Grief isn’t a topic that we like to talk about. We’re forced to grieve when someone dies. But, grief also happens when important plans fall apart, relationships end, jobs are lost, children rebel, or a serious sickness is diagnosed. One of the biggest reasons for grief these days is the on-going impact of the pandemic. We feel a weight of sadness because our world isn’t the way it used to be, and we need to grieve.
Grief plays an important role in helping us accept that pain and disconnection are part of our fallen world. The only way toward health and healing is to embrace grief, fully feel it, and then learn the practice of releasing it back to God.
We all need to grieve these days. I want to help you. If you set aside time to do the following exercise, you will feel relief from some of the tremendous sadness that is building up within all of us. In fact, I have plans to do this exercise this weekend. I need to grieve the end of a friendship with someone who meant a lot to me. Our relationship didn’t end badly, but it’s still someone who I’ve lost from my life and I need to acknowledge that loss so that I don’t get stuck in unhealthy emotions or behaviors.
Here’s how I do this exercise. I call it my “Emotional Funeral.”
One day each year I pack a blanket, my Bible, a notebook, and a packet of tissues. Then I drive down to a beautiful river a few miles from my house. First, I lay out my blanket on a patch of grass overlooking the water. Then I open up my notebook and begin listing all the unanswered prayers, unmet expectations, and unfilled dreams. These are the things that have died in my life. On that day, I need to go through the process of letting go of lost time, lost opportunities, or lost options. Holding onto what has died isn’t healthy or helpful. Letting go is painful but important.
I’m often writing with one hand and wiping my tears with a tissue in the other. The sentences in my notebook begin with phrases such as, “I really hoped,” “I wished,” “I truly thought,” or “I prayed so hard that …” Here are some of my funeral notebook entries:
I wished that I had more time with my dad…
God, I really prayed hard for You to remove the addiction from our home…
God, I hoped so much for a chance to speak at that event…
Once I empty myself of disappointments and dead dreams, I grab my Bible and my go-to verses on hope are Jeremiah 29:11 or Isaiah 61:1-3. These verses do not make me feel better immediately, but these words are a reminder of God’s glory, greatness, and power beyond my circumstances.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Finally, I pray and surrender what will not be. It’s an ugly cry prayer with words that are often intelligible, but I trust God’s Holy Spirit to speak when I can’t say the words. My funeral prayer is in the margin. I’ve learned that carrying around dead or dying dreams eventually deadens our hearts. A dead heart can’t receive a beautiful blessing.
Emotional Funeral Prayer
I dreamed that (name of dream), but that dream isn’t going to come true. I really wanted it, God! And it hurts. But I need to let that dream die. I need to mourn it and move it out of my heart so that You can fill the space with a new thing for me. Amen.
What I’ve learned over the past decade of having an annual funeral is that when I let go of my dead dreams, God plants new ones in the fertile soil of faith that has formed as I fought in prayer for those dying dreams or desires.
Do you need to have an emotional funeral? Here are three indicators in my life that I need to have an emotional funeral:
- The opportunity or experience is no longer possible, even if I want it to be.
- The person or people involved are not willingly cooperating.
- I sense that God is calling me to let it go.
You have permission to have a funeral right now, if necessary. Give God time to move out your hurt and pain in order to fill that space with His love, healing and peace.
I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU! LEAD A COMMENT BELOW: What are you grieving these days? Do any of those indicators apply to your life? Is this emotional funeral something that you think that you’d like to do?