Glen Campbell and How to Cope with Complicated Grief

I just saw on Facebook that one of my favorite childhood singers passed away. Glen Campbell battled Alzheimers for years. It was hard watching him slip away slowly through media clips. I can only imagine how painful it was for his dear family.

I also saw that my friend Sharon’s mom ended her battle with the same disease. I met Sharon at a writers conference years ago, and her tender posts on FB about her visits with her mom at the nursing home always touched my daughter heart.

My sister and I watched our dad drift deeper and deeper into dementia’s abyss for years before he passed away with the last chords of Hank Williams’s “I’ll Fly Away” playing on my laptop.

Alzheimers and other types of dementia are cruel diseases that steal memories, relationships, and connection.

I think back on the loss of my dad and the myriad emotions I felt. The deep sadness. The anger over things that should have been handled differently. The empty, orphany sensation deep in my gut.

And the confusing relief.

I say the relief was confusing because it was riddled with guilt. How could I be relieved my daddy was dead? Yes, I was relieved he was no longer stuck in that prison body of his. Certainly no guilt in that. But I struggled with the relief I felt for myself. It was heartbreaking to go see him losing himself, bit-by-bit. It was devastating to look in his eyes and not see his tell-tale twinkle. It was frustrating to spend every school break flying in to see a man who wouldn’t even know my name. It hurt me to lose my dad before his heart ever stopped beating, and his passing brought a deep sense of relief that the enemy worked hard to convince me was evil, selfish, and wrong.

The enemy is a jerk liar who will use anything, anything, even sacred grief to destroy us.

Grief is messy, complicated, and unable to be placed on a timeline, deadline, or book outline.

Lengthy illnesses such as dementia are devastating for the whole family. The intense strain of caregiving has a way of draining the strength right out of you. Feeling a sense of relief when a long-ill loved one passes is not off-base. It’s a natural response to being set free from a heavy load. It just so happens that the heavy load was also a treasured relationship. That’s what makes it tricky for the heart. It feels something like a betrayal, but it’s not.

For those of you out there watching your loved ones suffer a prolonged illness, know God sees you. He grieves with you even before your loved one dies. His hands are on your sagging shoulders and spirit. His comfort sits in waiting for an aching heart like yours. Lean into Him. Let Him hold you and strengthen your frame. Oh, how He loves you!

Don’t allow the enemy to convince you that your secret prayers of, “Please, Lord, if You’re not going to heal him, please take him home,” are selfish or off-base. You can be honest with God. He craves that kind of transparency from us.

And for those of you who are suffering fresh losses, know God eases in extra close to the brokenhearted. He picks up the shards of Your broken heart and pieces them back together again more beautiful for the scars. Let Him hold you, parent you, be the lover of your soul as you sort through that complicated grief.

May I pray for you?

Lord, 

It hurts to lose the ones we love. Whether the death is sudden or expected, loss is a ripping away of the most tender places in our hearts. Thank you for being the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:1 NIV). Please pour compassion and comfort into the grieving ones right now. Glen Campbell’s family, friends and fans. My friend Sharon and all the others her dear mother touched. My friends Suzie and ADonna who lost parents this summer. My friend Leah who lost her husband suddenly and is now raising four young adopted children on her own. And so many others.

Please, Lord, help them sort through the wide array of emotions and process each one with Your truth light not the enemy’s dark lies.

Give them the grace they need to take their time and not feel like they need to fit into an outline some grief expert put together. You, Lord, are the One we must look to. You understand. As Father God, You suffered the loss of Your one and only son. As Savior God, you were “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3 NKJV). And as Spirit God, You intercede on our behalf when we just don’t know what to say (Romans 8:26).

Thank you, Lord, for being there for us for the long haul. You are “the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. [You] will not grow tired or weary, and [Your] understanding no one can fathom” (Isaiah 40:28 NIV). You will be there even after everyone else grows impatient with our pain. 

Hold the grieving ones today, and help them through. In Jesus’s Name I pray, AMEN

Are you grieving a deep loss right now? Or do you have a loved one who is? Leave me a comment and let me know, so I can pray for you. 

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