Grief – The land between…

Grief – The land between…

Do you wish there was an instant switch from insight to doing life differently? 

Have you ever been stuck in the transition between dysfunction and learning how to live in a new way? 

Back in 2015, I heard Jeff Manion speak on his new book, The Land Between.  I purchased the book at that conference and have referred to his thoughts many times since as I have passed through various transitions.  In therapy at Phenix, we walk our clients through a grieving process after we have deconstructed their story.  As I would explain the process to my clients, I caught myself using that phrase, “the land between” to help them understand where they are in the process.  It finally occurred to me to return to Jeff’s material to see if there were any specific concepts that I could adapt specifically to this grieving process.

Jeff uses the bible story of the Israelites leaving Egypt and the time they spent in the wilderness as the metaphor for his book.  Often, clients come to us because they are ready to leave their Egypt.  As we unpack the story of how they got there, they become more and more convinced that they are done with the dysfunctions of their past.  Treatment planning involves painting the picture of their “promised land” where healthy relationships, living in their calling, pursuing a career they love, intimacy with God, healed mental struggles, strong emotion management or physical ease reigns.  Problem is, a vast wilderness exists between Egypt and the Promised Land and the journey is not linear!

Not only do we need to learn the skills required to thrive in the promised land, we first need to release the waste products of our Egypt.  That is grieving.  The wilderness is necessary.  It is the place we shed our identity as slaves to our family of origin and position ourselves to live as our true selves.  Just like the Israelites…if we skip over the process, we may find ourselves languishing in the wilderness far longer than needed.  As much as grief sounds like the root canal we want to avoid, sustainable living in the promised land demands we move through it.  So, buckle up and let’s review some guiding principles for the journey:

  • Our season of grief is fertile soil for meltdown.  It is likely the main reason why most of us avoid it.  The thought of allowing emotions to emerge can feel too intimidating:  What do we do with the emotions we experience?  What will happen if I express them?  What if they consume me and I can’t function?  Those are the concerns we face together and we equip you with the tools you will need to sit with and actually benefit from, your emotions.
  • Grief is also fertile soil for complaint.  Let’s define that term.  It is not lament – which is pouring out our heart’s emotions.  Complaint is judgement against God, it is implying (or flat out stating), that we were/are better off without God.  Thankfully, God is strong enough to handle our complaints and we specifically hold space for that in therapy if desired.  For those who don’t subscribe to a Higher Power, it is judgment against life itself and the order of things – however we make sense of it.  Complaint resists eviction which is why most of us require assistance for moving it out.
  • Opening hands to release the past makes space for provision.  In therapy, provision looks like mental and emotional space for the new story.  It looks like the skills and mindset needed to enter the promised land.  As we release the self criticism, bitterness, fear and guilt of our old story, provision can look like contentment and strength.
  • Our informed consent disclosure details the risks of therapy – that classic dilemma of, “be careful what you ask for”.  One of those risks is the fact that grieving reveals our own shadow selves, inviting discipline in those areas.  This is often a painful process but it is also a rescue mission, a course correction that calibrates our compass toward our true selves…our purpose.
  • The hope of grief work is transformational growth.  It is the soil God uses to grow the things our hearts desire.  Grieving is the soil for learning to trust because trust is required for thriving in the promised land.  Trust of self, trust of healthy others, trust of God.  Trust pushes out complaint.  It evicts the lifestyle of victimhood.

So whether you need to grieve a death or the losses you’ve identified in therapy, don’t skip the process.  Seek out a wilderness guide (counselor) to help you make the most of the journey.  If you live anywhere in FL, reach out to us!

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