Those who Live Forward after devastating loss choose to do so. Spark of Life’s David Mathews shares a powerful attitude that can propel you to Live Forward with hope and purpose after loss. Choose to go on the ATTACK with Grief.
Hey, I’m Dave Mathews with Spark of Life, where our mission is to walk beside those who are hurting. It’s a mission that comes out of a heart of hurt. It comes out of pain and experiencing loss, many different kinds of losses in this world. Since 2009 my wife and I, Debbie, we founded Spark of Life along with some other people who have really helped us to get this started many years ago. Our mission is so simple. It’s to get up in the morning and it’s to walk beside those who are hurting and have give up lurking. I call it give up lurking.
Today in this short video we have two points I want to share with you that can really empower you to have a handle on grief that you can actually get up in the morning and have a productive day. Two things today I want to share with you. Number one, it’s under the general theme of attacking grief.
Our attitude toward grief needs to be attack mode. How in the world do I attack grief, because grief is debilitating at times or you wouldn’t be watching this. In a sense you’re attacking grief by watching this video. You’re determined to do something about the state of your life right now because you’ve lost someone or something in your life or something has happened to you, whether it’s divorce or death, or whether it’s abuse or abandonment.
Whatever you’re going through, we can lump it under this big category of loss. So today two main points, vital points that we want to share with you and have you think about it and then we’ll have more videos coming, and also we have a website, sparkoflife.org, that can help you. We have so many resources on that website.
It’s been an amazing journey, walking with people who by all accounts should just give up, right, but for some reason they don’t give up. So two points today under this general guise of attacking grief. Number one is I’ve got to accept grief. By accepting grief I mean respecting it.
Grief is the normal response. It’s the natural response for loss of any kind that you’re experiencing. If a bomb goes off outside right now while I’m doing this video I guarantee you I’m going to have a normal and natural response to an explosion going off. I will probably feel fear. I might be confused. I might get under the desk. It’ll probably destroy the video if a bomb goes off outside.
I don’t choose whether I have the emotion of fear or not. When the bomb goes off in your life you’re going to have emotions, and those emotions are going to be linked to a fear, maybe deep anger, sadness, depression. It could be give up, I’m just going to give up because I can’t imagine life lived without this person or this thing that I lost, maybe my marriage.
So when we start approaching grief we need to respect it. That’s under this general heading of accepting grief as normal. It’s a normal response. I don’t decide to feel the way I feel. I feel the way I feel because I feel it. So if somebody comes in and starts to attack me verbally I will probably get a little angry. I don’t decide to get angry. I decide to do with the anger.
The first thing I want to share today in this video is to accept grief by respecting it and accept grief by normalizing it. It is normal to feel the way you feel. There is nothing to be fixed for you. I can’t fix you. The biggest change of my approach to people came about 15 year ago, when I realized I could not fix anybody. I can barely deal with this guy and all my struggles, right?
I can’t fix you. I wish you could watch this video and you’d be fixed, but if I claim to be able to do that you should turn me off right now, just click… Go to another video. I can’t fix you. Nobody can fix you. You can’t fix yourself, but you can work on yourself, and you can start by accepting grief as a pathway that comes from love.
When I lost somebody years ago you did not grieve unless you knew me. The more you knew me the more you probably grieved with me, because grief has to do with love, right? You didn’t grieve when I experienced loss if you don’t know me because how could you grieve? There wasn’t any love involved there. There just wasn’t any love.
You grieve because you love. It’s the price we pay for love many have written. It is as normal as breathing others have written. Grief is normal. You don’t need to be fixed.
One of the first retreats we did in 2009, a couple had lost a 25 year old son suddenly and unexpectedly. They were of course in deep grief. A year after they lost their son her best friend called her and said, “Barbara, it’s time for you to get over your loss of your son and it’s time for you to live again.”
That didn’t do any good for her, because really what the person was saying and was trying to help her… But what the person was really saying is, “Barbara, there’s something wrong with you.” If you’re grieving there’s nothing wrong with you. You don’t need to be fixed. You need to grieve, and a healthy respect for grief is to put it into a category where it’s normal, it’s natural, you don’t need to be fixed.
Another thing about respecting grief is the suckiness of grief. Grief sucks. It stinks. Everybody grieves differently too, by the way. One thing we teach at our retreats and in our courses and in our coaching is that everybody grieves the way they need to grieve. Don’t let anybody else tell you how to grieve, including this guy.
But we can give you some guidance and some general principles, and one is you don’t need to be fixed. Another is grief is normal and natural, and you can respect grief and the suckiness of grief. Grief stinks. If somebody says to you, “You need to go back to church,” and you don’t want to go back to church for example, what they mean is they’re trying to help you, right? They’re trying to help you.
But the implication is if you were just a little bit stronger in faith you wouldn’t feel so bad. That’s not true. You can have great faith and great grief at the same time. You can have great faith and feel like you have a weak faith. You can have great faith and really be angry at God. You might not be angry at God, but normalizing grief is really respecting grief, so accept grief as it is.
It sucks. It stinks. But the second point is the power point here. The first point is essential. Grief, I need to accept it as it stinks but it’s necessary because it has to do with me loving people.
The second point, and the last point in this video, is to attack grief. Attack it. Grief is part of the human condition because we have the capacity to love or not love. Normalize it, respect it, accept it, but then attack it.
You say how do I attack grief? I attack grief by having a mentality that grief is not going to defeat me. My loss will always be with me. Your losses will always be with you. You say, “Thanks a lot, Dave. That doesn’t help,” but it can help. I can live forward with my loss, and there’s a difference between living forward and existing forward.
At Spark of Life our tagline is to live forward with our pain, so we have living forward. We want people to live forward. So we’re doing this treat in Colorado. A couple is there who had lost a son to suicide. They’re a wonderful couple. They’re really good friends of ours now, but we didn’t know them then.
They come to this retreat and of course they’re devastated. Their son had taken his life. So as we were there on Thursday night and everybody is briefly sharing their story about why they came to this retreat this woman, she went first and her husband was going next.
She said, “I’m here because I’m sick and tired feeling the way I feel. I’m tired of this loss dominating my life and it’s hurting my relationship with my husband. It’s hurting my relationship with my other children. It’s hurting my relationship with my friends. I am sick and tired of grief sucking the life out of me and I need some help. I want a toolkit. I want tools to help me.”
She was in attack mode. That’s healthy. That’s not unhealthy. She was determined to do something about her grief and how do I deal better with this loss. Okay, I’ve been in the pith of grief. I know I have to go there. I have to be there. I have to be in the pit of grief, but I don’t have to stay there. I can live forward with my pain.
We tell people all the time there’s no way on this Earth that Dave Mathews can take away your pain. Spark of Life cannot take away your pain. I wish we could, but it wouldn’t be right if we even tried to take away your pain, because your pain is real and you need to embrace your pain but not be debilitated by it.
For a while we are in deep grief, right? We have to go to that pit. But we exist as an organization to try to help you live forward with your pain as you climb out of that pit and give you hope again, but the life will never the same after your loss. Life can still be very good. You can have joy return. You can start to build other relationships that you want to keep and not lose those important relationships because of your loss.
So a husband and wife lose a child. They lost a child to suicide. Normally naturally guilt comes when somebody loses somebody to suicide, filled with guilt and regret. Sometimes they’re filled with resentment toward the one that did that and they haven’t admitted it, but she was there to attack grief. She wanted to attack it.
She actually gave us the idea what an attitude. I am sick of living this way. It’s time for me to get up, and we call it wash your face, and get back in life, but do it with respecting where you are in grief, but also not letting grief dominate you anymore, that it’s not going to debilitate you anymore. That’s what we mean by attacking grief.
When her husband spoke it was such a contrast between the two of them, it was amazing. He appreciated his wife had drug him to this retreat. He said, “I just look at this completely different. I have no hope that life will ever be better again.” It was a very sad thing to hear, but it’s very real. He said, “I am destined to live a melancholy, sad life for the rest of my life.” Basically what he was saying, “I can never get out of the pit of grief.” He had given up.
But he really hadn’t given up, because he did two things. He came to the retreat. He did something proactive. Number two, he admitted how he felt. In a way he was attacking grief, wasn’t he? He was really attacking grief. He didn’t know it yet.
So on Thursday night at the retreat he was feeling hopeless. On Sunday he comes up to both my wife and me and he says to us, “I don’t want you to think you wasted your time with me. I now have hope to live forward with my pain.” He said that on Sunday. He hugged Debbie and me and wouldn’t let go of us. We love this work. We meet the greatest folks.
He was in attack mode in a different kind of place than his wife was. She was in go for it like this. He was in I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I can ever live again. He was being honest. That’s attack mode, attacking grief by getting up and doing the next right thing, and I know some of you are sick of hearing it, but just do what you can do, wash your face, symbolically wash your face, get up, and let’s continue the journey.
At Spark of Life, see, we’ve seen people in give up mode who are now living rich and productive lives with their pain. Their pain is still there, but their pain isn’t taking away other important relationships on this Earth that they need to keep and want to keep. Does that make any sense? I hope it does, because at Spark of Life we believe there’s aways hope. We really do believe that, and the reason we believe it is we see it every day. We see hope returning to people.
So go to sparkoflife.org. Gobs of other videos. We’ve got retreats coming up. We’ll always have some kind of retreat coming up. Our virtual retreats, online retreats on Zoom, are fantastic. I can’t believe how effective and powerful they are. They’re just as powerful as the in person.
But if you can come to an in person retreat if we have one available, room available, sign up for it, or try the virtual retreat. We have an online grief course that can really help you. We have coaches that have been through extreme loss. Each one of those coaches have been to numerous retreats and they want to help you to accept grief, respect it, and attack it in a humble way that says I’m going to live forward with my pain. At Spark of Life there is always, always hope.