Wednesday, January 29, 2014

14 Ideas to Help With Sudden Grief

What comes so abruptly
And treats us corruptly
Is this scathing reality of loss,
Why am I confused?
Feeling like I’m abused?
Why am I at such a loss?
Why does life have to change?
Why does God rearrange?
Why am I so damned cross?
Why can’t I believe?
Why do I struggle to breathe?
Why is this grief now boss?
Why do I feel so low?
My capacities are so slow,
Every feeling I just want to toss.
But with time I came,
To accept a new game,
One where love is central to loss.
SUDDEN losses inflict the pain of grief in many different forms, but largely confusion reigns. As the grief journey commences so suddenly we have no way to prepare for it. But we can be advised of these sorts of considerations:
1.       Do understand that the emotional pendulum can swing drastically and harshly as we grapple with what we could not have possibly anticipated.
2.      Don’t judge people for what they think and feel in the midst of sudden grief, where they may be just trying to make some sense and meaning of the new situation.
3.      Do take the time to gather with others who share in your grief, or can feel your pain with you, like people you trust.
4.      Don’t think life has now sunken to such depths as it is right now. Life’s hope will brighten again.
5.      Do think of others who have also suffered loss during your process of grieving. Band together with them if possible.
6.      Don’t plan ahead too much if you don’t need to, but get the help required if you are the decision maker.
7.      Do be gentle with yourself. Too many people feel guilty for something or other in the midst of losing a loved one or precious friend.
8.     Don’t judge yourself. You did what you could at the time. You weren’t to know life would now be like this.
9.      Do enjoy fleeting moments of humour. Levity at heavy times is very desirable when it’s respectful and appropriate.
10.  Don’t settle for unnecessary regret. If a situation can be amended, set out to do just that. Take heart and be of good courage.
11.   Do understand that the grief process ebbs and flows between logical and illogical thoughts, and wavers into denial, anger, resentment, bargaining, being depressed, despair, all of which are intermingled with bouts of acceptance.
12.  Don’t make too much of the emotions. Allow yourself some grace. Forgive yourself promptly and frequently.
13.  Do promise to search for hope and to journey by faith. This is the best of plans.
14.  Don’t worry about the mistakes you make. Everything can be fixed.
Sudden loss is heart-rending as much as it’s heart-breaking. Being overwhelmed by confusion is as valid as being stricken with sadness, as is every other emotional response. Go gently into the depths and, before plunging in, get some support.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Understanding Conviction of Conscience

“A clear conscience is the sure sign of a bad memory.”
― Mark Twain
Our consciences tell us
What went wrong
Though nobody else sees it
Our consciences see it strong!
The blessed arrangement of justice
Self-requited under the Lord
As we judge ourselves
We align with God’s accord.
Some will see it as the leading of the Holy Spirit – and I subscribe to this much of the time – whilst others see it as the role of our moral inventories sitting in judgment: the conscience. One and the same, perhaps, we are blessed to be so self-aware that we listen and take the conviction of conscience as counsel worthy of obeying.
The conscience of most is piqued in the doing of, or letting go, of wrong. We experience guilt, and perhaps even shame, for not standing up and doing what was right; what was God’s will.
Now, what inspired this present thought bubble is this: our consciences even convict us when no one else is onto us. If we have skimped on a commitment elsewhere, and there is a relational component, i.e., we’ve let someone down, even if we are the only ones who know it, we may well think the other person is ‘onto’ us. If we don’t feel part of a team, our consciences give us away as we see the division working against us, where that ‘division’ may actually be a fabrication of our imaginations – our perception is skewed in favour of actually seeing what only we are seeing. When we feel like we are missing the mark in any area of life we tend to see ourselves condemned – regardless of what others truly think, and, indeed, we may even be blind to what they are saying about us that is good. It works the other way, too; when we see the rampant injustice against us in a social setting we see things the way our perceptions have made them.
Our consciences are powerful instruments through which God works, in leading us toward repentance – for our own sakes.
The only exception to all this is the seared conscience. When we ignore the conscience long enough what wrong we are doing stops mattering. This is a travesty against life. We cannot bear a relational life if we aren’t in tune with our consciences.
The conviction of our consciences means we stand judged and condemned by ourselves for what we, alone, discern as wrongs done by ourselves. Such a conviction is the invitation to repentance. It’s the only way we can live with ourselves again.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.             

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Bottomlessness of True Hope

My experience of life is this:
None of it’s full of bliss.
But still there’s an abiding joy
When it’s faith I will deploy.
And faith it is in life
That gives us hope in strife
Where faith meets despair
There’s a hope nowhere near bare.
A bottomless hope
Gives me strength to cope
Because I cannot give up
When keeps God filling my cup.
There is something about hope that compels us to not give up, even if we do give up for a short time in despair. Hope gives us the energy, and the passion to get through, that we would ordinarily not have. We cannot explain true hope; we just go forward in faith for some vague reason, knowing the hunch we have is worthy of being acted on. Perhaps we have more information, but not typically. Hope keeps us going in a positive direction, though we don’t always know why. Hope overcomes despair.
Yet, what gives hope its stripes is the presence of a transient despair.
Despair seems such a necessary component of the strengthening of hope. Surely hope cannot grow muscles to fly higher in faith if not for the occasional scenario of despairing that is endured.
So despair is not always a bad thing, particularly when we human beings tend to overplay the whole idea of woe-is-me. One bad day or one bad situation and we tend to experience a significant degree of despair. But in context, in perspective, it really isn’t that bad, as things end up working out.
Over the longer run hope works out to be rather bottomless, especially if we have faith – which is deliberately couched as an operating system for the resilient person, and not so much the acquisition of any religion. Although I have to, on personal experience, advocate for Christian faith, because of the grace God has shown me, which propels my faith every day.
Hope can be bottomless for those who have faith – a real, operant faith. Without faith, we might quickly find some distraction – any distraction – and gather ourselves in some sort of ‘useful’ denial (which is actually not useful at all). And if our faith is flagging we will choose the easy way out – our hope is not so bottomless anymore.
Hope is bottomless and a good answer for despair, if we have the faith to keep stepping. Hope needs no light to guide it because it, itself, is a light. If you are in darkness now, drink from the well of hope, keep stepping in faith, and don’t give up.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.             

Friday, January 24, 2014

Life Now, Loneliness & the Way Life Used to Be

Life, the way it was
We can certainly pine after
Balancing loneliness, and
The absence of laughter.
Reminiscing over good times
The case of missing friends
Some answers are AWOL
Then, suddenly, all hope ends.
What can’t now be brought back
We lament causing grief
The experience of loss
And there seems no relief!
Contending with life now
On the backdrop of bliss
The way things used to be
And now there’s this.
How will it improve
I really must ask?
This question alone
Is my God-purposed task.
I write this as a memoir of an old life, a life I now strangely cherish the memory of; for the courage it took to live that lonely existence of rebuilding what had become a broken life.
There are times when we are situated in a no-man’s-land, where the present and future are dark in comparison with a past that has now vanished. From such a place, the past cannot be redeemed. It’s gone. And accepting such a depressing reality isn’t making it better.
How is a good, worthy, or decent future to be made out of a present that offers no hope?
The answer is faith, which is a confidence on loan.
Faith gives us the ability to believe for a good future, because a good future is created when we believe we have the ability to create it, through faith.
Faith cannot disappoint us. Sure, times cannot be replicated. We cannot jump into a time machine or pretend like it’s ten or twenty years ago. But we can cast forth our vision for something not yet experienced; something new and perhaps somewhat better. Imagine something better coming to fruition.
Try not to be pessimistic. There is nothing to lose and so much to gain for the faith it costs to have confidence on loan. When we have such confidence on loan we quickly find out that we produce it by trusting God; it costs nothing.
When life now is not a shadow of its former glory we are easily depressed. Neither the present nor the future offers any hope. What we need is faith to believe there is more enjoyment of life ahead. Faith doesn’t disappoint because it just keeps believing until it’s vindicated. When we take a chance on faith, and we give our lives over to it, we are not disappointed.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

It’s a Fine Line Between Pleasure and Pain

PLAY quickly turns nasty sometimes. Like the time my wife was playing with our son as he ventured toward sleep. He was so tired, his little body and mind had little to resist a few gentle tickles. There was the trickle of gentle and contagious laughter. But when he had had enough, the laughter soon turned to tears. I could have almost predicted it.
There are times also where I have almost sprained my ankle, yet, in correcting the movement by instinct, I avoided injury and the pain associated with it.
It’s a fine line between good fortune and misfortune.
When we acknowledge this vital truth, seeing good fortune as a blessing and not counting misfortune too much as a curse, we begin to weigh life in balance. And life is finely balanced.
There are days when we feel all at sea, completely out of our depth, low on confidence, faking it until we get through to a private moment where we can cry out to God. There are days, also, when nothing goes wrong, and the joys come streaming in. And there are so many experiences of life between these two great emotional poles.
We make too much of the pleasure and we worry about missing out, whilst we also lament any thought of pain, even before it has arrived. But pain is inevitable, just as the pleasure is.
There’s such a fine line between laughter and tears. And when we prove emotional, we may easily vacillate between the two.
Appreciating the topsy-turvy nature of life is a blessing for the feelers of this world. The thinkers wonder what all the fuss is about. They have a steady equilibrium from an emotional sense, which appears as balance, but they may not provide the sort of emotional response some close others might expect from them. It isn’t their fault; they are who they are. The feeler is still prone to the dichotomy between laughter and tears.
As we accept the delicate knife edge between joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, laughter and tears, and so forth, we understand life has a definite fickleness about it. This helps us achieve a thinking balance.
There’s a fine line between laughter and tears
As we consider the regularity of joy and fears
Managing them both is what life’s all about
Acceptance truly is confidence beyond doubt.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What Might Be the Purpose of Your Life?

Why is life so confusingly vague?
We have a purpose – we know it in our hearts – yet we don’t know it. Or maybe we do.
It eludes and escapes, finally, until the day we see it in its glory.
But life is vague – an image lit for us to see, but through a mirror dimly.
Life promises us a purpose and then cheats us from its reality.
Then, suddenly, a dream comes true – and it’s better than a dream.
Purpose rewards us, who seek her. That’s what we need to think, by faith.
Yet, many seek it all their lives – apparently – and never truly find it.
We live for it, yet it fails us. We know there’s more to life. And life finds more work for us in our attempt to find it. There’s always more work! And this we must just accept. No, better than that, surely we must learn to embrace this frustration. And surely God did not put purpose into our hearts to infuriate us. Surely there is something that connects the passion in our hearts with what needs doing here on Earth.
Journeying by faith, with sight of an invisible hope not so firmly in view, but trudging forward in any event, faith secures hope of a realisable purpose. Such hope will propel us steadily toward reconciling our purpose if we don’t give up. We can’t give up. Sure, we stand to be terribly disappointed, but that’s not our God-appointed destiny. Destiny has a positive sense of promise about it.
We are and always were destined to be shaped, and to shape our world, by our purpose. We mustn’t exist for futile reasons when we can acknowledge that there is a lifeblood pumping through the veins of our soul. We know about this lifeblood not more than by the things we detest doing. We have a destiny to find what we were made for in this world. It cannot be a sweet fabrication.
What is there to lose in believing we each have a unique purpose in this world? We may become disappointed, but we have a lifetime to get used to such a thing. In the meantime, we have every reason to hope an invisible hope by faith: to dream and to believe that not only will the purpose be revealed to us, but that we might have the capacity to live it.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

12 Steps to Recovery From Divorce

Step 1: Honesty
Having somehow failed in an endeavour that was supposed to last our whole lifetime there can be tremendous guilt and even shame, but we have to admit we were powerless over the end result.
Step 2: Faith
Having been either blindsided or pushed to a point beyond which we thought the relationship could be reconciled, we must come to a place to know that God is the one we should rely on now – to get through this, and to forge a new identity with. We need someone bigger in control – God.
Step 3: Surrender
Having tried a lot of our lives one particular way, the opportunity now is to turn our will and our lives over to the God who knows us and who wants only the best for us. Difficult days ahead call for a powerful Ally.
Step 4: Soul Searching
We are helped never so much, when taking stock of our lives, than by a searching inventory of what we could have done better. We can only improve for the next relationship if we do our character work – at least understanding and taking responsibility for what we personally could have done better.
Step 5: Integrity
Reconciling what went wrong, with a person we trust, before God, and even with our former partners if at all possible, is a basis for strength and integrity going forward. Our integrity makes us focus only on what we could have done better. What they should have done (or done better) is irrelevant for our purposes.
Step 6: Acceptance
Acknowledging shortcomings is both humbling and taxing, but it is essential if we are to make inroads into who we wish to become from where we are coming from.
Step 7: Humility
We are to commit to God to address our shortcomings. The rubber hits the road here, and the test is not a sprint; it’s a marathon of virtuous integrity. Shortcomings will show up in the next relationship if we are not brutally diligent now and in an ongoing sense.
Step 8: Willingness
Perhaps it’s not only our former spouse we need to make amends with. Even if the majority of fault is not ours, amends can still be made for our share of the marriage failure. Amends ought to be made to anyone who was affected or impacted.
Step 9: Forgiveness
The actual step of repentance is made here. Here is where we make sure we do all we can to remove barriers to forgiveness – of our former spouse and any important others forgiving us. Additionally, we have some forgiving to do to. Let’s not delay what is crucial work for all futures involved.
Step 10: Maintenance
Maintenance is hard. It’s far easier being brave and doing the reparatory work when it’s a one-off, but character change is an ongoing effort of staying humble, approachable, and most importantly honest.
Step 11: Staying In Conscious Contact With God
The key to maintenance really is developing our powers of discernment that we can discern the will of God and then have the courage to carry it out, with consistency.
Step 12: Service
We must, finally, be prepared to be an advocate for good marriage where both partners have mutual trust and respect – where both are earned – and where love abounds. We must believe such an outcome is personally realisable.
Recovery from divorce requires many things, including honesty, courage, integrity, and humility. Wherever we stand so far as fault is concerned is largely irrelevant in recovery so far as blame’s concerned. Once we have grieved then it’s time to prepare for a future relationship, and this is done by sorting out our character glitches.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Trusting God Through the Journey of Grief

Grief is a journey in its own right
Best are we when we accept this is true
Better for us if we don’t resist and fight
Because this journey we know we can do.
Grief has advantages. Like a softer heart emerging as well as better self-understanding. Begrudging the grief journey only prolongs it; the pain. Enjoy new learnings as much as possible. Grief perspectives are unique perspectives.
Paradoxical tensions abound in grief to the point of confusion and of frequently feeling overwhelmed. The journey that was never, ever, desired or even contemplated has come its way, crashing through and crushing our reality. Not only is our experience of life eternally disturbed, to the point we will never be the same again – which is a point of grief all itself – but we must rally resources just to get through the moment. These tensions are polarising, and which way will we turn? And how will we trust God through the journey of grief?
Trusting in grief is a tantalising prospect. As daily circumstances swirl around the source of our sorrow, and we ourselves rally for and against ourselves, the matter of faith can seem too high a bar to reach for and attain. We know in theory that God can help, but our practice of faith is fragile, fumbling, even seemingly futile.
Maybe, perhaps, we are making it harder than it needs to be. Maybe, perhaps, we misunderstand – ever so slightly – what true faith in grief is about. Maybe, perhaps, God wants us to simplify all these matters that input into our lives toward overwhelming us.
Yet the practice of faith is still such an individual one. What works is to search and to keep on searching; to continue asking God, in humility, with allowances for anger, but by the general state of obedience, “How should I live this moment, O Lord?”
We can know that God is friend more than ever to us in our suffering. As we relate with ourselves we imagine God relating with us, as we pour ourselves out as a libation, not one drop of sadness wasted.
Trusting God through the journey of grief is about coming back, frequently, to the fact that we will get through; that somehow we will be made stronger and softer for what we have suffered.
Grief is the shadow of love, and to have grieved is to have loved. God is of both love and grief. He who motivates and energises love will heal us in our grief as we trust him.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

How Am I to Live With This Broken Heart?

“For my part, I prefer my heart to be broken. It is so lovely, dawn-kaleidoscopic within the crack.”
— D.H. Lawrence (1885–1930)
I recall it as if it were yesterday; driving between two cities, with Avril Lavigne playing songs of jilted love, coveting tears, feeling all alone, yet all alone with God. Those songs were so important in that day every time I hear them today there is a fondness kindled deep in the kiln of my heart, where a fire consumes every burden for falsehood and I am brought home to intimacy with myself and with God.
As I recall it, living with a broken heart was next to impossible, and certainly the anxiety attacks were monstrous. I bore a depressive day after a numb one, interspersed with fleeting moments of normalcy. Living such a nightmare involves few reprieves. Sleeping was better than waking, infinitely so. There was a breakdown and more than once was there serious contemplation for suicide. These were the horrors of life; a life of death – the termination of one sense of being, and, for a time, into being of a sense terminated.
Empathy for one and all that suffer or ever suffered was one great and ironical byproduct of such a time. Empathy born of compassion, though it seemed useless at the time, was exactly what my character needed. I think I’d been compassionate previously, but not to that sort of selflessly courageous extent.
Loss does that to us. Having a heart softened at the same time that the exterior is toughened for duty; these are the states of being that occur to us as we are metamorphosed.
Living with a broken heart is about not giving up whilst holding on firmly to the God of our creation. It is simply that. As we hold on, and patiently operate within life the best we can, trying to be obedient to the Spirit, slowly we are being transformed, and even slower than we can imagine. But what is so slow is never more certainly happening. And it is effectual!
Living with a broken heart is about truly understanding that it won’t always be this way.
We must believe in recovery, and, when we believe in recovery, we will allow ourselves time and space for recovery. Giving ourselves grace is the most compassionate thing we can do, and others will certainly benefit. For, if we cannot be compassionate with ourselves how can we be compassionate with others?
Compassion is something richly afforded out of loss. Grief is a coach and he works not only by assault, but also by compassion – as we may allow. If there were no grief there might also be little compassion.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, January 17, 2014

From Brokenness to Blessing

When mature people collude,
There is an abiding pattern of peace,
They get beyond temptation to be rude,
And they afford for themselves, release.
It is amazing what can be achieved when two mature people come together for the common good. There is room for reconciliation always; and, even a reconciliation that sees past the brokenness of the situation, for reconciliation is not always about putting things back together as it once was. But it is always stepping obediently with God in order to love the other.
RECONCILIATION is the masterstroke of the Spirit of God between two people who seek the common good despite their inherent differences.
From brokenness to blessing can two people go, if they both agree to respect each other, which comes to be apparent as trust flows in advance of each for the other. We must learn to trust those we don’t trust, who are also inherently related to us. There is no point in relating with people where there is little or no trust. And if two people who have a history together can learn to trust again, it’s a bonus for them both and many connected with them.
From brokenness to blessing is the boldness to dream not simply idealistically, but of hope for a better, more desired future. It’s about acknowledging the brokenness – that continuing state – but it’s also about acknowledging the redemptive nature of hoping and striving for the best even out of brokenness.
The All-or-Nothing Entity of Hope
Hope only has one positive direction: all the way toward reconciling the unreconciled compartments of any story. Hope is an all-or-nothing thing. It sees a bright future for everyone connected in the brokenness of a situation. It cannot reconcile the possibility of a good product for some and not for others. Hope is win/win.
Hope, therefore, hopes boldly, always expecting to do grander things for the common good than many may otherwise think are possible.
All this is why hope is to be relied upon. It stops at nothing to achieve a result worthy of God – it glorifies God.
And each person who works from brokenness to blessing is using a hope construct.
Reconciliation is the masterstroke of the Spirit of God between two people who seek the common good despite their inherent differences. They serve the other so hope may thrive for the whole. Trust flows and respect thrives when differences are set aside for the common good.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.