We were going 80 miles an hour when I hit the wall. That collision shattered the left side of my face. Four surgeries and four months later, getting behind the wheel had a whole new meaning.
When we think of walls, most of us think of The Great Wall of China or walled cities of ancient times built to keep the city’s inhabitants safe from enemy invaders.
We also have physical walls in our homes and walls that fortify or create boundaries around the property and possessions we want to protect. These are helpful, necessary walls.
However, there are other kinds of walls that we may not know exist . . . until we slam into them. We build these invisible walls to protect our hearts from past pain or anticipated harm.
- Walls built to protect buried piles of painful internal memories that occur when we’re abused, anxious, terrified, abandoned
- Walls erected to conceal our addictions or obsessions
- Walls formed by bricks of guilt or shame that keep us isolated and hurt
- Walls of disabilities or mental health struggles that limit our minds or bodies
- Walls fused with words that communicate hate, disregard, disrespect, or intent to hurt another person
- Walls that conceal the shame of failure, judgment, or self-doubt
- Walls imprisoning our hearts, cutting off the lifeblood to our real souls
Years ago, I busted my face against a physical wall. Last week, I hit one of those invisible walls unexpectedly.
We had gone to visit my daughter and son-in-law. My son with disabilities is now 20 and will most likely always live with us. When his siblings moved out, it crushed him.
All his life, Jon’s siblings have been his world: accepting him when others have rejected him, loving him when others have bullied him, caring when others have ignored him.
Now that they have moved out, words cannot describe his loneliness at times. Moreover, traveling is very hard for Jon. His needs for consistency, simplicity, and safety are all-consuming and compete with his longing to be with his siblings.
Trying to balance Jon’s needs with family life is complicated. We plan ahead and pack all he needs to feel comfortable and safe. It’s a ton of work but usually worth it all. This time was unexpectedly different.
For reasons he couldn’t articulate and with struggles I couldn’t anticipate, the trip was incredibly hard for Jon. On the drive home, I slammed into the wall of grief.
Myths about the Wall of Grief
Grief is unpredictable. Not only that, but grief is also one of those “shove-under-the-rug” topics. Grief exists as the elephant in the room of our hearts . . . huge, smothering, heavy, alive.
There are many myths associated with this invisible “elephant”:
- Grief has a beginning and ending.
- Grief is associated with death and nothing else.
- Grief is for women only because women are so emotional.
- Grief is fixable.
- Grief disappears with time.
- Grief occurs because you lack faith.
- Grief follows a predictable path.
- Grief can be controlled.
- Grief is displayed by selfish people wanting attention.
Here’s the truth about grief: it demands our time and attention. Grief requires an acceptance of loss or change. We are creatures of habit and comfort; grief is unpredictable and uncomfortable.
Learning to face grief means we must allow pain to surface, examine life as it is instead of what we wish it would be, and embrace change in moving forward.
Walls stand between us and others, specifically between us and God, when we refuse to grieve the losses in our lives.
Conquering the Wall Begins with Knowing the Truth about Grief
Grief is the expression of pain and loss in our lives—a process that changes us, softens us, humbles us, and reveals our need for help. In other words, grief is a transformative process unique to each person throughout life.
Grief doesn’t just manifest itself after the death of a loved one. We grieve . . .
- A divorce or break in relationship
- Loss of health
- Loss of a job
- Financial stability
- Hopes and dreams
- Moving to a new home or school
- Unexpected hardships
- Natural disasters
Maybe this is the first time you have ever considered that grief is okay, expected, and has enormous transformational power in your life. Maybe you have tried to hush the elephant in your heart because you were taught to suck it up and move on.
Maybe you have believed time will heal all wounds and are frustrated that you haven’t yet healed. I give you permission to open your heart and allow grief to surface. It will be messy, uncomfortable, and difficult. You’ll feel out of control, forgetful, fearful, and angry.
Grief will lose its power as you step into the process, trusting Christ and safe people to lead you through and hold you up. Perhaps some scriptural accounts of grief will be encouraging to you.
- Genesis 45: Joseph grieves the years of betrayal and loss with his brothers.
- 1 Samuel 1:9–11: Hannah grieves over her infertility.
- 2 Samuel 1:11–12: David and his men grieve the loss of Saul, Jonathan, and many who had died.
- Nehemiah 1:4–5: Nehemiah grieves for the people of Judah.
- Lamentations: Jeremiah grieves over the people’s rejection of God and the destruction they will endure.
- Matthew 26:36–44: Christ grieves His upcoming death and acceptance of His Father’s will.
Let Me Hear from You
What grief have you been trying to deny, hide, shove under the rug? Will you open your heart and allow God to do a transforming, healing work in you? How can I help today?
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