Issues and Answers

The starting line for healthy grieving

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript

Participants: Shelley Quinn (Host), Karen Nicola


Series Code: IAA

Program Code: IAA000467A

00:01 Join us today on Issues and Answers.
00:03 We'll be speaking with author
00:05 and grief counselor, Karen Nicola.
00:07 And we will be talking about
00:09 the beginning of healthy grieving.
00:43 Hi, I'm Shelley Quinn,
00:44 and we welcome you once again to Issues and Answers.
00:48 Today we have a guest who is returning with us
00:52 and her name is Karen Nicola.
00:54 And we're going to be talking about the issue of grieving
00:58 but more specifically,
01:00 how do we begin healthy grieving.
01:03 So please welcome with me Karen Nicola who is an author.
01:08 You are a...
01:09 Tell us a little bit about your educational background,
01:12 I didn't do much to introduce you last time.
01:15 Well, thank you for asking, Shelley.
01:17 I'm an educator
01:19 and I call myself a grief educator today.
01:22 I've been a classroom,
01:23 high school classroom teacher for 14 years
01:26 and love the high school students.
01:28 I taught elementary students,
01:30 I did even a little one teacher school
01:32 for a couple of years and that was a fun adventure.
01:34 So I've always found myself
01:37 in some capacity of educating others.
01:39 And now my work is to educate people about grief.
01:43 And your journey to make the transition
01:49 from high school education to grief educator
01:53 began because of the specific incidents.
01:56 Just briefly tell us again about your story?
01:58 Yes.
02:00 Actually my son passed away
02:02 long before I became a classroom teacher.
02:05 But that was the beginning
02:09 of my experience with loss and grief.
02:12 And coming to understand that
02:15 I had no idea what to expect in that grieving journey,
02:20 and so it has really been a sacred work,
02:24 it's been a very humbling work
02:27 to come alongside people in their brokenness.
02:30 So tell me then,
02:31 we know that your son was three and half years old
02:33 when he died of leukemia
02:35 which was such a shock.
02:36 But how did you then you
02:40 didn't speak you're too young to have been through
02:44 all of this before his death,
02:46 but how did you make the decision
02:50 to go into full time ministry,
02:52 because you now have a ministry called Comfort for the Day.
02:57 Where did that decision come from?
02:59 Well, that decision came
03:00 when I republished in the second edition
03:03 my book Comfort for the Day.
03:05 I was still teaching at in the high school classroom
03:09 and beginning to speak again
03:12 about this topic going for Sabbath sermons and workshops
03:18 and I was laboring with the Lord.
03:20 I mean, I love the classroom,
03:21 I love the energy of high school students,
03:23 I love watching their ha-ha moments,
03:25 and that's a very positive atmosphere
03:27 to walk into everyday.
03:29 And then I knew
03:30 that if I was gonna go the other direction
03:33 to step into people's pain
03:36 and be with them there and educate people
03:38 about pain and loss
03:39 and how to be good comforters that,
03:41 that would be a different energy completely
03:43 and I struggled with that for a little while.
03:46 I ask my local church pastor,
03:48 she would dedicate me for this work
03:50 and one Sabbath
03:52 there was a very beautiful dedication service.
03:55 And from that point forward the Lord said,
03:59 I've called you to do comfort for the day work.
04:02 Amen.
04:04 And so I've been just following the open doors
04:06 that he has provided for me
04:08 and which brings me sitting here in front of you,
04:11 as well as many other audiences across
04:13 the North America division.
04:14 I can't tell you how excited I'm
04:18 to find this ministry that God has raised up
04:22 and it is blossoming
04:24 because we definitely need resources
04:28 in the Adventist community as Adventist Christians.
04:32 It seems that the resources that we've used
04:35 for grief are from outside
04:38 so it's wonderful to see
04:40 someone within our own group coming up
04:43 because there's I think in some respects
04:47 we have a little different take on it
04:49 because we have a better understanding
04:52 of what happens at death.
04:53 So it's very exciting that you're doing this
04:56 and I know that you're anxious to go on
04:58 and get on with the program...
05:00 Well, could I just add to your comment there, Shelley,
05:01 because not only to have this comforting understanding
05:05 that death is sleep.
05:07 We have this beautiful picture of the character of God.
05:10 Amen.
05:12 And in that picture of who God is
05:15 that can help us in our darkest moments
05:19 when we might be railing and angry at him
05:22 because we're confused by the lies
05:24 that have been fed to us from every angle,
05:27 and that's why Comfort for the Day the book
05:30 and the ministry is based on God's word,
05:32 because it is about his word that reveals his character,
05:37 that bring us hope and healing for our broken hearts.
05:41 And the book is called Comfort for the Day
05:43 as is the ministry
05:45 and that is,
05:51 And the book is Living Through the Seasons of Grief
05:55 and we will not be speaking specifically today
05:58 to the journaling part of right to this...
06:00 System.
06:02 And that will be our next week's program.
06:05 But it is a lovely book Comfort for the Day:
06:08 Living Through the Seasons of Grief,
06:10 that gives you some instruction
06:12 on how to journaling some thoughts
06:15 to process this
06:16 and journaling is very cathartic,
06:20 it helps you focus,
06:22 it helps you really connect with God
06:24 and that's what this is just like David's Psalms
06:28 where his prayer journal so.
06:30 So we're going to be talking today
06:32 specifically about bereavement spiral.
06:36 Now explain the difference between
06:39 what we call grief and bereavement.
06:42 So grief is a giant umbrella,
06:44 that umbrella is the reaction that we have,
06:47 the natural normal necessary reactions
06:50 we have to loss.
06:52 And those losses could be anything
06:53 from the death of a pet,
06:55 to the loss of a dream, to the loss of a home,
06:58 or finances, health,
07:00 that's all that general, that's grief.
07:03 Bereavement is specific,
07:04 when we experience a loss of death.
07:07 That a person no longer is with us
07:09 and now we have to adjust
07:11 to this brokenness in our hearts
07:14 for the loss and the love that is no longer there.
07:17 Amen. Amen.
07:19 So explain how you
07:22 'cause this is obviously something
07:23 that you have created yourself.
07:26 Let's walk us through this bereavement spiral.
07:29 So the bereavement spiral was actually created
07:31 because as a counterpoint
07:34 to thinking about grief is just those five stages.
07:39 And that bereavement is much more than that.
07:41 If there is no stage,
07:43 everybody's grief is unique in individual
07:46 and the spiral is only a sample of
07:48 what might occur in someone's grief journey.
07:52 And so the spiral helps us see when you look at it,
07:56 do you see that some things repeat themselves.
07:58 Oh, yes.
07:59 And I mean, you know,
08:00 it's interesting that you start off in this spiral,
08:04 it works from the inside out,
08:06 but the shock, the pain,
08:08 the numbness, the denial,
08:10 we're going through here and we see that,
08:13 for me personally
08:16 I see that I'm immediately focused on numbness
08:20 because I have my own problem with grieving
08:26 is that I don't do it publicly
08:29 and I have a tendency to stuff it,
08:32 it's kind of like let's go on with things you know,
08:34 after a certain period of time
08:36 and think I was kind of trained up to be this way.
08:39 So what happens for me is I get stuck in that numb,
08:44 that numbness stage.
08:46 And I've been experiencing a little bit of that
08:48 recently over the death of my sister
08:50 which was two years, almost two years ago.
08:53 But I thought I had kind of dealt with it
08:57 and then suddenly something triggered
08:59 and I've been feeling that numbness again,
09:01 you know, so you go through various things.
09:04 Our culture does not affirm the grief experiences.
09:08 Especially the Christian culture
09:10 if I might say.
09:12 Yeah.
09:13 And the worldly culture, there really is no,
09:15 just this is the prime example.
09:17 When we have child birth, in our culture today,
09:21 there is a three month pregnancy leave.
09:26 Yes.
09:27 Birthing leave.
09:29 And how lovely that that mother and her baby
09:31 and then the father gets a month too.
09:34 This family gets to bond and built together.
09:36 Do you know how much leave is provided for bereavement?
09:39 Two days.
09:41 If you're lucky, three.
09:43 Yeah.
09:44 So let's just look at what that means.
09:46 Yes.
09:47 We're talking about the two life shared experiences,
09:51 birth and death.
09:53 And we give two days, three days
09:57 for bereavement leave.
09:58 And there is no way
10:00 that our minds can be focused and functional physiologically
10:04 to return to the workplace.
10:07 And so what do we do?
10:08 We have to numb in order to get around that.
10:11 And even in that numbness we're less than our optimum.
10:15 We're not at our best. Yes.
10:17 And so that's just an example of how our culture denies us
10:21 the normal, natural, necessary actions of grief,
10:27 processes of grief,
10:28 and so I'm just so happy to be able to explain to people that,
10:33 if you need to take more time,
10:35 if you can arrange to do that, please do that.
10:39 If you can be gentle on yourself
10:41 with having to return back into the work force,
10:44 back into the work world.
10:45 By all means,
10:48 is not that person's life to be honored?
10:52 Do you know how long Israel took when Moses died?
10:55 Over a year.
10:56 Not quite, they took a month.
10:58 They took a month off before they moved anywhere else
11:01 and at least that month allow them
11:04 to mourn Moses' absence.
11:07 I was thinking you know, I said a year,
11:09 I know that when a couple married
11:11 is where my mind went.
11:13 Yes. Yes, they had year.
11:14 They had a whole year
11:16 to become accustom to one another before so.
11:19 So the spiral is kind of just a visual to see that
11:23 there is no set organized phases of grief.
11:29 It's haphazard, it's mixed up.
11:32 Everyone grieves differently.
11:33 Everybody grieves differently,
11:35 the relationship with the person
11:36 that is dead are all unique to every human being.
11:39 My husband and I didn't grieve the same.
11:41 We lost our same son
11:43 but I was a mother, he was a father.
11:46 That relationship would generate
11:48 different types of grief.
11:49 And this between male and female
11:51 sometimes generates different type of grief.
11:53 So I like to say, you know,
11:55 we will grieve as unique as our thumb prints are.
11:58 Amen.
11:59 And everybody needs to be given that freedom to do that,
12:01 to grieve in their own unique way.
12:03 Karen, let me ask you a question,
12:04 I don't know if this is the appropriate time,
12:06 but quite often when a child dies,
12:11 particularly if it's an accident
12:12 or particularly if one spouse has been involved
12:17 in an accident say with a child,
12:18 and the result is a child's death.
12:20 But almost always
12:22 when a child dies in a marriage,
12:25 I mean it affects because people do grieve differently.
12:29 Sometimes I see, you know, you're counseling with someone
12:32 and they're mad at the husband
12:33 because he doesn't appear to be grieving or vice versa.
12:38 It's so often a strain on a marriage.
12:41 When you lost your three and half year old son,
12:44 what was a stress like on your marriage?
12:48 We were aware that
12:50 that could devastate our marriage,
12:52 because that was just kind of common knowledge.
12:55 And so my husband and I just decided to lock arms
12:58 and we were not going to let this
13:01 take our marriage down.
13:03 But if you're already in a struggling relationship,
13:07 if your marriage is already rocky
13:10 that could be knocks the feet out
13:13 from underneath you.
13:15 And then other pieces
13:16 what we're gonna talk about today is,
13:18 if there is any sense of thinking
13:21 that you're blaming the spouse
13:25 then today's topic is huge,
13:27 to be able to bring healing and hope.
13:30 So when we look at the spiral
13:32 there is one word that's a little bit larger
13:33 in the spiral.
13:35 What do you find, Shelley?
13:36 I noticed it right immediately forgiven.
13:38 Yeah.
13:39 And my question is, when you're saying forgiven,
13:43 is that you have forgiven yourself,
13:45 you have forgiven the deceased, you've forgiven God,
13:48 what does the term forgiven there
13:51 and why does it has such a prominent place on your spiral?
13:55 It has a prominent place on the spiral
13:57 because everything after the word forgiven
14:00 are different grief experiences the one's before.
14:03 The ones on the centre of the spiral out are ones
14:06 that we can get stuck.
14:08 Ones that we can just burrow in,
14:10 and they will stay in depression
14:12 or stay in denial,
14:13 or stay in numbness, or stay in blame, and guilt,
14:16 and regrets or shame.
14:18 And we can just spiral round and round and round
14:21 and never get through that.
14:23 And once we allow forgiveness
14:27 to be a part of our grief experience,
14:29 our bereavement experience.
14:32 Our grief changes,
14:34 that's why I say it is the starting line
14:37 for healthy grieving,
14:39 so that we can move forward.
14:41 And so it's huge,
14:43 it's just a huge piece of what makes grief healthy.
14:48 All right, but that was a... Okay.
14:49 I want to come back to your question
14:51 because I heard someone say recently,
14:53 actually said it to me is that
14:56 you need to forgive your sister for dying.
15:00 I thought, now that's a strange thing to say,
15:04 but it did trigger in me
15:08 some things from the past that you know,
15:11 may be some past wound something.
15:14 And I've seen people also
15:16 who feel that they needed
15:18 to forgive their spouse for dying
15:20 because they felt abandoned and all this.
15:23 Explain that whole process?
15:25 Well, I think we need to start out with the fact
15:27 that we live in a broken world.
15:29 And there is no relationship that is perfect.
15:33 Amen.
15:34 As much as I loved my son with all of my heart,
15:38 I was not a perfect mom.
15:42 And in his little three and half years,
15:45 he did things that would push my buttons
15:47 or trigger me in a marriage relationship
15:51 of 60 years, 50 years, 40 years,
15:53 well sure let's just say best scenario,
15:56 they're deeply in love
15:58 and death occurs for one of them.
16:01 There are still unfinished business in that relationship.
16:05 Sure.
16:07 There should, there are still
16:08 the would have, could have, should haves.
16:10 There is a regret, there is the blame,
16:12 there is the if only and what if's.
16:15 There are just no perfect relationships,
16:18 so forgiveness gets to be all of the above.
16:24 Starting with our own ability
16:27 to receive God's forgiveness first
16:30 because I cannot give something to you that I do not have.
16:34 If you ask me today to give you a $100 bill,
16:37 I couldn't do that.
16:40 And if I didn't have already
16:43 the reception of God's forgiveness,
16:45 could I give it now to a doctor
16:48 who I thought was to blame,
16:50 to a murderer who came and killed
16:52 my child or sister or niece,
16:56 could I give that forgiveness to my husband
16:58 who had abused me all through our marriage,
17:01 maybe our marriage was horrible, you see.
17:04 So if I have not yet received forgiveness,
17:06 I will not have anything to give.
17:09 So it begins with accepting
17:14 God's forgiveness for my own,
17:16 my own things.
17:17 So then,
17:19 this is not just the forgiveness is not
17:23 in the instance of the death so much
17:26 as it is that Lord forgive me,
17:29 I mean just 1 John 1:9
17:31 that we know if we confess our sins,
17:33 he's faithful and just to forgive us of our sins
17:35 and cleanse us of all unrighteousness,
17:36 so we're at that point
17:38 were we understand the process of forgiveness
17:43 and God's forgiveness
17:44 but then maybe we do look and think,
17:47 Lord forgive me that I wasn't good enough mother
17:49 or forgive me when I did this,
17:51 forgive me when I hurt them here
17:53 or forgive me for not forgiving him.
17:56 So I'll tell you my story, Shelley,
17:58 here is where it was
18:01 life changing transformation for me.
18:04 We knew our son was going to die.
18:06 The doctors had said,
18:07 his leukemia cannot be cured even if we re-medicate,
18:11 it only extend his life
18:12 but the quality of his life would be terrible.
18:14 If we don't re-medicate, he will still die,
18:17 he will die either way.
18:18 So we went to Weimar Institute
18:21 and at that time Dr. Sang Lee was there,
18:23 and we visited with him
18:25 because we wanted to keep his body as healthy
18:26 as possible for as long as possible.
18:30 And as we were speaking with him about
18:31 all these different healthy natural remedies
18:33 and approaches,
18:34 he leaned forward and he told me you're forgiven.
18:39 And I kind of just smiled at myself
18:41 and went like, yeah, I know.
18:44 I know I'm forgiven,
18:45 that was just my inner conversation
18:47 and he went on with other natural remedies
18:49 and treatments and so forth,
18:50 and then he stopped again and he said you're forgiven.
18:56 And second time I was little bit uncomfortable.
19:00 What am I forgiven for that I don't know.
19:02 What is he trying to tell me?
19:07 And then he continued with his conversation with us
19:09 and we're just about ready in finishing
19:11 and he leans forward again
19:12 and the third time he says, you're forgiven.
19:17 And the third time is when the miracle occurred.
19:21 And that miracle, Shelley,
19:23 is when God took
19:26 what I had intellectually known about forgiveness,
19:29 and transformed it to the core of my heart.
19:34 And that changed everything
19:36 because up until that time I had only
19:38 intellectually known I was forgiven.
19:41 I had not known it in my soul.
19:43 I had not experienced it in its cleansing capacity,
19:48 and it's completely wiping out of every mistake
19:54 I had ever made of every intentional
19:58 and unintentional way of behaving towards my son.
20:03 I went home that night a forgiven mom.
20:07 And that left me with no garbage,
20:11 no regrets, no blame,
20:12 no shame,
20:14 I was forgiven that left me free to love.
20:18 And so on this bereavement spiral
20:21 when forgiveness,
20:23 when we've accepted and received
20:25 the transformational forgiveness,
20:28 the kind of forgiveness
20:29 that Jesus gave to the paralytic
20:31 as he lay on his mat.
20:34 And he looks down and he says,
20:35 "Son, your sins are forgiven."
20:40 And we're told that that was enough for that man.
20:44 He didn't even need to be healed.
20:47 He didn't need to walk
20:48 because what had burdened him most
20:51 was the burden in his heart,
20:53 the regrets, and the shame,
20:54 and the blame.
20:55 So now what can I give,
21:00 oh, not intellectual forgiveness anymore,
21:02 that's not what I give you.
21:04 I can give you forgiveness from my heart.
21:07 And that's a forgiveness
21:08 Jesus calls us to be able now to forgive another with.
21:12 And the example of the parable of the king
21:16 who forgave his steward of this enormous debt
21:20 and then that man goes out and strangle somebody
21:22 for just a few pennies as it were,
21:25 and Jesus says at the end he goes, you know,
21:28 it's important that you forgive from your heart,
21:31 this is what it's supposed to happen.
21:33 I had never received forgiveness into my heart.
21:38 And it was powerfully transformative,
21:41 and likewise I believe it is the starting line
21:44 to transform our grief into healthy grieving.
21:48 So in your spiral then,
21:50 am I hearing you say, that forgiven,
21:53 when this word forgiven,
21:55 it has to do with receiving forgiveness.
21:58 This is at that point...
22:00 Absolutely.
22:01 That you are just accepting God,
22:03 it doesn't have anything to do
22:05 with forgiving another person at that point,
22:08 is that correct?
22:09 At that point that's exactly right,
22:11 because you see the Lord calls us to honesty.
22:15 He says I long for you to be honest in the inward part.
22:20 And that honesty is enough to say, you know,
22:24 I did hurtful things to this person
22:27 who passed away.
22:28 And now they're dead and I can't go back
22:31 and fix that with them.
22:34 So do I want to live with those regrets?
22:37 Do I wanna live with that shame and that self blame?
22:40 Or do I want to live forgiven and free?
22:45 Do you think that there are people who...
22:52 Quite often we'll hear something,
22:54 let's use the example of the wife
22:56 that has been abused.
22:58 And she may be saying,
23:00 "Okay, my husband was abusive all of our married life
23:04 and when he died
23:05 I don't feel like I did things to cause this abuse,
23:08 I don't feel like is there anything
23:10 I need to be forgiven for.
23:13 How does she face this step?
23:16 Then she faces this step
23:17 with truly though all have sinned
23:20 and fallen short of the glory of God.
23:22 So if we don't have responsibility
23:25 and we know we're not responsible
23:27 for how someone else's behavior has hurt us.
23:30 We don't need to falsely take that,
23:33 that would be, that would not be honest.
23:35 So first she would just need to be able to process,
23:39 do I know this transformative forgiveness
23:42 that God is giving me.
23:44 Do I know,
23:45 do I understand what Karen is talking about?
23:47 Has this been my experience and when it has been,
23:52 then we can turn around and go
23:53 that there was very hurtful things
23:56 that someone did to me,
23:57 so forgiving another person does not pretend.
24:00 It does not say,
24:01 oh, that's okay, or they're gone now,
24:03 it doesn't matter.
24:05 Yes, it matters.
24:06 It all matters.
24:07 They have hurt and wounded
24:09 and damaged you,
24:12 and that hurt,
24:14 and wound, and damage
24:15 your place of being able to move pass that
24:19 begins with being able to say you are forgiven.
24:24 You are forgiven because my Lord
24:26 and savior Jesus Christ took upon him all your sin
24:31 and he's already died for it on the cross,
24:34 and who am I to withhold forgiveness
24:36 from someone that Jesus has already died for.
24:39 And so all that pain that
24:41 someone else might have caused us,
24:43 the deceased person could have caused us,
24:46 has already been dealt with Jesus.
24:48 So my withholding forgiveness is kind of like
24:52 me drinking poison
24:54 and expecting the other person to be hurt by it,
24:56 because it poisons my life.
24:58 It keeps me stuck in that spiral of pain
25:03 and that's not what God calls us to,
25:05 he calls us to healing for our broken heart.
25:08 I asked the Lord once for an illustration on forgiveness
25:12 and now what he showed me was you know,
25:14 you just kind of,
25:16 you ever get these pictures in your mind
25:17 and you're praying with the Lord.
25:19 And it was a hill coming down into a valley,
25:23 it was a mountain stream coming down.
25:27 And then if you took,
25:28 let's say that the stream is the width of this desk,
25:31 so if you were to anchor a wire
25:33 on one side of the stream,
25:35 anchor a wire on another side
25:37 so that you've got a nice stock wire across this.
25:41 Someone upstream throws in McDonald's trash bags,
25:46 I mean they're just throwing in this bash into the stream
25:49 where as the stream,
25:50 as the water flows down it comes
25:53 and when it hits this wire what happens?
25:56 It's caught. It is caught.
25:58 And then as more trash is put in upstream,
26:01 just piece by piece
26:03 it begins to build up across this wire
26:06 and dam it up,
26:08 so what the Lord show me is that wire is like
26:11 unforgiveness in our heart, and then all the trash,
26:15 everything that it just begins to collect around that,
26:18 that's where people get bitter or be sinful
26:21 and then it stops the flow of the living water.
26:26 I mean the Holy Spirit can't flow through us,
26:29 so we are damning up,
26:31 stopping the life of God from really flowing through us,
26:36 when we have unforgiveness in our heart.
26:39 That's a grand illustration, Shelley.
26:42 I gets all the award for that. You bet, you bet, you bet.
26:45 That's beautiful and it so well illustrates
26:49 and added to that is, you know,
26:52 that he can't flow through our lives,
26:54 we are left living and suffering.
26:55 Absolutely.
26:57 I just coached a family of three
26:59 who'd suffered for nine years
27:02 after the death of an adult son,
27:04 they've been a mother, father and an adult,
27:07 and the older brother.
27:08 And when they came to this place
27:10 of being able to receive God's forgiveness
27:14 and then be able to give forgiveness
27:16 to the son who had been a drug addict,
27:19 could cause much havoc in their home.
27:22 It was the most beautiful transformation.
27:26 That family for the first time
27:27 in nine years celebrated Christmas.
27:29 Praise God.
27:31 It was just so powerful.
27:33 So forgiveness has an amazing amount of power.
27:35 Amen.
27:36 I can't believe how rapidly our time has passed by today
27:39 because there're so many things
27:41 I would like to talk to you about,
27:43 just to recap something first, thank you so much,
27:47 Karen for being with us.
27:48 And you can go to Karen's website,
27:51 it is
27:54 and you can get more information
27:55 about your book or other materials.
27:57 But just a quick recap is that
28:00 all of our sorrow,
28:02 all our bereavement,
28:03 all of our grieving
28:05 doesn't happen in any particular order,
28:06 it's different,
28:08 we could go through different phases of it
28:10 that would repeat,
28:12 but once you reach that point of accepting God's forgiveness
28:16 and giving it to someone else,
28:18 everything beyond that becomes more positive,
28:22 that's the beginning of positive grieving.
28:24 Thank you for joining us.


Revised 2016-10-24