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Pilgrim's Guides


  Facing the Reality of Grief
Part Two





Knowing God
Faith or Presumption?
The Shock of Severed Hopes and Shattered Dreams
Broken Relationships
When the Grief is all our Own Fault
Shrinking Horizons
Changing Roles
Shock and Guilt in the Aftermath of Loss (i)
Shock and Guilt in the Aftermath of Loss (ii)
No Pit so Deep
Eleventh Hour miracle?

Removing Trauma

Never too Late to Grieve
Yielded Hearts and Altered Perspectives
The Power of Letting Go.
A Pilgrim Restored
Angelic Assistance
The Treasures of Darkness

  Lord, take away, melt away, rend away grief,
hide away, steer our days through,
drip-feeding, deep-cleansing,
all the dagger wounds left behind.
Fire away, every way
steer our days through.
  After our ministry team broke up in 1985, the Lord confirmed to Ros that I was going to find this hard to handle because I had “never experienced failure before.” How right He was! Not only was I profoundly shocked by seeing the ministry team going their separate ways, I felt traumatized that I had let the Lord down by getting a central part of our vision wrong, and by the fact that God had chosen not to restore the team once we had woken up to where we had been going wrong.

So far as I was concerned, confessing our mistakes to God and each other, and learning from them, was all it should have taken to retrieve the situation. But that was not how the Lord allowed events to turn out.

I was familiar with the idea that the Lord might, if need be, do what shepherds occasionally did in biblical days to sheep who insisted on going their own way. First they would break their leg, and then they would carry them around with them until they were healed. Not only were such sheep “cured” of their tendency to run wild – they often became trustworthy leaders of the flock.

Even though I had always assumed a profound trust in the sovereignty of God, it had never occurred to me that the Lord would allow me to go through anything as intense as this. It would have saved me a great deal of anxiety had I known then what I do now about the need to lift off the effects of shock and trauma. It is important to be aware that whereas grief is a process that takes as long as it takes to recover from, trauma and shock need to be actively resisted and lifted off in prayer.

Trauma comes as the result of intense emotional shocks and woundings. It induces such an overwhelming sense of fear and powerlessness that it can cause immense psychological distress to the soul, overpowering people’s ability to cope with their grief symptoms, and drawing them vividly and intrusively back to the event that triggered the trauma. If this in turn makes them feel that their role and place in life is under threat, they may find themselves responding with alarm to any fresh challenge. In other words, once anxiety obtains a foothold, it can spread in all directions like cracks in a pane of glass.

When someone is grieving, they may wish that such and such had not happened. When they are traumatized, however, they may well be inclined to feel that everything is their fault – and that things are bound to go on getting worse for them. In other words, having gnawed away at their trust levels, trauma now attacks their central identity. That it is why it is important to lift it off as quickly as possible through prayer and counsel.

Throughout his long pastoral ministry, David Woodhouse prayed with many people to set them free from the effects of fear, shock and trauma. His wife often prayed in the same way for him to be protected from post-operative trauma whenever he came round from one of the numerous and lengthy operations his state of health required him to undergo. Sometimes the medical staff heard her praying, and, realising that such trauma can be life threatening, commended the practice highly. It also led to some of them identifying themselves as Christians.

There are many routes by which trauma can assail the soul: the sudden onset of illness (or its prolonged continuation); for instance accidents; intimidation at work; abuse at home; contact with evil in any of its many manifestations (especially violent crime); as well as unexpected demands and unfair constraints. No wonder the emotionally sensitive sometimes wonder if they are going crazy, and experience panic attacks in the aftermath of a grief episode!19

Some of you may also be experiencing “secondary” traumatization, as the result of working in situations of extreme poverty or danger, of the kind that members of the Fire, Police and Ambulance Services regularly face, not to mention social workers in our own country and aid workers in developing countries. If this is true for you, may the Lord lift the shock of each traumatic episode from you, and enable you to continue the work that God has called you to do.

Road accidents are particularly shock inducing because of the suddenness of the impact, and the fact that there is nothing we can do to prepare ourselves. May the Lord grant special grace to lift the trauma from those who have friends and family members who have been killed or injured in this way – as well as those who are fighting the fear of ever getting back into a car again.

For many of us, however, the roots of our trauma lie in cumulative pressures rather than in single episodes. It is when further grief episodes come our way that the underlying grief risks exploding into total trauma.

Telling the truth about traumatic events is considered crucial for full healing to occur, but this is complicated by the fact that trauma is a seedbed that fosters secrets. When we deliberately suppress all reference to certain events or vital facts, we develop “walls” in our hearts. This in turn is likely to have a negative impact on other key relationships, as our trust levels swing and dip.

It is not that we are to rake up unpleasant facts from the past for the sake of it, let alone to drag in others who need have no awareness of the issues involved. We are blessed, however, if we can find someone trustworthy to share our traumas with. If they are not trustworthy, the consequences can be far-reaching. As Sir Thomas Browne wrote, “Let him have the key to thy heart who hath the lock to his own.”

If we find our concentration levels and our decision making capabilities seriously impaired, it may be a sign that trauma is pushing us beyond the boundaries of “normal” grief into a major depressive disorder. In these instances, we almost certainly ought to consider seeking professional help from doctors, pastors or counsellors. As these people provide us with a secure environment to talk and pray issues through, trauma is often minimised, or even removed altogether. We shall have important things to say about a highly effective way of removing trauma in the section “The Power of Writing to Heal.” It is a blessing beyond words when the ground underfoot begins to feel “solid,” and we are again able to sense the Lord’s peace and presence!

Reflect and Pray
Like all the “starter” prayers in this book, the following is intended purely as a launch pad for going deeper into the Lord’s presence in order to find His strength and comfort.

Father of Comfort,
cleanse and release my soul now
from all shock and trauma.
Remove each shaft and shard,
so that none remain trapped inside.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Serif photo dvd



Never too Late to Grieve
Two wounds touching start to bleed again.
Rachel Hadas (Fix It)

At certain level crossings in rural France, signs can be seen warning that one train can conceal another: “Un train peut en cacher un autre.” In much the same way, any loss we experience has the potential to release other losses that we never allowed ourselves to grieve about at the time. Read More . . .
19 Reid Wilson explores these themes in greater detail in Don't Panic! (1996) Harper Perennial.

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