Johanna Stamps describes how grief fights to take over a person's identity, but we don't have to let it win.
I’ve been challenged, recently, not to speak about mental health issues as if they are a part of our identity, for instance, “I am depressed,” or “I am bipolar,” or even, “I am grieving.” This seems near impossible when these realities are very much ingrained in ourselves.
Grief seems to be a unique case. It’s not like other mental health issues. Often, its immediate impact is like being hit by a Mack truck: One day you are functional and the next you are flattened, wounded, on the side of the road.
Many people look at their grief as a wave that seems relentless at first. I’ve noticed my grief is more like a toddler, crying out for undivided attention. Over the years, however, I’ve seen the reality is far starker:
Grief is a relentless bully.
It’s the type of bully that you can’t avoid. This person is constantly picking at you and doesn’t seem even marginally placated when your face is down in the mud. This bully wants to steal your joy. As this person’s pulling you down, they scream, “I’m going to take you into the darkness, and I don’t ever want you to get back up.”
I’ve seen grief take people and contort them, sometimes even physically. It’s hard to see where the person ends and grief begins. This is the fight for someone’s true identity. Grief wants you to believe that it has become you.
My role as a grief coach often looks more like Mickey in the Rocky films. We spend time learning about the bully, watching their moves with curiosity and seeing their weaknesses. I spend time teaching tactics and building on strengths that already exist. We are preparing for the everyday battle. We find biblical strength:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
This is not the “I’m going to comfort you and bring you peace when you’re down” Scripture. Instead, this Scripture is filled with supernatural strength to beat back the bully—once and for all.
If we think we have no choice, we will bow to the bully, but when we do that, we never regain our footing. We lose our strength. We aren’t meant for grief. Yes, we will be sad and miss someone. We will mourn all the implications of our loss.
But we are meant to discern with wisdom the grief that is entering in to steal your joy—your life. About 50% of my time with clients seems to be in pulling the threads of grief apart and seeing what is actually serving them and what is there to cause irreparable damage.
We have far more control than we think when we see grief is not who we are.
- What has grief been doing to you lately?
- What’s holding you back from throwing a mean right hook?
- What is keeping you from living the joy you want today?
Copyright 2023 Johanna Stamps
Images: (top, bottom) Canva; (center) copyright 2023 Johanna Stamps, all rights reserved.
About the Author
Johanna Stamps is a grief coach, writer, and artist focused on bringing hope and healing to women experiencing a major loss. Sign up to receive her weekly Reflections & Inspirations. After becoming a first-time mother at 39, Johanna has embraced a household with three generations. The best part of Johanna’s day is singing worship music loudly in the car with her preschooler while running errands.