by Barb Hill
When we hear the word grief, we might associate it with the loss of something or someone we had in our lives. And that would be true. But what we often overlook is how grief also enters our lives when we are waiting for something or someone that isn’t here yet.
Grief and waiting go together. If you’re waiting, you’re grieving. And what makes this experience of grief so difficult is that it feels invisible. For instance, if you’re waiting for a baby, a spouse, or a physical or emotional healing, it’s unlikely that someone will come to your house with a casserole and offer their condolences. This grief is less tangible and more hidden; which can make us, and our pain, feel invisible in the process.
In truth, waiting feels very different depending on the season we’re in. The physical seasons help us tell the complex, challenging, yet beautiful story of waiting. It wasn’t until I finished the book I was writing on waiting that I realized how much these seasons mirror the six different stages of grief: shock, denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance.
In fall, we are straddling the worlds of shock, denial, and anger. It’s a difficult in-between place and we aren’t sure how to reconcile the pain of waiting with a God who loves us. The ambivalence is overwhelming, and the notions of surrender and “letting go” often feel out of reach.
In winter, the wait is taking its toll. We feel our hearts, minds, and bodies buckling underneath the weight of unfulfilled desires. “When hope’s dream seems to drag on and on, the delay can be depressing.” (Proverbs 13:12) We feel depressed by the marathon of waiting and don’t know how to keep going without any visible evidence that our circumstances will change.
In spring, we feel a renewal of hope. After a barren winter, there is finally evidence to support the possibility that our lives can change. But they haven’t yet. This season is yet another in-between place that can lead to bargaining with God. We reach for old formulas and boxes to mitigate uncertainty as we try to bend God and our circumstances to secure what we want.
In summer, we are discovering some invaluable experiences that were lost in the shuffle of other seasons—peace, confidence, surrender, wonder, and acceptance. We may still be waiting but we are learning to wait differently. We are choosing to be transformed by our seasons of waiting, and it no longer feels like a disempowering and passive experience, but rather an invitation to be an empowered participant in our lives and relationships with God.
All of us know what it is to be disappointed, anxious, uncertain, hopeless, and grieving. But God does not leave us alone in this. He is faithful to walk with us through every season.
My hope is that we will experience the transformation available to us in our seasons of waiting. Each season is an invitation to vulnerability, honesty, healing, surrender, wholeness, hope, and so much more.
Barb Hill is the author of Seasons of Waiting: An Invitation to Hope. Barb is a licensed mental health therapist and the founder of Holding Space Counseling, a group practice where she works as a trauma therapist. Barb calls Nashville, TN home, and when she isn’t working you can find her sitting with a friend over coffee or exploring new places with her pup, Nash.