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You don’t have a relationship with one of your parents and it hurts. I know how you feel. It’s like the grieving goes on forever. Will you ever heal? Will it ever get better? Will they ever show you the love you so long for? It’s almost as if your grief is the only thing you have that connects you to them, the only thing that reminds you that you really care, the only thing that gives you hope that they might finally embrace you one day.
Grieving is essential for growing through your loss, but the sober truth is there’s also a time when you have to stop. At some point you’ve got to complete your grieving or it will become counterproductive. As important as it is for you to learn how to grieve productively, it’s probably even more important for you to learn how, when, and why to stop. So many people who have been rejected by a parent remain locked inside their grief far too long and it drains them of the vital resources necessary to own their present days and future lives. This is why many ancient cultures have a structured time for grieving embedded in their death rituals. In Judaism it’s 30 days up to one year. In Islam it’s 3 days up to four months and 10 days. In Hinduism it’s 13 days or 40 days. In the Caribbean it’s 9 nights.
The grief process was thrust upon you and began involuntarily (because you didn’t choose to suffer the significant loss you have, you didn’t ask your parent to reject you), but if you’re ever going to enjoy the following three necessities of a satisfying life then you must decide to take control of the process and determine its endpoint. You’re going to have to decide to put and end to your grief.
1. Joy. Grief and joy are mutually exclusive. Grieving turns our full focus to our loss and invests all our attention and energy on processing that loss. Many people mistake joy for a feeling, but it’s much deeper than that. Joy is full presence and participation. When we are grieving we are unavailable to be fully present and participatory in anything but our own loss. In this way grief is isolating, the very opposite of joy, which is full on engagement. If you’re ever going to fully engage your life, you’ve got to decide to put an end to your grief.
2. Strength. The ability that the Holy Spirit gives us to be fully present and engaged, the joy of the Lord, is the thing that grounds us and gives us traction, our strength. We don’t have access to this strength, this ability to stand against resistance and endure on our course, when we’re in full on grief. That’s why we need to complete one step before we move on to the next in the 5 GRACE steps. We’re not ready for forgiveness until we’re done grieving, because forgiveness requires the joy of the Lord. And that joy gives us the traction, the strength, to let go. If you want the strength to achieve your goals in this life you’re going to have to decide to put an end to your grief.
3. Pleasure. Grieving is active and deliberate, with a goal and an agenda. It includes weeping, self denial and flagellation, refusal of tasty foods and sweet drinks and anything pleasant to the senses, and forceful expression of energy. Grieving is not fun. It never was, and was never intended to be. Grieving calls us to a life of suffering, to asceticism masquerading as piety, to a commitment to struggle without a real cause. I surrendered so much pleasure in my life and denied myself so many good feelings because I was grieving and didn’t even realize it. If you’re going to enjoy the pleasures that this life has to offer you’re going to have to decide to put and end to your grief.