Monday, June 11, 2012

Processing Grief and Loss

During the third week of our training out here in Colorado, we spend time acknowledging and processing the grief and loss that we are experiencing as we move overseas. Unexpectedly, this ended up being one of the most valuable parts of the SPLICE training for me.

First, we spent time discussing these main areas of our life that we will experience loss:
  1. Stable Nest or Home - a loss of the familiar, of a place offering warmth, comfort and safety
  2. Safety - a loss of physical and emotional safety and comfort
  3. Competence - Who are you when you are stripped of your ability to contribute? This is a loss of being able to be competent in the presence of others
  4. Identity - a loss of how you identify yourself in roles here in the States, whether that be family relationships, job, areas of skill and gifts, etc.
  5. Support system - A loss of the relational support system we have here, as well as entering into a lifestyle that is a revolving door of relationships
  6. Quickly and easily attained goals - Entering into a new culture and ministry means a loss of control over being easily effective in your vocation and quickly attaining your goals
After we discussed these areas, we had the opportunity to walk around the room and write down on large pieces of paper the specific losses we were feeling and anticipating. It was an emotional experience, as I acknowledged my fears and the losses that make my heart ache...the loss of close friendships, my skills and abilities, having my family close by, having the close and in-person support my mom when I become a mother someday, the loss of a home for what will eventually be nearly 2 years in transition, and lots of other losses. Although it was hard to talk about these things, it was also very healthy and cathartic for me to share them with a group of people who are experiencing the same griefs. There was freedom to share in a place of safety and understanding.

We also meditated on scripture that bring comfort and understanding in times of grief. Psalm 139 is one of my favorites, reminding me that God understands my heart and my thoughts, and no matter what side of the ocean I'm on, He is there with me.

Psalm 139: 1-10
You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways. 
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely. 
You hem me in behind and before, 
   and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.

How can you identify with these feelings of loss when you've gone through a time of transition?


  1. Oh, my goodness....we left for training 22 years ago to Illinois, and for all this time we have been saying goodbye, grieving, experiencing the things you are talking about AT LEAST once a year, but often more than that. I understand so very deeply what you are talking about, and am learning to embrace the grief process, allowing myself to cry (often)....and being sure to tell people before they leave how much they have blessed my/our makes a difference...and we now have dear friends all over the world...
    and our hearts ache...
    but the Lord is ever dearer...and heaven nearer.
    Love you guys!!
    Donna Jeanne

  2. Thank you for your comment, Donna Jeanne! I am sure this resonates with missionaries who have served one term or many terms on the field...You are right - God is near in the midst of heart ache and grief!

  3. I've been having a hard time b/c this trip of goodbyes is a whirlwind, and I don't have the emotional energy to cry, then get back in the van and drive the 4 kids to the next stop. It's SO HARD to reaquaint and let go again in 24 hours. The blessing of friends around the world was brought home at MTI though. We went to a family camp about 2 hours away one weekend, and bumped into friends from Mongolia! The Lord works in incredible ways, and we are all in the palm of His hand.

  4. What you are saying makes complete sense, Judy. How appropriate that we discussed grief and loss just before you began this cross-country journey and are experiencing this firsthand. Miss you!


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