Our dear little Jack Russell left us almost two weeks ago, and his perky little self is missed in every corner of our home. Always interested and aware of everything, his adorable ears and eyes were on constant alert. The places where he seemed constantly present are now empty.
Yesterday, I went to my new cardiologist for my annual exam, because my former cardiologist, who is my age, has retired. My new one is delightful and sharp and was concerned about my blood pressure elevation. Doing as I was told, I went to Target and got the BP cuff she recommended and began recording readings on the form she gave me.
Since I had been wondering if grief affects blood pressure, I decided to do a little research. A Harvard Medical School article reads, “Whether you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, a job, a home, or a beloved pet, it’s important to understand how the process puts your health in jeopardy.”
The article goes on, “Grieving takes a toll on the body in the form of stress. But why is stress so hard on us? It’s because the body unleashes a flood of stress hormones that can worsen many existing conditions (such as heart failure or diabetes) or lead to new ones (such as high blood pressure or heartburn). Stress can also cause insomnia and changes in appetite.”
I always try to be the glass-half-full type of person…
Aha! Not to say my high blood pressure is only a result of grief, but grief certainly may be one cause.
In my life, Christmas can also cause grief. We miss loved ones who have gone on before us. Last night we were looking at old picture albums of when the kids were young and my now deceased parents were present in all of the Christmas photos. I started thinking about how I always try to be the glass-half-full type of person, and that is my nature for the most part. So as a result, I always try to look at the bright side.
But maybe I need to rethink that and allow more moments for expressing grief. So I thought to myself, “I’ll just name in my brain things I’m grieving.”
The list could go on and on: missing my parents, losses or changes in relationships and traditions, not having the physical or mental ability I once had, the awful things occurring in our world like abortion, various disappointments, sad news from people I love and care about, and divisions in churches and our nation.
As I think more deeply about this, I realize it’s sort of like Alcoholics Anonymous asking folks to stand up and state their name and admit that they are an alcoholic.
My nature and habit has been such that I have not spent much time admitting that I’m grieving over something. Again, I find myself always jumping straight to the bright side. Now I see that I need to admit the grief.
So I’m determined to add another step in between.
Instead of my old two-step process, which was step one, sad thing or news occurs, and step two, look for the good, I will exchange step two for a better one. Step one will now be sad thing or news occurs. Step two will be to grieve that thing or news, and step three will be to look for the good.
My new step two won’t be over in minutes or in a day. It may flood back in at unexpected times. Like seeing the photos last night of Mom and Dad so young and energetic, it’s ok to be sad and to grieve the loss of those loved ones and special times. And it’s important to do so each time it happens.
However, I think if that grief step becomes my default thinking, the thought I dwell on when nothing else is occupying my mind, I need to beware. That road leads to depression, a totally different thing than grief.
All warfare is spiritual, and Jesus clearly wept. We know because the Bible tells us. He was sad.
But then He went on. That sadness did not cripple or paralyze Him.
His asking His Father to take the cup from Him prior to His crucifixion did not stop Him. And we can only imagine His emotions on that painful night.
…feelings follow actions.
How do we practically apply Christ’s example to what we are to do when we experience grief and sadness?
I believe we are to weep, and we are to be sad and not to feel bad about it. We are to cry out to our Lord because He tells us to.
I believe we are to exercise and eat, to enjoy loved ones, and to get out in fellowship with others, because I believe feelings follow actions.
I believe grief is part of this world, and we never want to lose the ability to mourn with those who mourn, including ourselves. “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”
One day there will be no more grief, no more tears.
And so until then we grieve, but we grieve with hope—always with hope in our perfect Lord and his victory over all grief and sadness.