I went through a long season of grief and loss during college; it was challenging to deal with deaths in the family, transferring from community college to a university, and experiencing a career-ending injury all within an 18 month window. If I had to sit down with myself 16 months ago these are a few things I would tell myself…
1. It’s ok to not feel ok.
We have been conditioned to ignore our feelings, especially pain, and we tend to only want to experience positive emotions. However, when you numb your lows, you will also numb your highs. You cannot select which emotions you want to feel and which you don’t. When we experience sadness due to loss, it’s normal and you’re human for it. You must embrace joy and sorrow with equal tension. The Lord wants to help you steward your emotions.
2. Feeling angry, scared, sad, depressed, anxious, etc. is not a reflection of your character.
Your feelings do not define who you are. They are an indication of what is going on inside of you. Having this awareness is a critical part of finding healing. Acknowledging how you are feeling and where you are is a way to honor and respect yourself.
3. You are not powerless.
We don’t always have a say or a choice in what happens in life, however, we are responsible for how we choose to respond. Powerful people are intentional and make choices. We are supposed to walk through valleys—not pitch a tent, not build a house—but walk. If you are on your hands and knees at first, start crawling. Make the decision to not stay stuck or remain the same.
4. The Lord will come to you in an intimate way.
One passage that spoke to me while remembering and reflecting was this:
“Therefore, I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her…And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, and in steadfast love and mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord. ” Hosea 2:14, 19-20
When I went through my season of loss and grief, I came to know God in a profoundly deep, intimate way. “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted…” is real. You will not know the Comforter until you need to be comforted. The most powerful thing He told me was in the aftermath of my knee injury. In my frustration and anger, I cried out to God asking where He was when I got hurt because I felt so confused and scared in that moment. A picture came into my mind; it was a birds-eye view of me in the training room receiving treatment right after I tore my ACL at practice and I was face-down on the table weeping due to the physical pain and the shock and terror that my season could be over. In that moment, He told me, “When you were weeping, I held you. I wept with you. And I hated seeing you in that much pain.” That word sustained me in my hardest moments. I experienced the Father’s heart in a tangible way. We are never alone.
5. Be aware of when you may be the most vulnerable.
The most vulnerable times of day for humans are the first 45 minutes after waking up and the last hour before you go to bed. When you are in pain or turmoil, guard these times for yourself and create some margin in your life. If you scroll through your social media accounts in upon waking and start comparing your situation to everyone’s highlights, your entire mindset and mood can be affected for the whole day. When your getting ready to go to bed, guard that time and space. The Lord has spoken to me many times right before bed because I was quiet and still enough to listen. Situations and people can also trigger you and get you off the track of peace; do what it takes to guard your heart for your season (unfollow, block if necessary, etc).
6. Our hearts and souls need community, especially when life is hard.
Community has the power to be a healing force in your life. God made it clear that I was never alone, in any moment; however, I knew I needed to be intentional about surrounding myself with other believers and like-minded people. I am so grateful for the people who were able to be still with me, who prayed with me and over me, who let me vent when I needed to, and who gave me grace in my worst moments. Some are gifted in listening and empathy, and when we are open and vulnerable to them, they have the opportunity to live out their strengths. We need and belong to each other.
7. Fill your mind with the truth and be aware of what you’re dwelling on.
In my life, I have experienced the most growth and breakthrough when I was intentional about seeking God in every moment of the day. When you make agreements with the truth and not with your present circumstances, things will begin to shift. In my healing process, I had to be intentional about what I was putting into my mind including books, media, music, and people.
8. If it’s not good, it’s not the end.
When I knew my track career was supposed to be over, I was truly fine with it. It took me over a year after my injury to reach that point, but after everything that happened, the process of surrender and detaching from it, I was ready to let it go and walk away. I could also tell when the season was starting to end and I was about to enter some transition for something new and better. He will give you direction and peace in those times.
I am an alum of the University California, Santa Barbara. I threw the javelin for Sacramento City College and transferred to UCSB to finish my degree and eligibility, and I graduated in March 2018 with a BA in Psychology and a minor in Education Studies.