A Cheat Sheet for the Valley of Suck: Personal and Group Reflection

I've written a good bit about the personal realities of going through the deep grief of a loosing my wife to colon-cancer. Many have experienced their own time in the Valley of Suck but it isn't easy to face it. This week is the one month anniversary of her death and I've gotten some clear indications from some, I need to "get over it." But grief and suffering doesn't work that way. It isn't something that is unhealthy, in fact, it is the exact opposite. So from my own study, experiences, and conversations with others, I've tried to help put together a curriculum of sorts here. A video is included to go along with the Bible references and reflections for personal and group study. Please take and use as you find it helpful.

Much love from the Valley of Suck and May the Force Be With You! ========== 1. What hero or heroine in a book/movie/play is your favorite?  What is it about them you connect with?

2. What time(s) in your life have you felt most isolated or alone?  Why do you think this was the case?  What did you do or what was done to help you out the situation?

Stories have a way of helping us express our own inner struggles/fears/hopes.  While I am a big (huge) Star Wars fan, other stories also connect with me deeply.  We know from science, the right side of our brains are where our emotions are stored, where our creative ideas really come from, and where stories connect with our lives.  

Our lives are full of stories.  From childhood through our teen years and beyond, stories are what we share with others.  It we identify ourselves as husband/wife or single, by our career, or our hobbies, all of these conjure stories in the listener’s mind.  They may be accurate or created in the mind.  Accurate or not, these stories can be very powerful for the next steps of a relationship.

When we are in grief, pain, and suffering, people make determinations from their experience and knowledge to form narratives for us unless this story-making is interrupted by the real story.  I’m writing this during the week of the first month of my wife’s death from colon-cancer.  If I tell you nothing more, you will likely begin to form a story from your experiences (you can go back and read some of our story on the rest of blog from this past year).

Take a moment and watch my video on “A Cheat Sheet” for times when life sucks.

3.  I use the term Cheat Sheet for the Psalms because these writings reflect those who have been in deep grief, pain, and sorrow.  You heard me read from Psalm 6:6 and share how I have experienced this type of grief.  How have you experienced it?  Have you felt people understood it?  How about God?

4.  The idea of being “securely oriented” is an almost passionate pursuit for some.  How do you see this lived out in your community, our nation, and our world?  How do leaders and politicians use this desire to manipulate?  Do you see “pits” being created for those who go contrary to this?  How?

5.  Dr. Brueggemann also describes “the pit” as a real place where we have no help or hope.  This is where “painfully disorientation” takes place.  It may or may not be created by “enemies” but this isn’t the point.  Take a look at these verses: Psalm 69:15; Psalm 88:6; and Psalm 143:7.  Feel free to read the whole chapter if you’d like.  How does it help you to know people in the Bible have felt this helpless feeling?  Why do you think we don’t hear more about verses like these?

6.  I bring up crucifixion and resurrection as something more applicable to ALL followers of Jesus and not Jesus.  That might sound odd but look at Jesus’ words in Luke 9:23.  What does Jesus say?  What does that mean to you - what will taking up your cross look like?  Can you do it without pain?  Why or why not?

7.  The Good News is that there is a resurrection - new life - a surprising reorientation in our lives.  Think of other images of growth and pain.  Can you think of other Bible verses that talk about this?  How about life lessons you have learned?  (think of a “seed must die” or how about “growing pains” that children have).

8.  Who do you know that is grieving right now (it could be you)?  Did you know it is expected that the period of painfully disorientation - what Dr. Kubler-Ross calls the Stages of Grief (and others) - will likely take up to (and beyond) a year?  From my experience (and others), within two weeks to one month, we expect people to “get over it.”  Why do you think we are so quick dismiss other people in grief?  Do you dismiss your own?  How do the Psalm verses help you have more patient view?

9.  God does not waste anything; not even grief and suffering.  Knowing what we know from science and health, grief work IS work and it can be healthy.  For each of us, what we need to do can be different to help heal.  Emotional wounds, like physical wounds, take time to heal.  How can you “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15)?  

10.  If you are grieving, how can you participate in your own healing?  What might “reorientation” look like for you in the next month?  Six months?  A year?  What would you want it to look like?  Consider journaling and talking with God about it more in the weeks ahead.

May I Suggest:
Pray the following Breath Prayer throughout this coming week:

“Healing Lord, comfort the wounded soul inside of me (or the name of someone you know).”


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