By: Jen Opgenorth, MA
Coach with Carrie O’Toole Ministries
Typically when people hear the words ‘Good grief!’ They think of Charlie Brown, the famous Peanuts character. He uses that phrase when he is frustrated with someone or something.
But when I take a closer look at the phrase, ‘Good grief!’, what comes to mind is…can grief ever be good?! No one usually equates grief with good. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of grief is: “deep, sorrow; trouble or annoyance; an unfortunate outcome”.
The grief surrounding the outcome of our adoption was indeed unfortunate. Nothing about it felt good. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. How did I get to this place of despair?
The weeks and months after we relinquished our adoption, the waves of judgment hit me in the face like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I anticipated the pain that resulted in the loss of our adoption. But this? Like that one big wave in the ocean that you don’t see coming, this one wiped me out.
The days that followed our relinquishment were horrific. The horror of realizing that someone in the community made a post on Facebook blasting my family, calling us monsters and telling everyone that we didn’t want our daughter, that we ‘got rid of her’. What came next was a torrential storm of more judgment, shame and isolation. How could people that we knew, people that understood we were struggling in our adoption, turn and walk away?
Former friends, community members, extended family…they simply ghosted us. Satan held nothing back in the wake of judgment.
The aftermath that we were experiencing in the way of judgment was just another layer of grief on top of the grief that came from the loss we felt about our adoption. The thing is, no one else saw our relinquishment as grief for us. But it was. Just because we had to find another family for our daughter did not mean we didn’t care about her. Losing her was the death of a dream. That grief was smothering at times. And the whole time, I remember thinking: ‘Where was God?’.
A few months later, the year 2020 brought even more loss. More isolation. More fear. Many of us suffered even more heartache as days rolled into months, and we were forced into isolation due to the pandemic.
I don’t know anyone who does grief well. As human beings, we are wired to do our best to avoid the kind of pain that threatens to swallow us whole. Oh, I tried to bury it deep and look on the bright side of things. I had a family to raise, and my kids were watching me. I was the yardstick of how to cope with this grief. I had to pull myself up from under this.
Could loss have something to teach me about God’s goodness? How could grief be good?
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4) Blessed? The word “blessed” in this verse means favored by God. Nothing about grief and loss makes me feel favored. Instead, I wonder what I’ve done to deserve such pain. Why did everyone else’s adoptions look like those you see in magazines?
‘For they will be comforted’? I think back to the nights I was swallowed up by my tears. Oh, the tears! Why didn’t I feel comfort?
And then, like the saying goes, time did heal my wounds. It took a while…a long while. You know, we live in a society where most of us can click a link and order groceries, or new shoes, or anything else we need. We expect gratification and results now. The healing from this grief took time, but God met me. But I had to let Him in, too. In reality, He was always there, patiently waiting for me to look up. But unless we stop pushing away, hiding away, running away, we cannot heal. I had never experienced this level of pain and grief before. I could only think to hide and run because the pain was just too big. Going to a grocery store or to a school function was sometimes paralyzing because I was surrounded with people who I thought could be judging me. So many times, staying home was preferred to avoid the pain. But I knew I couldn’t do that forever.
Over the course of several months, I noticed the beginning signs of healing. Those family members and friends that supported us, they rallied around us and told us they would always be there for us. We leaned on them for comfort and they began to form a counterbalance in our minds, outweighing the people that hurt us. The wounds didn’t feel so deep anymore. The tears were starting to slow. My heart didn’t feel like it was broken in two. That pain that was so palpable in my heart wasn’t crushing me anymore. Broken, yes.but healing.
When we allow God in, we allow healing to begin. God is like the antibiotic ointment on a really bad wound. It starts working, and pretty soon, the wound starts to show signs of healing. There may be a scar remaining, but that scar is now merely evidence that God did His work, and continues to do His work. He worked in me and through me, and He continues to. Why? Well, because He is sovereign. And also, because I allowed Him in. If I had let my heart harden, and allowed bitterness to settle in and take root, then I would’ve missed His mercy and healing in my life, and in the life of my husband and children.
So, the question I have asked myself since is….’Is grief good?’ Well, without grief we wouldn’t have growth. Without growth, we would stay right where we are at. Experiencing love means you are bound at some point to experience loss. Did we expect our loss to be in the form of the adoption we longed for, prayed for, and worked so hard to make right? No, not at all. But that’s how God decided to work. His ways are higher, even when we think….’Well, God, I could think of a thousand different ways this could have gone better!’ But just because we have a plan in our minds, doesn’t mean that’s the best plan. He created us, He set the world in motion, and I’m pretty sure He knows what is best for us because His love for us is INFINITE. Even though your pain right now might not feel like a display of God’s infinite love for you, you have to believe that He has a plan. Will you open up your heart today and let Him be the salve that heals you and grows you? I promise if you do, you will begin to live again.