Grief as a Bridge
In September of 2014, I set out for Seattle to complete an advanced counseling certificate program that would end in April of 2015. The sessions were led by Dan Allender, and if you are familiar with Dan Allender it may not surprise you that this was an extremely disrupting time for me.
That journey is one of the most life changing experiences I have ever had. I am a different, changed person. It was hard and confusing and amazing. I went through phases of wanting to go, being excited about going, being terrified of being there, being angry, hurt and distrustful of the process, feeling supremely blessed about the redemption I was experiencing, and then grieving when it was over. It took me at least a year to even find words for this journey, and the grief I was experiencing. I felt as though I had experienced a death, and yet no one had died there.
I couldn’t make sense of what I felt. Everything happened as planned. The journey ended when it was supposed to. I went to all of the sessions, completed the last day rituals of offering words to my group members and even sharing in communion with them. However, I could not make sense of the relief, sadness, joy, aloneness and deeper connection that I was feeling. How could I be sad that my journey was over and yet relieved that it was over? How could I vividly remember both the hard days filled with tears and anger and also vividly remember the sweet times filled with laughter and peace? I felt confused and full of emotion. People kept asking me to talk about the journey, but I couldn’t make sense of it. I wanted to tell everyone how great the experience was and how amazing the sessions were. And yet, it felt like lying to not talk about the pain I was left with even 6 months later. I felt crazy feeling pain regarding such an amazing time. Why was I so confused, and what was I supposed to tell everyone?
Looking back now, almost a year later since returning, it makes a little more sense. I realized that I had experienced a death. The change in me was a death, then there was a rebirth to a new heart, and then the whole experience itself ended.
At our last session, Dan reminded us that every ending is wrong. Before the fall, Adam, Eve, and God all existed together; and then, sin, separation and death entered the picture. We were not supposed to feel separation from God and each other. Goodbyes remind us of death and we know in our heart that death is wrong. We weren’t meant to experience death and goodbyes. And yet, we live in a broken world where it would be delusional and unhealthy to not expect death and goodbyes.
This is why God gave us grief: To provide us a bridge to at least make categories around losses in order to continue the journey He has laid out for us. My experience of grief is not that it eventually takes away all of the loss or pain. However, it extends to me a place to make sense of what happened and gives me time to learn to live here without what I’ve lost. I walk around today carrying the holes left by my close relatives, friends, and even pets that have escaped this broken world. I feel their holes as easily as I feel the holes of other goodbyes I’ve had to say – like my time in Seattle. My journey of grief has given me the strength and courage to continue to walk through this middle place with the joy of what God has planned for me here, the hope for the “not yet,” and the ability to seek care for my holes when I find they are hurting, again.
Tiffany Shores joined the Barnabas Center in August 2012 as a resident counselor and in July of 2013 accepted an offer to counsel at Barnabas on a regular basis. She received her undergraduate degree in psychology from George Mason University and her Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology from Marymount University in Arlington, VA. Her experience ranges from grief and depression to marital concerns and relational brokenness. She also works with clients healing from abuse and trauma. Tiffany is married to Skott and they have two boys who keep her busy and teach her new things every day.