The beginning stages of grief are often compared to having the flu, getting in a head-on collision, or running a marathon. And every single widow will attempt to wrap up grief as soon as she can, but this is not possible. In many ways, grief comes to live with us as if we had given birth to a person.
Grief as a new baby
The process of grieving the one we love behaves similar to the developmental stages of a child. In fact, in the early days, grief will often act as a new baby. The first six to nine months following a traumatic experience resemble life as a newborn in that they both need to sleep, eat, and have the freedom to cry, a lot.
The good news: like our children, grief will eventually grow up and move out only returning for a visit here and there.
Processing grief is work, really hard work, much like the growth of a baby in the dark place of the womb. So much of it is unseen in the hidden places of our souls. Dealing with the trauma of losing your husband requires physical, emotional, and even spiritual energy which may cause the body to shut down.
Just as you would not expect a baby to reach full maturity by their first birthday, healing is a process that takes time. It is important to pace yourself understanding that it is definitely not going to be a sprint to the finish line. Sometimes new mamas push their babies to achievements and milestones beyond their physical ability, beware that this can also happen with grief.
5 things you need to know for the newborn stage of grief:
- You will be carried in many ways like a newborn baby is cared for by others. God’s grace and presence are often experienced in this season in a special way. In the dark night of the soul, God is there.
- Shock is a gift to be appreciated. You will enter a type of cocoon or grace-induced coma that allows you to make it through some intense days. Planning a memorial service and handling important business matters (name changes, insurance policies, financial decisions), and caring for your immediate family all take strength. Shock allows you to focus on these without competing with emotions that will soon demand your attention. In this phase, you will exert a lot of energy to the point that people will marvel at your fortitude. You might even falsely believe that you can package everything up really fast, maybe even by the end of the first few months.
- Rest is necessary. A physical baby requires 14-17 hours of sleep per day. God performs some of His best work while we are sleeping! This is also true when we are sad. You may feel as if all productivity left when your husband did; however, much growth is taking place in the secret place. Give yourself permission to let things go to pick up rest at this time. You will come back stronger and with a beauty that only suffering can produce. Like that caterpillar in the cocoon, the magnificent butterfly reminds us of this truth.
- Food is essential. A baby needs nourishment, and a steady intake of milk is important for its growth. In the same way, the word of God will provide the much-needed spiritual sustenance for our souls. And just as it takes time before a baby is ready to digest meat, this may not be the season for rich spiritual food or a lengthy Bible study. A simple psalm or promise of hope can nourish and anchor you during this storm.
“Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:1–3).
- Crying is cleansing and bonding. It is amazing that God designed a baby’s first method of communication to be through tears and crying. Ponder that! The first form of communication for everyone is through crying. And it works! A mother can decipher the code of the cry just through the pitch and the volume. Mother and child start this important bonding almost immediately, soon she can listen to the cry of her baby and determine if the baby is hungry, in pain, needs a diaper change, or just needs to be held and comforted. In the same way, God sees our tears and He also discerns our cries.
“In my distress I called upon the Lord and cried to my God for help. He heard my voice out of his temple and my cry for help before him came into his ears” (Psalm 18:6).
“Evening l, morning, and noon I cry out in distress and He hears my voice” (Psalm 55:17).
If you are in the early days of grief, the newborn stage, you may feel forgotten, but the truth is that it is not possible for God to forget you.
“Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even if she does forget, you say I will not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15).