Grief and Movement


“I can’t sleep. There’s too much weighing on my mind.
But there’s a bird out there. Still singing in the dead of night.
Like he knows there a season, when the sun is gonna set.
But the story isn’t over yet…”
Andy Gullahorn, 2012

Grieving Meredith 2

Do you remember your first real heartache? The one that stole your breath and left you motionless? Life had been moving on a predictable plain. You knew what would come tomorrow, and the day after. And suddenly, you didn’t. Or maybe, that’s not how it happened for you. Perhaps your courage grew and helped you wake up slowly to something that had been heartbreaking for way too long. Whether pain came crashing down or came in a hazy, hard awakening, it pierced you. You will never be the same.

Loss tends to permanently mark us and leave us cautious. I hear in my little community all the time that God uses grief to get to us, remind us He’s got us, and free us from our hiding places. When we are stopped by a weight of grief, we get the chance to stop running and watch to see how He puts us back together. When things are taken- children, young friends, dreams, savings, innocence- it is good to get really passive for a time. God is the grand Actor. We should remain still as He moves, heals, binds up. We should just let the deep hurt hurt.

Yet at some point, grieving needs to involve movement. It needs to be an active looking, seeking the return of light. Movement will be disorienting and a bit scary for awhile. Movement in the valley of the shadow is never linear. It is a fumbling forward relief, followed by raw and fresh grief that will tempt you to believe you’re back at the beginning. That’s ok. Movement will be what marks the difference between active grief and stagnant depression.

I knew sadness at a young age. As I struggled to keep going, without mature words for my pain, the pain became a companion for me. I walked with dread and caution, and as I grew up spiritually, my spirit carried cynicism. Cynicism hurt, but it was familiar. It gave me a place to hide and an excuse not to trust God or people. My negative thoughts gave birth to negative emotions. What looked on the outside like spiritual depth and maturity was resistance to believing God was an active, involved Parent. He gently began to show me that I had lost my lightness, my childishness, and my honesty, and He slowly gave me the energy to move, and a safe community to surround my walk. Movement is still hard. Some days it is scary. Some days it is imperceptible. Some weeks I still surrender to depression and call it “being realistic.”

There is more to you than your grief. There is more to you than the losses you’ve incurred. There’s laughter, tenacity, belief and faith.  So after you’ve stopped awhile, ask the Father to give you energy and willingness for small, daily steps. This may mean answering a phone call from a friend, listening to music that invites hopeful emotions rather than underlines pain, confronting your anger, or visiting a new class at your gym. You certainly cannot move forward alone, and He does not ask you to. Ask, in faith, for the willingness and courage to take off your sackcloth for awhile and let Him cover you.




Meredith SpatolaMeredith joined The Barnabas Center staff in January 2009, upon completing her Masters in Counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and her Bachelors in Religion and Psychology from Furman University.  She counsels, leads women’s groups and teaches a seminar called “Hope in the Darkness” for those walking with individuals suffering from depression or bipolar disorder. Meredith, her husband Jon, and daughter Charlotte live in Fort Mill, SC.

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1 comment

  1. Meredith,

    I empathize with much of the picture you painted, seeing it through the lens of my own grief after the death of my wife last year. Thank you for sharing the balance of loss and hope; stillness and movement. Your words are comforting and encouraging to me, and I’m sure to others who read them.

    Mark (grieving, with hope)

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