When it comes to working toward living a more abundant life, there is a massive obstacle. And that is that ninety percent of what happens in your life is beyond your control.
That thought alone is enough to make most people throw up their hands and give up. After all, what good is putting all your energy and focus into ten percent of your life?
How about the fact that the ten percent is the difference between living a vibrant, fulfilled life, and one that is filled with struggle and misery?
Yet, even the most diligent and visionary people encounter challenges that threaten to suppress their potential and tempt them into making compromises that will ultimately keep them from all the abundance that they want. Today I want to specifically address the challenge called grief. Why?
My mother’s second husband died on Christmas Eve morning this year.
If you read this post, you’ve probably widened your eyes and groaned in sympathy for my family (thank you, if you have). You might even wonder if God is trying to tell somebody in my family something. I believe so, and I know who and what, but that’s none of your business.
Your business right now is to understand that if you have not yet experienced the death of a loved one (I include close friends in that phrase), your day is coming. And when you do, it will cause an internal upheaval that could shut down your desire to achieve your goals and dreams.
It will cause you to grieve.
It will be especially tumultuous if the death is completely unexpected, leaving you with agonizing questions that can’t be answered. It will be even worse if you have no relationship with your Creator (essential to a truly abundant life, as I describe in this post).
If you have experienced the death of a loved one, you know what I’m talking about. In fact, you in fact may have given up on moving toward an abundant life and are reading this post to find hope and motivation to get back on track.
I won’t pretend to have all the answers, but following are some ideas I have about finding abundance even in the midst of grief.
Idea #1: Believe the best.
Believe the best about person you are grieving. An atheist would have to be satisfied with the fact that the person is no longer suffering, and/or will no longer have to endure the trials and stresses of life.
If you believe in an afterlife, believe that where your loved one is now is a much better place than Earth. For some, this belief comes easily. For others, not so much.
For the last thousand years – maybe even fewer – Christians have been taught that there is such a thing as an eternal hell, and that everybody who doesn’t consciously accept Jesus as their Savior while they are alive will burn for all of eternity. What if I told you that the early Church didn’t believe that? What if I told you that faith-practicing Jews don’t believe that?
What if I told you that this belief has been perpetrated by mistranslated and misinterpreted verses in the Bible, and that there is actually more evidence for Universalism (all eventually making it to heaven) in the Bible than not?
I – and many others throughout Church history – could be wrong. But if you believe in the Bible, recall the verse where it says that God looks on the heart, and He is the only judge. Who are you to condemn someone to an eternal hell, just because you don’t know that they ever committed their life to Christ? How do you know God doesn’t give people a chance to do so once they pass over to the other side?
Believe the best about where your loved one is now.
Idea #2: Let yourself – and give yourself time to – grieve.
When my stepdad passed on, my mom reminisced about my dad and grandmother passing fourteen years earlier. She told me that she never really gave herself time to grieve those two deaths, and that if she could do it over again she would have taken two weeks off from work instead of going back into work almost immediately after my grandma’s funeral.
Because she didn’t give herself enough time to grieve those two losses, she broke down at the funeral of a friend of her second husband a year later. She sobbed hysterically as though this man had been her best friend or father, when in actuality he had been barely an acquaintance to her. A song sung at the ceremony took her back to my dad’s funeral, and the long-suppressed grief forced its way out.
She couldn’t believe the pain of the losses was still so strong a year later, but it was the result of never having given herself time to grieve.
The grieving process is also a healing process, and to live an abundant life you need to heal from any and every emotional wound that afflicts you. So give yourself both permission and time to do so.
Idea #3: Know that the one your grieve wants you to move on.
If you believe in life after death, chances are good you believe in a perfect place full of happiness, peace, and joy, where everyone is made whole in every aspect of their being. And anyone who is completely whole and healthy emotionally and psychologically wishes everyone else could achieve that state. They wish everyone could be eternally happy.
So, while grieving is a necessary process, as you grieve keep in mind that the one you grieve doesn’t want you to grieve for very long. They certainly don’t want you to wallow in misery and despair. Rather, they want you to move forward with your life – a more abundant life than the one you are currently living.
Even though you may feel anything but fulfilled and joyful in the middle of your grief, knowing that your loved one hopes the best for you can help feel more blessed than circumstances seem to dictate.
Idea #4: Surround yourself with other people.
After losing a loved one, you will probably have several people approach you and tell you that you can call and talk to them anytime as you grieve.
Take them up on it.
Isolating yourself at a time like this is the worst thing you can do, and may lead to depression. There are times when it’s healthy to lock yourself in your bedroom and cry. But those times are few and far between.
Most days, make time to reach out to a friend or close family member who is willing to walk along side you during the grieving process. It might look like a phone call where you spend most of the time weeping while your friend prays for you. It might look like going to see a romantic comedy movie with a relative and laughing together.
Stay connected to people when you’re struggling, and your life will automatically feel more abundant.
Idea #5: Help others.
Once you’ve intentionally surrounded yourself with community, take a step up and begin to help others. When you help others in need, you gain a new perspective on your own problems. You also find fulfillment and joy when you serve.
The caveat here is: Don’t do it as a means to ignore your pain. In fact, if you have even the slightest sense that such is your motive for getting busy, step back down and seek deeper support from your friends and family. Get more help for your own healing, and only get back to helping others when you are doing it because the giving of yourself brings joy and inner freedom, not because it covers up your pain.
Feeling that you’re living a life of abundance is difficult during times of grief. But it’s not impossible. Try at least two of the above ideas, and I believe you will find the abundant life even in the midst of a storm.