The Grief Nerve

Last night, at our grief group, a woman said something in a way I’ve never heard it before. A scene in a movie “hit her grief nerve” so she cried and cried, not about the movie scene but about her own loss, decades ago. Recently her mother died, and in that context the scene in the movie brought back a grief from a miscarriage long ago. She was already a little fragile. And, in my opinion, one grief is connected to all past losses too. So she grieved anew. I’ve written about triggers bringing memories and grief at surprising times. We’ve called that being blindsided by grief. But this new way of expressing it – it “hit my grief nerve” – says it again, perfectly! Something here and now brings up old memories and feelings suddenly and sharply – like hitting the funny bone in your elbow. It’s shocking! The shock is almost electric and goes throughout the body. Likewise, the grief shock goes throughout your being. Unbidden, unexpected and unprepared for. But there it is, a shock, a memory, some (maybe many) tears.

The next time something hits your grief nerve, stay with those tears a few minutes. Grieve that grief. When you do this, the next time that memory or situation comes up, it will have less shocking power over you. By giving it some attention, you will take hold of the memory but diminish the sorrow in it. You’ll be gaining, little by little, some control over your grief. In addition to the loss, isn’t that one of the distressing things about grief – that you have so little control?

May the Lord also surprise you with sudden jolts of mercy, of grace, of someone’s helpful insight or word of kindness. May the Lord be there with you, in the shocking moment. Here is a message from God for you: ”The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8- Moses says this to Joshua before sending him into the land of the promise.) It's a promise for you too because it is rooted in the unchanging the character of God.