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On Faith: Learning to Grieve Part 2: The importance of grieving

We spend a good portion of our lives working diligently to acquire those things that make life rich and meaningful... friends, spouse, children, homes, material comforts, money, jobs and the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, no one ever teaches us how to deal with losing those things we have spent so much time acquiring. So when we do lose something, the pain can be so great, that it shakes the very foundation of our lives.

The pain of loss can throw us into deep despair. And if we don't understand the grieving process, we can easily be so overwhelmed that we can go into a deep depression.

I think it is important that we realize that grief is a normal and natural response to loss, whether we are talking about the loss we feel when someone close to us dies or the loss a person feels when they go through a divorce or loss of job or even the loss of innocence for those who have been assaulted. Loss is a big part of life and it is inevitable. And I believe God has built into all our lives a natural grieving process that if we allow ourselves to go through it, we will come out of it a much stronger person. Unfortunately, those who avoid going through the grieving process get stuck in their pain.

I believe grieving is one of the most misunderstood and neglected growth processes a person can go through. Have you ever ask yourself the question, why does it seem some people after experiencing loss become a much stronger and compassionate person while others who have experienced the exact same loss never recovered? Why they live out the rest of their lives a broken down, emotionally crippled person? I believe at least part of the answer lies in whether they allowed themselves to go through their natural grieving process or not. We can either fight against the grieving processor or cooperate with it.

In other words, the only way to real emotional recovery is by allowing ourselves to go through the grieving process. There are no shortcuts, there is no way to avoid experiencing the pain of loss. But if we allow ourselves to walk through the different stages of grief, full recovery is possible.

What I mean by recovery is that you will feel better. You will be able to claim your circumstances instead of your circumstances claiming you and your happiness. Recovery means finding new meaning for living without the fear of future abandonment. Recovery is being able to enjoy fond memories without having them being overwhelmed by painful feelings of loss, guilt, regret or remorse. Recovery means that one day you will realize that by being able to talk about the loss you have experienced is in fact helping another person get through his or her loss.

Next time we will look at some of the myths of dealing with grief.

On Faith is a weekly column in the News-Chronicle written by area religious leaders. Gerry Cheney is the pastor of the Bay Area Vineyard and director of Celebrate Recovery, which meets every Thursday night at 6:30 at the Silver Bay Vineyard. For more information, call (218) 220-7650.