Monday, October 5, 2009

The Very Nature of Grief and Adjustment – A Reflection

Many people have grieved significantly. I say many because up until 2003 I hadn’t. A broken marriage saw to that. Yet, as I looked back over a few journal entries from 2007 I recognised not only how much I’d grown—even since then, but how much resident grief there still was in my life at that time. It’s clear that in nearly four years I’d reconciled much of my pain but some of it remained.

But, as I looked further I determined that it wasn’t really grief at all. It was an adjustment process that I’d been on and it merely had taken a further dozen or so twists from the initial profound grief I found myself in.

Let me discuss this process of adjustment in the midst of grief.

The key premise here is the two-fold fact that I had a journey to make inwardly—the grieving; and then I also had a journey to make outwardly—the adjustment. And both the grieving and the adjustment were undertaken, obviously in my case, in the context of God’s healing agenda. So, it would be fair to say that simply ‘getting over’ the initial grief was never the only option for me, though it’s fair also to say that getting over grief doesn’t work that way in any event. Grief is deeper than we’d otherwise expect.

We know that grieving is a process and the theories of grieving, including that of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s, attempt to place the pain of grief in the process of adjustment over time. What many of them don’t show, however, is the non-linear nature of truly profound grief. In other words, our adjustment to ‘normal’ living again takes longer than we’d like, and to a point not all the grief can ever be ameliorated in any event. In profound loss, the sense of pained-acceptance actually goes on—in many cases for the rest of our lives, even when we’ve reached the acceptance stage.

For me, even though I reached an acceptance stage relatively early on, there was much more for me to endure as I cycled through the process again and again; it just occurred in different ways—at different levels—at different times—in varying situations. The complexities of the journey must be experienced to fully understand them.

The initial grief might have been dealt with but I then had a process of adjustment ahead of me. This involved re-establishing my identity as a single man with children and a new desire to serve God. That was my whole life apart from close family and a very close friend or two. And in adjusting I had my own temptations to shortcut the process—if I’d had it all my own way, I most certainly would have!

My overall take on my own grief and adjustment is this:

It took three to four years to get to a position where, inwardly, I was ready to re-commence the hurly burly of life. I was ready to then commence living outwardly, taking on the fuller responsibilities of true adult life again. It was as if my character had been deformed and then reformed, even reconstructed. The intervening time between 2007 and now has been about consolidation, renewal and strength in God. And writing about my learning and development has been no small factor in this.

Many a Christian no doubt asks, ‘Where will I be mentally, emotionally and spiritually in two more years?’ All I know is fear and hopelessness never really reign these days; not like they did (routinely, it now seems) a little over two years ago and further back.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

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