I passed the Barnes & Noble self-help section that featured books on capturing every sort of success. Get rich. Get peace. Get healthy. In five easy steps.
Goals! The red ink screamed, catching my eye. The subtitled promised, How to Get Everything You Want – Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible.
I wasn’t going to buy any more books. I’d already made my selection, a hardback on the Tutor dynasty that included the famed King Henry VIII. You know him. He was the English dude who ended two of his six marriages by execution.
Anyway, as I exited the bookstore, I pondered the proliferation of self-help books. After the death of a loved one, we often turn to this section for advice about grieving. A whole lot more of the books detail how to be something or get something.
So, I wondered, if these books are so helpful, why do they keep selling? I mean, if the secret to self-esteem is inside the pages, for example, and you read the book, well, you don’t need to read another on how to gain confidence, right?
As quickly as I posed this question silently in my brain, I knew the answer.
Action. That’s the secret. Action is the key to every self-help book you or I will ever read and an critical key to any change we want to adopt.
We must take action. We must work the steps, be a doer, not just a reader.
Getting on the side of grief where tears don’t spill out at the slightest provocation is a different matter – and the same. We must take action to achieve healing – and we also can do nothing to speed things along.
“How can it be both?” you ask.
I often use the analogy of planting explain complexities. Grief is a winter of the soul. Our field – our lives – are littered with the death of what once was. It might appear that our field will never yield anything beautiful and satisfying again.
But after a while, we plow. We get the soil ready for tomorrow. We put good seed into the ground, and then we wait. And wait. And pray for rain. Or pull out a hose.
We cannot control the sprouting of the seed nor the speed at which a young plant will grow, but we can prepare our lives for something good to arrive.
What action can we take in the midst of grief to point us toward healing?
A year ago in July, I posted a blog entitled A Decade with Grief: Eight Behaviors That Transformed Pain into Peace, which detailed the action points that put my on the road toward healing. Allow me to offer three important points here today:
- Nurture your hope. Talk to people who’ve walked through the loneliness of loss. Recall your previous losses. You got to a better place. You will again.
- Sit with Grief. Don’t ignore it nor deny it. Wail. Ponder. Question. We cannot journey toward healing by going around grief. We can only go through it.
- Pray, pray, pray. Hold conversations with God about each feeling and thought. And listen for his reply and guidance. He wants to comfort you.
Our grief changes and rockets us toward healing as we, I believe, experience epiphanies. But we cannot order an epiphany like we order a medium-well T-bone at Longhorn Steakhouse. We’ve prepared the ground. We’ve taken all the action we can take. Now we must wait for the seed to surface.
I felt guilty for not being by my mother’s side when the died. I ruminated over this for two years and then one night while driving home I realized my mother didn’t know she was going to die on July 19, 2009, either. Hospice didn’t think she was going to die that night. So, how could I? That perspective helped me forgive myself.
The changes within us can be imperceptible at times. Keep to the plow. Scatter the seed. And continue watering. Don’t give up on yourself, on life, nor on God.
This is the self-help that works. Grief is stubborn. It will refuse to follow a five-step process, but we may offer it space to do its painful tasks. And in time, we will find ourselves walking past the bookstore’s self-help section to read about the drama of five centuries before we were ever born.
Do self-help books or information help you? If so, I’d love to hear what tips or suggestions helped smooth your journey.
Copyright © 2020 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved. www.tonilepeska.com