Have you ever felt defeated and overwhelmed by your losses??
See how one Spark of Life participant, on the verge of quitting, found hope.
Bob did not want to be at our grief retreat. He came because his wife ‘persuaded’ him.
Their daughter had died by suicide a few months earlier. Mary, Bob’s wife, was sick of being in the depths of grief, and wanted to find something to help her get up and live again.
Thursday night as each participant shared their reasons for being the retreat, Bob bluntly told the group:
I am only here because of my wife. I will never be happy again, and am destined to l live a life of deep sadness until I die. Nothing we do this weekend and nothing anyone can say will help me.
‘Give Up’ was indeed lurking.
By Saturday, as the group was about to enjoy a cookout, Bob walked up to me and said sincerely, “David, I want you to know that you and the Spark team have not wasted your time on me. He then gave me the biggest hug. Then on Sunday, he told Deb and me that he was going to Live Forward with hope. He was actually smiling as he got in his car and drove back home.
So what happened? Well, it is simple and complicated. Let’s for now stick with the simple, as I share three principles that helped Bob have hope – Story, Choice, and Love.
First, Bob discovered the power of STORY. Understanding that everyone has a story that ‘makes some sense of the nonsense,’ goes a long way toward giving us insight.
Years ago, when I first went snow skiing, I spent the entire first day falling, never staying on my skis for longer than a few seconds. I was in a lot of physical and emotional pain, was discouraged, and I wanted to quit.
A friend encouraged me to try again the next day. I had a bad attitude but because of his insistence, tried one more time. But for 30 minutes on the 2nd day, I kept falling. I told everyone within earshot that I was going to quit, and nothing anyone did or said was going to change my mind.
Then something happened that changed everything. A 5 year-old kid skied past me, a blind person skied past me, then an one-legged person skied past me, and then a 95 year-old woman flew past me. And then, a one-legged, blind 95 year-old woman skied past me!??!?
OK, that last person is made up, but the others are real. So I decided this: If they can ski, then ole Dave can ski. So I did.
Certainly losing a child is totally different than learning how to ski, but the principle is true.
At Spark of Life Retreats, as everyone shares their stories, hope rises a bit. Why? Many reasons, but one is this: Some who have horrific losses are trying to live forward, and are further along on a healthy recovery. Some have actually turned their ‘anchors to sails.’
If someone else can have hope, perhaps I can also.
Second, Bob discovered the power of CHOICE.
Recovery from loss often begins with a Choice, not an emotion. If we wait on feelings to be positive before I begin to ‘Get up’, I might never ‘Get up.’
Feeling helpless and hopeless does not mean I AM helpless and hopeless – Feeling weak in faith does not mean my faith is weak.
My emotions do not have to defeat me – though for a while they appear to defeat me. Bob began to learn to reframe his past hurts, pain, and losses.
Does reframe mean to deny? NO. But reframing can help me make a choice to ‘Get Up.’
Reframing does mean this: I can CHOOSE to not let my past define me or defeat me. My past - with ALL my losses, hurts, and failures – CAN propel me to a better tomorrow.
Here is the truth: The pit of grief is not our enemy, though it feels that way. Being in the pit sucks, but it is necessary. Staying in the debilitating depth of the pit for the rest of my life IS our enemy.
And that leads us to the third point: Bob discovered the Power of LOVE.
The reason the pit is not our enemy is because of love. We grieve because we love. We must go to the pit when we lose someone we love.
The reason staying in debilitating grief is our enemy is because staying there can and often does destroy other important relationships we want to keep on this earth.
Bob discovered this – The very thing that caused GRIEF – LOVE - Is the very thing that helps us climb out of the despairing depths of the pit.
BOB was at the retreat because of LOVE – His wife and only living child wanted him to go. At the retreat – Bob heard stories of others’ losses – and reached out to them – Ioving them. All of his focus no longer was on who he lost, but began to shift a bit on others and their needs.
Bob found hope – and GIVE UP slowly started to change to GET UP.