It felt like an open wound. Actually, it was. It is still clear in my mind almost 25 years later. We were in a relative’s recreational vehicle‚ pulling away from our home and moving over a thousand miles away. I was in the very back looking out the window as we left. We were leaving‚ better yet‚ fleeing‚ from my dad and his problems with alcohol and violence. Though I knew he would not be there to see us off‚ as he didn’t even know we were leaving‚ a part of me wanted and needed him to suddenly appear and wave goodbye. As we drove away, I felt overwhelming grief, but I didn’t know or understand that is what I was feeling. Though only 12 years old, the grief was very real to me. That day I didn’t need my dad’s goodbye just for the sake of the goodbye. I needed to begin the grieving process so I would eventually have closure from losing the relationship with my dad. Yet‚ there was no wave goodbye and I had nowhere to turn with this lack of closure. I wasn’t even aware of it; therefore‚ the grief just lingered around and festered for over two decades until I began dealing with it in my late twenties. It was then‚ as a young man‚ I finally understood that the little boy inside of me needed to say goodbye to his dad. So‚ that is what I did and then the grieving process began. Now, closure has taken hold enough for me to move on and not stay stuck in that never-ending goodbye.

Many things cause grief: the loss of a loved one‚ divorce‚ broken relationships‚ moving‚ abuse‚ broken homes‚ death‚ sickness‚ etc. Other circumstances added to my grief on top of losing my dad. Childhood sexual abuse at the hands of strangers added an entirely different component. Yet‚ all the grief was somehow mixed together. As I began giving myself permission to grieve‚ while seeking the help of Jesus Christ and counseling‚ the grief process was slowly worked through. Grief has many stages including denial‚ bargaining‚ anger‚ depression‚ grief‚ acceptance‚ closure‚ moving on‚ etc. Grief is usually attached to some kind of loss we have experienced and until this loss is identified‚ accepted, and worked through‚ we may stay stuck in the first stage of grief for a long time‚ perhaps our entire life.

Grief can be a mysterious thing as it isn’t always logical. For example‚ it is logical to think we should feel happy and excited when we have made healthy‚ strong choices to leave our alcohol behind‚ leave our drugs in the past‚ leave our abusive spouse behind‚ or leave our sexual abuse wounds and move forward. Yet‚ it is very common‚ expected‚ and “illogical” to feel deep sadness and perhaps even anger and depression when we are entering closure and truly leaving our wounds behind. I felt like a part of me was dying‚ as if I was at a funeral‚ when I entered the final stage of grief and began leaving the years of pain behind. In a sense I was at a funeral…my own! A part of me was dying and being left behind…the painful chapter of my life was being put in the “coffin” and I was very sad for quite some time. This transition was strange and difficult as my logical mind was in a battle with the illogical emotions I was feeling. Emotional pain had been a huge part of my life since I was a boy‚ a familiar, close “friend” so to speak. So, leaving it behind surfaced a huge loss. And a loss‚ whether it is labeled a positive or negative loss‚ is a loss nonetheless; therefore‚ we must grieve that loss fully to genuinely move forward into the next chapter of life. Like a football player who is just one yard from scoring a touchdown and he has one more tackler on his back to break free from before entering the end zone and scoring his touchdown. Grief and closure with our pain may be the final thing we have to work through‚ the final “tackler‚” to enter our end zone…freedom in Christ to LIVE OUR LIFE as a whole‚ complete‚ confident person‚ being all we can be for God’s glory!

If you are grieving over someone or something, the following are some things that have helped me to move through the grief process: