If we went for a coffee today, we would probably talk about the Grief Recovery Method and the Grief Recovery Handbook.
There are several of us at Calvary that are reading the book together and going through the exercises. My friend Tim has joined our sessions via Zoom to help walk us through and answer questions and so forth. He’s had lots of experience with it.
Last evening, we had an interesting question, because the Grief Recovery Method doesn’t come from a Christian basis, but a science basis, how are we as Christians to interact with it? How much “faith” should we put into the method?
The question was actually a bit more focused. One of the last exercises in the method is to write a letter, and does that even make sense? And, since we are Christians, does the Bible instruct us to do this with our grief?
It’s interesting, the Grief Recovery Method has you start out by examining all the ways that we deal with loss that don’t actually help us long term. And, then the exercises start, where you set aside an hour, and graph the losses you’ve experienced in life, along with how you felt at the time, and even how you feel about it currently. The next exercise is to choose a relationship in your life that has some unfinished communication in it, and graph that relationship, it’s major events, how you felt about them and even how you feel about them now. Next, taking that information, you sort it into categories that require action, like apologies, “forgives,” and significant emotional statements. And, then from that work, you write a letter to that person. The last step is to read that letter out loud to another person. And, it rarely is read to the actual person that it’s written to.
This is the outline of the Grief Recovery Method and it’s helped thousands of people over the last 40+ years who were suffering pain from loss and grief.
So, it’s a good question. As a Christian, with access to the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1), the help of the Holy Spirit, prayer, God’s Word, why would we write a letter?
As we were thinking about that, I realized that the Psalms were an example in many ways of this grief recovery method. Actually, the imprecatory Psalms really illustrate the Grief Recovery Method.
These are the famous psalms were the writer expresses: “Happy is he who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rocks.” (Psalm 137:9) This is a letter that expresses feelings from an event where there was loss, addressed to the person that is responsible for the loss, read out loud to a different person. I’ll bet these words were never said or read to the person or entities that are responsible for the loss.
Jesus is also an example. Remember when he was standing on the Mount of Olives at the end of Palm Sunday, the day of the Triumphal Entry? He said: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37)
Here Jesus is expressing his feelings, about an event, where He’s experienced loss, and it’s addressed to the people that are responsible for the loss, yet, it’s the disciples that hear him say it.
So, for me, I realized, this is one of those situations where science has finally caught up with where Christians have been for centuries.
As you continue reading “The Grief Recovery Handbook,” they describe how life should be lived after using this method to complete grief. The illustration they use is like visiting the aquarium where it’s so big that every once in a while one of the sharks or whales or sea creatures comes into view at the window we are looking through. When that happens we describe what we are seeing as it’s happening including how we feel about it. “Whoa! A shark! Look at those teeth! I’m glad I’m behind the glass!” We do that as it happens. Rather than, later on, or years later, we express our feelings in healthy and productive ways in real time.
This reminds me of Ephesians 4, where Paul writes how we as Christians are to be: “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the Head…” It’s speaking the truth in and from love, in healthy and productive ways, in real time, processing life as it happens, which produces growth in wisdom and in love and in courage.
Again, from my perspective, science is finally catching up with where Christians have been for centuries.
I highly recommend the book.
And, I’m grateful that my friend Tim gave me a copy this past summer.
What do you think? What’s been your experience with processing loss and grief? How have you managed the pain of loss, disappointment, hurt?