (03:36)
Maybe you expect for bombs to fall, you expect for life to be harder and you look forward to the day that the war ends. And that's how we are as believers in this world. We're looking forward to a day when the war ends and Jesus victors, and we're not home yet, but we will be. So, but having said that, if you're in a war and you know that you could get shot and you know that you could have your leg blown off, it doesn't change the fact that when it happens, you're still shocked and it hurts just as bad. There's nothing that makes the pain lasts even though you knew to expect it. What you can do differently is handle the pain differently. Not Be angry that it happened, but figure out how you're going to get through the fact that it happened. And so that's that piece of living well and grieving.
Speaker 2: (04:21)
Well, first John tells us, Chapter Five, we know that we are children of God and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. That means we're again, we're not home yet. Oh, right now we have an enemy and he is out there to seek and destroy us. Ecclesiastes, he's one 18 says for with much wisdom comes much sorrow. And the more knowledge, the more grief. So really the older we get, the wiser we get, the more we get accustomed to grief for better or worse. That's just kind of the way it really works. We come to understand that that's a part of life. John 1633 Jesus says, I have said these things to you that in me, you may have peace in the world, you will have tribulation, but take heart, I have overcome the world so we can expect it.
Speaker 2: (05:06)
And we can also know that God is with us in it and that he's overcome it and they don't. He'll make it better. First Thessalonians four 13 to 18 that Jesus said these things that you may not grieve as others do, who have no hope. And that passage is talking about eternity. That when people die, they're going to go to heaven. And so we do grieve as believers, we have to grieve. The pain is the same, but we do have a different hope and we know that there is eternity. We know that our loved ones who know the Lord are going to go to have an and we're going to see them again. So we don't grieve the same way, but we do need to grieve as believers. I want to give us as an example today because really when we look at scripture to say, okay, so how do I agree?
Speaker 2: (05:46)
Well, obviously our best example of everything is Jesus. So I want to talk about Jesus just for a minute and how he grieved because it is interesting that at least twice or twice we have in the gospels recorded that he actually cried. And the first example is when Jesus came to Lazarus's tomb, and it's interesting here, he has got a universe. He could have kept Lazarus from dying. He didn't, he actually delayed when he heard that he was sick, got there late, long enough for Lazarus to have died and to have been buried for few days. And he walks up on the scene and here he is, God of the universe. He knows that he's just about to raise Lazarus from the dead. He walks up on the scene and it says, Jesus wept. So why is that? Why did God, who knew that it would be fixed cry?
Speaker 2: (06:29)
And I think it's a really good example for us to realize that there is value in weeping through an experience. Even if you know there's a good outcome, we have hope. We know it's there, but that doesn't mean we don't feel sad. At the time, this was Jesus, his friend, he loved his friend and his friends were crying, Lazarus, his sisters were sad and upset and he says, Jesus wiped. And so even God weeps in the process of experienced life and its losses. Another example where Jesus wept that it tells us is when he was on the way to Jerusalem, and this is towards the end of his ministry and it says in Luke 19 and when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it and he met, this is Jerusalem, and he says, would that you even you had known on this day the things that would make for peace, what Jesus is referring to is he knew that in just a few short years, 70 or whatever years Jerusalem and the temple was going to be destroyed.
Speaker 2: (07:26)
And he knew that that was really as a result of them not recognizing him when he came and he was sad, he was like, if only you knew that, if you could believe in me, that if you could see me as the Messiah, that this would pass, and yet he's sad. So again, it's the God who's in control and yet the God who experiences grief and loss because he doesn't want to see his people suffer and he cares about our suffering. There's another passage where Jesus, they speak of, in mark three it says, Jesus looked around at a crowd and he, he looked at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart. He grieve at the hardness of heart of people. It was because they're like, oh, are you going to heal this man on the sabbath? And they were trying to test him.
Speaker 2: (08:07)
He was like, how hard are your hearts? And there's Jesus again, grieving over the just the reality of the sadness of our heart hearts. And so I think it's important for us to recognize that Jesus himself as a human being experienced and expressed grief. The most interesting thing, and this was a little new in my study for me, uh, was to look at the fact that when Jesus knew that he was going to die on the cross, that he actually helped his disciples prepare. He helped them ahead of time to grieve. And I know Vicky's going to talk about ways of grieving in just a moment here, but he helped them prepare. He told them ahead of time, I'm going to go to Jerusalem. They're going to kill me. I'm going to die. I'm going to raise from the dead. He told them, but I'm going to come back.
Speaker 2: (08:51)
He says, I'm going to go away from you. He told them, but I'm going to prepare a place for you that he's going to prepare, having any told them I'm coming back eventually and I will be with you til all eternity and I will send the Holy Spirit. So he knew that his disciples were about to lose the person they had all their hopes in and they were soon, soon going to be grieving tremendously. And so he decided they needed to know how to be prepared and they weren't really all that prepared. We know that they really weren't. And yet Jesus, they were more prepared than they would have been if he hadn't prepped them. This is coming. Here's how you can handle it. Here's where you wait for me. Here's what I'm going to do for you. And so I think it's, again, it's a good model for us of how do we grieve?
Speaker 2: (09:33)
Well, we prepare for anticipated loss. We work through it afterwards and we let ourselves feel the process. One last biblical example I'd like to put before you about somebody's grieving well is Joseph. He's the one character in scripture who really has no false that we know of in scripture. He's a Christ figure for us as he does things well, and he's a man who's suffered tremendously. He's thrown into prison, he sold as a slave, thrown into prison, and he's a great example of suffering and handling it well. He was a good slave. He was a good prisoner. He did the very best he could with all the suffering he had and he, and we know from scripture that he had the right perspective of his suffering because when later when his brothers come, he said, you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.
Speaker 2: (10:20)
He understood his role and God's sovereignty in his suffering. Yet he wept incredibly. And so it's interesting. It says, ah, this is in genesis, that when he saw his brothers that he threw his arms around his father. This is later, and he wept quote for a long time. He wept so loudly when his brothers came in and said that all of Pharaoh's court heard him. And I have a challenge that your listeners and to us, if we in America, we heard somebody wailing so loudly from a building over, would we say, wow, they're doing a good job of grieving, or would we say they're not doing so great? I think often we kind of judge people that you're doing quote, well, if you're not crying, and maybe, maybe we're not right on that. Maybe that's not really how we should be determining whether someone's grieving.
Speaker 2: (11:08)
Well, because Joseph, he grieved loudly. He wept long. And when his father died years later, it says he threw himself on his father. He wept over him. He kissed him, he embalmed him, he spent 40 days mourning him and all of Egypt had to mourn with him for another 70 days. Then he took a caravan of people, it said family officials, chariots, horsemen, and he traveled to another country and then they mourned seven more days. Now, if you'd been along for that ride, wouldn't you been kind of like, okay, okay, enough already. You know. But he's a picture of actually feeling it, expressing it, letting himself honor what was important to him, and yet he had the right perspective on his suffering. So I think Joseph was like, Jesus is a great example for us. So we're going to move in now to talking with Vicki about this a little bit.
Speaker 2: (11:58)
What do we mean by loss? It's not just death, it's a lot of other kinds of losses and fake. I'm gonna let you flush that out for us. So we're going to take a little break. Don't change your dial. We'll be back with Vicky grey to talk a little bit more about grief and loss. Bring on the air as a production of wellspring counseling, a nonprofit professional counseling center with multiple locations in Miami Dade County. Wellspring therapists are licensed by the state of Florida and Christian in their worldviews. They have wide ranges of clinical expertise, including marriage and family anxiety, depression and trauma are diverse. Group of therapists include several who speaks Spanish or Portuguese. If you would like to know more about wellspring services of counseling and education, go to their firstname.lastname@example.org or give them a call at (786) 573-7010 again, that's wellspring. miami.org or (786) 573-7010 welcome back to wellspring on the air because hearts and minds matter, and this is Tova Kreps from wellspring counseling.
Speaker 2: (13:00)
If you're just joining our show, our topic today is how to let grieve become a transformational time in your life with us today is Victoria Gray, otherwise known as Vickie. And she is a bereavement specialist, a she studies and teaches us and helps people get over their grief and loss and to do it well. So today, thank you. We'd really like you to teach us a little bit about how to grieve well the losses in our lives. But let's start. My first question for you is tell me what loss means. Oh, thank you. Tova well, I think you did a wonderful job of just giving us permission to talk about loss and grief using our best example. Jesus and then Joseph from the Bible to have a loss is so broad and so this is the right place to start. There are certain types of losses that we're all familiar with and those are considered death related losses.
Speaker 2: (13:48)
So when we lose somebody that we love to death, there are also a whole host of other losses, non death related losses. Some examples of some non death related losses would be when our health is compromised. When a relationship ends in divorce or breakup or abandonment, estrangement from a family or a friend abuse addiction really told that the list can go on and on and it does what it is. Nice to know that it's broader than just death. It's the loss of things. We have his philosophy things we wish we had someone as we can lose our ideals, our dreams. We have a lot of things that we lose as as we age, we really experienced and now that I made Jean, I experienced the sense of the loss of time past and what you'll never have and so there are lots of types of losses.
Speaker 2: (14:32)
Thank you for fleshing that out. Or what are, I know you use the term secondary losses. What are secondary losses? Sure. So secondary losses are the losses that accompany that major loss that most people will recognize or identify. So for example, if we learned that a family member has or recently diagnosed mental illness, that would be the primary loss. But there are so many losses that accompany that. For example, a loss of maybe that individual's role in the family, maybe they're no longer able to work or bring in an income. And so there are losses that are accompanying what we would consider to be the primary loss. So it's multiple, it's not just one thing. It's layered for sure. Layered for sure. And which losses do we need to acknowledge those primary are those secondary ones? That's a great question. We need to acknowledge them all.
Speaker 2: (15:22)
And in fact, what we know is that our recognized losses are the ones that we talk to people about, or the ones that people talk to us about. But the unrecognized losses, those losses that are ignored, the secondary losses, those are actually the losses that are unvalidated or dismissed or not recognized. That can cause our grief experience to just struggle or suffer a little bit or maybe just linger longer or because nobody really recognizes that piece. So I think about someone who's lost their loved one and now they're having dinner alone every night. So that's the loss of company at dinner time. It's the loss of conversation. And that lingers for a long time and people may not recognize that type of loss as what you're talking about, right? That's correct. Um, so and as you are talking about types of losses, I also thought about losses that relate to change.
Speaker 2: (16:16)
So sometimes in my mind, you have positive things in your life that a company with secondary losses and nobody acknowledges either. So my daughter has two young children and you know, nothing except wonderful things to have a new baby, but maybe people don't acknowledge your loss of sleep or your loss of freedom. The fact that you were a free person and now you're not because you always have a responsibility or or I think even about positive changes of a new marriage and you've now lost again some freedom or some of those things. You know your own space in your own, your own bed to sleep in or maybe it's a new job and you've lost other things related to the new job. You lost all your old friends, you lost familiar, you lost comfortable. You'll also saying some, sometimes we don't acknowledge those cause we're supposed to be happy cause look how good it is, right?
Speaker 2: (17:07)
That's right. And so those hidden losses are the ones that we want to really be searching for. We want to recognize that there are some life transitions that do happen, some notable life transitions and maybe even on the outside or we are genuinely indeed happy for those things. But there can be some hidden losses that we want to start to ask ourselves where or how might this be affecting me or impacting me? And just bring that to awareness. And there are triggers. We know that loss and it brings about triggers more as reminds us of bigger things and maybe are unresolved issues from before get surfaced at that time, right? Correct. So what are some of the symptoms and responses that people have to grief? So we can look at these kind of holistically. We know that we have reactions emotionally, physically and behaviorally. And if we just look at some of the emotional reactions that we have to loss and grief, the more common one is sadness.
Speaker 2: (18:01)
We expect people to be sad related to a loss. But do you expect people to be angry? That's another common feeling. How about fearful, maybe confused or they may just be in the state of disbelief. And how you mentioned earlier about the recent widow that that sense of loneliness, that feeling that comes with loss, some physical responses to loss really can be our body aches. We experienced pains that we didn't have. So some somatic complaints, we can have fluctuations in our weight, in our sleeping styles and habits and we can be just generally fatigued with no real explanation for it. Except we know that the explanation is of course the grief that we're carrying around. And you would call that grief not necessarily depression you, is that right? Correct. Absolutely. And I think you, we, we throw the word depression around with grief and there is a huge distinction.
Speaker 2: (18:50)
Uh, one of the things behaviourally that we noticed with grief is that an individual who typically would enjoy being with family or friends, um, doesn't take the same delight and that experience anymore. Maybe they're isolating themselves a little bit more. Um, maybe they have past times that they really enjoy and they're no longer bringing that same level of fulfillment. And forgetfulness is a big one. So forgetfulness, that's my excuse. Well, toe, but that may be unrelated, but forgetfulness, like where an individual might say, I'm just forgetting to pay the bills, why can't I remember to do something that is so routine for me? Okay. Those are really good descriptions of our responses. So you know, Oh, I have a question that I know is a common one that I've heard that people ask, which is how long, how long before I feel better and back to myself.
Speaker 2: (19:43)
Right? And so grief is a process and wouldn't it be great if we could put it on a timetable and we can say, okay, time's up. I'm done grieving. But we know that's not the way that we work. Um, in fact, there have been multitude of studies done where they've mostly looked at loss related to death. And if the, if we could just say the average, the average time for adapting is anywhere from six months to two years. And so that really does provide us with ample time depending on our own coping styles, to be able to grieve and mourn and express that in the way that we need without feeling rushed. I think it's important to know that it can take a long time so people won't get impatient or they can have the hope that I will feel better someday, may not be anytime soon.
Speaker 2: (20:28)
But, and I love the fact that you use the word average and not normal because normal is a strange, it has like a judgment to it. Oh, I'm not normal if I am a longer or shorter. And really you're just saying average because people are different, people are different and their grieving styles are different and their loss is different. What the meaning of that loss was to them is going to be very different than maybe how an outsider would judge it or see it. And so we just want to allow people the space that they need to be able to grieve well. And I think it's also important to notice that sometimes we pre-greased like when I was talking about Jesus, um, they probably didn't do that well, but if somebody has got a family member, say with a terminal illness, they may have had months and months to grieve the entire process.
Speaker 2: (21:11)
I know my father passed away, um, and had dementia and we lost him in little pieces over a years. So by the time he actually died, we were already three quarters of the way through the grieving. And so I think we can pre grieve when we can grieve later. I know it's much more if the loss is sudden or unexpected, then it takes longer because we have to adjust so, so quickly to this sudden loss. Um, but, but so again, time how long it takes also depends somewhat on how surprising it was and how much time we had to grieve and prepare for our loss. Right? And to prepare. Yes. And I loved how you showed us through scripture how Jesus prepared for loss. He tried to prepare his disciples for loss. And that is true. We, because we don't want to lose hope. We oftentimes can identify and recognize that loss is on the horizon, but we don't fully experience the loss until it happens.
Speaker 2: (22:04)
It's true. All right. Maybe we only had a little bit of time left, so I want to make sure we get to the practical ways, the how to of dealing with loss. What can you tell us? Okay, well this might sound almost a little counterintuitive if you're dealing with the loss, but take some time and do a strengths inventory. And this may be something over that I would invite you to do is my friend along with me. I might not be feeling as though I have a lot of strength in me right now if I'm coping with the loss or grieving. But what we're talking about with the strength inventory is identify ways, inherent ways in you that you have managed tough times before. So the reason that this could be helpful is it points us to kind of our natural adaptive tendencies or kind of god-given attendances to, to cope.
Speaker 2: (22:46)
And one of our greatest resources as believers is God, is to really utilize time with God and to share our feelings and our thoughts and read scripture and spend that time with him so that we can actually utilize a resource that hope that we have as Christians that you're doing great. Keep going. Tell me some more practical things. What can I do? Okay, so you want to be able to take every thought captive and by that we mean just make some mental adjustments where needed. Sometimes we get stuck on things that we could or should have done with an individual. If they pass, um, or they die. And this can keep us looping. And it really kind of keeps us away from doing the work of grieving and of healing. And so evaluate and adjust your thoughts and your beliefs. And sometimes totally a good question to ask ourselves is how is what I'm thinking helpful to me during this time?
Speaker 2: (23:35)
And if it's not then we have the ability to change it and sometimes people do get stuck. I want to, can you talk to me about people getting stuck? So this is something that I know we try to keep an eye out for, especially in counseling. Um, we want to see where individuals are maybe having strong emotional reactions. So we talked earlier about an individual might experience sadness or anger, but if a person is experiencing significant rage and can't seem to get out of that or um, sadness that doesn't seem to lift whatsoever. Anything that seems extreme or continuous that there's no relief in that really is an maybe some sort of a, a red flag that we are in deed stock and talk to me about red flags. How do I know when to worry if a person that normally would go out and enjoy a game of golf with his friends is taking no delight in that.
Speaker 2: (24:33)
In fact, he's not even reaching out to friends, not taking calls of friends, is not able to engage in daily activities whether it's going to work. Um, being with family members, again, really not eating or sleeping well for extended periods of time. Um, we know that our moods can fluctuate and our desire when we're grieving to be a part of life can kind of wax and wane. But if it persists, so you use the word normal. So a lot of it has to do with what their normal stylists. So if somebody is normally chatty with everybody and they're suddenly not, that's more worrisome versus you're different than how somebody else creeps. But if somebody normally gregarious and now they're not and or normally, um, maybe they're normally quiet and now they're just really angry all the time. Correct that. Yeah. We don't want to judge it based on our reactions or our responses, but what is that individual's typical response or reaction?
Speaker 2: (25:28)
That's exactly right. Okay. Um, and what other last thoughts do you have about what a person can do? Oh, I think what I would say is just really care well for yourself during this time. I think that self care when you're grieving is not a luxury. It's really a necessity. The, the work that you're doing just to manage a loss is a tremendous amount. And so sure, something that we can do is we can ask for help or let others help us. And oftentimes people will say, I just wish I could do something for you. And we don't have an idea of what that's something is. Maybe we could ask them to surprise us. I can't think of one thing that you can do, but please perhaps at this time where I'm, my thoughts may be, are not as clear as they normally are. Maybe you could think of something.
Speaker 2: (26:12)
I know that when I, um, experienced a miscarriage, I didn't know what I needed, but I had friends who did and they filled my fridge and they prayed with, informed me and they picked up my kids and took them out for play dates so that my husband and I would have time. And so maybe even just calling people around you and saying, I don't even have a clue, but do you have a clue how you could help me? You know, back to Jesus, preparing for his loss. He had asked his disciples to come and sit with him in the garden and the seminary. They really could not fix it for him. They could do nothing for him except be present a few feet away. It was his suffering. It was his grief, it was his prayer. But he really wanted them near him and they didn't do such a great job.
Speaker 2: (26:49)
But, but Jesus himself asked for somebody to just be present with him in his suffering. Ryan. Yeah. We grieve better when we grieve in community. That's true. It's really true. So Vicky, I know that you're about to do a workshop on grief and loss and it's called transformational loss because you're talking about how we can use these things to be positive in our lives. So I'd like you to tell our audience what you're doing when you're doing it and how they can show up there. Oh, thank you. [inaudible] this is going to be quite special. We are hosting a workshop where participants are going to be able to learn practical ways to manage their pain from loss, but at the same time receive personal growth and meaning from it. However, we know that nobody asks for the pain, nobody asked for the loss and yet it exists. And so the experience and the loss that seems as though it could break us can actually yield resiliency, bravery, determination and purpose in us. And so we're going to be hosting this workshop Saturday, November 18th from 9:00 AM to 11 at Christ journey. And totally, I think they can find out details and registration on our website at wellspring, miami.org or word slash events wellspring, miami.org transformational laws coming up Saturday, the 18th that are day, November 18 okay. Thank you very much. Thanks for being with us today. Thank you for having me. Tova