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Letting Go to Grow: A Christian Counselor on Disappointment, Grief and Loss

By Shirley Lytle, MA, LMHC, Seattle Christian Counseling

There are numerous ways grief and loss can be experienced. Some of these include:

  • The loss of a loved one, job or financial stability.
  • The desolation of a marriage.
  • A betrayal of trust by someone close to you.
  • The deprivation of freedom – hitting the glass ceiling of personal advancement.
  • Regretting your poor life choices or poor career ambitions.
  • The loss or reduction of mobility due to sickness.

Image-13My history in counseling has taught me that sorrow comes in all shapes, shades and dimensions. When we consider grief and loss, we often reduce our definition to the deep sorrow brought on by someone’s death. Letting go to grow means addressing the multitude of ways our lives are inundated with any kind of disappointment, depression, anxiety, grief or loss. Imagine for a moment the various experiences that can produce extreme emotional burden. Our emotions can include dejection, despair, heartache, agony, sadness, misery, etc. The synonyms can go on and show how grief can manifest itself and grow into a monster that is difficult for the mind to deal with and release. My goal in this article is to open the windows of your mind toward healing and growth when confronted with grief and loss. I invite you to consider the following ideas.

Your Past Does Not Need to Dictate Your Future

My grief and loss may be part of my past, but it does not need to consume my present or become my future. In Proverbs 4:23 we read:

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. 

The physical and emotional incapacities we experience can be devastating and consume our waking moments. When we experience the loss of a marriage or of a loved one, there is a sense that our lives will never be the same. The loss of employment after dedicating a decade of your life to your job can be unbearable. Your life may never be the same, but that does not mean it is the end. Your past does not need to dictate your future. God has so much in store for you. Above all else, guard what you think and who influences how you think. Your heart or spirit can hold a great deal of pain and sorrow and these emotions can result in a bitter and hateful spirit. It affects how we interview for a job and how we respond to future challenges that trigger our emotions. It is time to clean out your emotional filter and replace negative responses with more adaptive or reasonable responses to the challenges of your world.

Paint a New Picture

My image of my partner or of life will never be the same, but I can develop a new picture of my world. In Luke 12:34 we read:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

One way of reframing your view of your heartache and misery is to develop a different image or picture of your situation. What is it you are treasuring? Prejudice, injustice, betrayal and distrust can develop into a negative view of self and others. These views are associated with expectations or standards that are not realistic. ‘When I graduate, I am going to make so much money that my spouse will never cheat on me.’ But the image or picture changes when we live life. Your expectations and your image of what you think should have been has not materialized and now it is hard to see yourself moving forward. Despair over a sense of being betrayed by the world, or by someone close to you, can paint an agonizing picture. But you can paint a new picture. Recovery needs to focus on moving from hurt and pain toward a place of healing. Where your treasures are is where your heart will focus on. Treasure those things in your life that are positive. Meditate daily on the goodness of God and his sustaining power. What you focus on becomes what you act on. There is nothing we can do about our past, but we can learn from it as we paint a new hope for the ‘right now.’

Change Your Perception and You Change Your Life

Image-23The pain we feel physically affects our emotional state of mind and we cannot separate one from the other. Intense disappointment requires just as much patience and soothing as sadness and grief. When we get a headache, it is often difficult to concentrate, feel or even act rationally. Such pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. In the Bible, King David  states, “I would have fainted, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Ps. 27:13) He speaks of the confidence he has in seeing a better day. I believe in hope – hope in self and hope in others. God allows us to use our past disappointments to gain effective tools for the future. Our brains tend to focus on the wound and can have trouble rewiring to a new way of thinking. Things stay the same when we refuse to change our minds about where we can go. Letting go challenges the idea that ‘nothing you do will help.’ Let go of what you cannot control and focus on those areas of your life that can be changed.

Christian Counseling Can Help as You Deal with Loss

Life is a moment-by-moment encounter. How we handle loss can affect our emotional energy and enable us to move past our pain and to focus on the now and the future in a positive way. Try to explore support systems with people who understand your story. Find individuals in your life who love you in a positive way, yet are prepared to challenge your ‘stinking thinking.’ Christian counseling is a great space to process your thoughts and feelings. If you have any questions about how a Christian counselor can help you to let go to grow, I would be happy to answer them.

Photos

Images are from freedigitalphotos.net; Shut Iron Spiked Gates Stock Photo by Serge Bertasius Photography; Labyrinth Stock Image by Ventrilock

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