I used to think
Loving life so greatly
That to die would be
Like leaving a party
Before the end.
Now I know that the party
Is really happening
Somewhere else!
That the light and music
Escape in snatches
(To make the pulse beat
And the tempo quicken)
Come from a long way away
And I know, too
That when I get there
The music will never end.

Grief is a GIFT from our heavenly Father. It is a gift that brings new priorities and with it, new strength for new roles and new tasks. Father designed grief and change to work hand in hand. Small change brings small disruption. Great change; like death, career redirection, medical diagnosis, and the like; brings larger, more staggering grief.

Even positive changes bring some grief. For example, surgeons teach that when a woman has a hysterectomy, she grieves the lost organ, even though she knows that the procedure was necessary and healthy. We can also know that the loss of a loved one is at the right time or that it is better for them, but we are gripped with the pain of our own feelings. It is most often major loss that brings us to counseling.

At The Keys, the counselor helps you to find the “gift of grief”. By relating to the counselor as a trusted friend, you will find out what God wanted to give you as you grieve. Maximum results are ours as we share pain and growth together. Especially debilitating is the belief that we are alone when we grieve. Knowing that we are in communal living, gives us new strength.

Jesus said, “You are blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.” (The Message) The best gift is the embrace of God! I Corinthians 1:9 is paraphrased, “God is faithful…and by Him you are called into companionship and participation with His Son, Jesus, the Messiah.”

Priorities must change when we suffer loss. Even our very identities are re-evaluated and reviewed as we put our hands to different tasks in diverse settings. All of these changes are designed by our loving Father. Psalm 25 translates, “To You, Lord, do I bring my life.” As we bring shattered pieces to him, we find new patterns in His design.

There is a profound paradox in grief. I found it several years ago, when the man to whom I was engaged to be married, died after a long term cancer fight. Eleven months after his death, I wrote a poem which best describes my experience.

The Paradox of Grief (1993)

It happens in the loudness of a quiet moment
There in the presence of absence
In the fertile soil of an empty spirit
In the healing of a broken soul

Grief…with so much comfort
Sorrow…with so much joy
Loneliness in fellowship
Strength…and yet so weak
Together though apart
Purpose as you question
Your abundance in your lack

Holding on…by surrender
Accepting what was
And is to be
Loss is gain
Hurt is healing
Sorrow is joy
Death is consumed in Life
Life in Jesus Christ

In 2007, another major loss was the death of my mother, Lena Gilbreath. Mom’s suffering was one occasion when I questioned God. One day I cried out to Him for answers. It was an unusually difficult time for her, with vomiting (the contents of her obstructed colon), pain that only Morphine would touch, weakness and confusion. Mom seemed to be wondering why God didn’t heal her. After hours of struggle, she slept and I stole out of her sick room to her garden. Out in Mom’s garden, I yelled at God. “After a woman serves you for 70 years, you treat her like this? I don’t believe it!”

God, my Friend, allowed me the comfort of crying bitterly. He didn’t interrupt my fit, but listened and came close to my broken heart. In the quiet I saw a mental picture. In my imagination was a large hand prying open the fingers of a much smaller hand. The open palm was empty. Then in my mind came this explanation, which I believe was from God. He said, “I AM prying open her hand in order to give her LIFE.” At that moment I was comforted and assured by God the Father. His intention was good. His desire was for Mom to experience more LIFE than she ever had. Lena Gilbreath was holding on to the past and the life she knew. God was offering so much more by taking her to Himself.

When God speaks…it settles everything. My pain and confusion subsided as I sat with Him in the garden. In a few days, Mom’s pain and confusion subsided as she sat with Him face to face. What a rest there is in knowing His heart.

It is our desire at The Keys Counseling Ministry to facilitate your personal growth during times of change and grief. We come to you with more than a textbook knowledge of this subject. In fact, our greatest preparation in helping is that we have walked our own journey of loss to find – The Gift of Grief.

“Blessed be the God of every comfort…so that through Christ’s consolation, we may share abundantly the encouragement that we ourselves received.” II Corinthians 1:3, 4 (paraphrased)