The Vale of TearsExperiencing Growth through loss
Preface and Index
Vale of Tears
Every one of us will suffer grief at times in our lives, whether through the death of a loved one, or as the result of some other loss or bereavement. And every one of us will find ourselves walking alongside someone who is grieving, whether just for a few hours, or for a lifetime.
Vale of Tears offers an overview of grief and loss both from the perspective of the person who is suffering, and by sharing wisdom for those who are seeking to come alongside them. Deeper still, it explores many aspects of the heart of God Himself in relation to loss and mourning, and provides devotional opportunities for drawing close to Him. It embraces many aspects of grief, extending far beyond literal bereavement, and includes strategies to set the soul free from trauma, as well as devotional prayers and reflections for every step of the journey.
The ‘Vale of Tears‘ is a phrase inspired by the biblical Valley of Tears (עֵמֶק הַבָּכָא in Hebrew, and vallis lacrimarum in Latin). The phrase occurs in some versions of Psalm 84:6, and is a powerful metaphor to describe the tribulations that we experience at various stages throughout our lives, and whose ‘gravitational’ influence we will only be fully free from when we reach Heaven.
Whether the griefs we go through crush or mature us depends on our response. In the psalm we see God-focused pilgrims allowing Him to strengthen them even as they pass through distressing experiences. May the Lord find ways to turn these into a place of springs and refreshment as we explore the reality of numerous grief-inducing issues, both personally and corporately – including some that we may never have fully recognised or faced before.
PART ONE: The Valley of the Shadow
PART TWO: Facing the Reality of Grief
Facing the Reality of Grief
Faith or Presumption?
The Shock of Severed Hopes
When the Grief is all Our Own Fault
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?
Never too late to Grieve
Yielded Hearts and altered Perspectives
The Power of Letting Go
A Pilgrim Restored
The Treasures of Darkness
PART THREE: Approaching the Final Transition
PART FOUR: Minimizing Grief’s Desolation
Minimizing Grief’s Desolation
Expressing Grief and Loss
When Impatience sets in
The Power of Resilience
Bringing Rest to Troubled Souls
Too Many Choices
When the Grass Appears Greener
Wounds in the Household of Faith
Moving Beyond the Reef of Rejection
Handling dark Times: Tunnel Experiences
The Dark Night of the Soul
PART FIVE: Strategies For Resolving Grief
PART SIX: Fallout from Grief
PART SEVEN: Lending Our Strength
Lending Our Strength
Coming alongside the Grief-stricken
What if I put my Foot in It?
Is this Grief contagious?
Weeping with those who weep
Caring for the Carers
God Honours those who honour Him
Returning to Society and moving on again
PART EIGHT: If Grief takes Convoluted Paths
If Grief takes Convoluted Paths
Resisting Pain-prone Reactions
Resisting Grief going Underground
Resisting the Stoic Approach
Resisting the Impulse to flee
Resisting making Contact with the Dead
Resisting the Temptation to Suicide
Resisting the Desire to take Revenge
Resisting the “But-what-ifs”
Resisting excessive Self-consciousness
PART NINE: The Wider Picture
The Wider Picture
Escaping Grief’s Gravitational Pull
Never underestimate the Power of Prayer
Burden bearing in the Spirit
Sharing more of the Father’s Grief
When Grief and Deception Engulf Nations
Lest we forget
Prophetic Laments and the Power of Music
The Courage to keep going
Cultivating an eternal Perspective
Appendix One: Exequy (A Funeral Celebration )
Appendix Two: Praise Carts and Protective Mechanisms
I Identification and Idolatry
S Shame and Suppression
T Tensions (The Neurosis of Grief )
S Substitution and Sublimination
Appendix Three: Important Considerations
Appendix Four: Antidotes to Grief
Appendix Five: Final Poems and Prayers
Having experienced the inexplicable nocturnal death of our eleven year old son, we can personally attest to the accuracy of Robert’s explanations, the Holy Spirit’s anointing on his prayers, and the authority of his life-giving council. This important book will help you in and through grief and, beyond any other resource we are aware of, will prepare you to minister to others. Thanks, Robert, for an exceptionally hard job extremely well done.
Paul and Gretel Haglin,
(Resurrection Christian Ministries)
Robert shines warm light on the difficult and dark experience of loss – which can affect any one of us at any time. Liberally peppering his compassionate writing with vivid illustrations, quotes and moving stories – many from his own journey – he provides us with deep understanding of what is happening, as well as pointing us towards strategies for finding “treasures” in the darkness.
As he says, “this book is all about preparing our hearts for times when it feels as though the bottom has fallen out of the world.” Robert helps us equally to come sensitively alongside others in their loss, to help them cast their burden on the Lord.
Rather than ploughing on relentlessly, Robert invites the reader to pause frequently and reflect. To this end he has provided a series of succinct yet striking prayers. Apart from the Bible, which Robert frequently quotes and illuminates, I can think of no better book to help turn loss and grief into the growth experience God intends.
(Jersey Evangelical Alliance)
Grief is like a rocky valley with sharp dark sides. This comprehensive introduction to the grief journey offers the grieving – and those who travel with them – wise and compassionate insight into widely differing kinds of loss. Robert examines the threats that loss poses in the Valley of the Shadow, and shows us how we can find healing and wholeness, eventually emerging into green refreshing pastures.
Revd. David Woodhouse,
(Editor, “Trauma and Abuse”)
When do we learn to drive? Is it before we own a car, in anticipation of owning one soon? Or is it after we have bought a car that we decide it might be a good idea to learn how to drive it? We might ask the same question about grief. Do we learn about grief and the process of grieving before or after encountering it – either in our own life, or in the life of a friend or relative?
Robert’s book makes the sensible assumption that it is better to prepare ourselves beforehand for what will inevitably come our way in the course of life. Unlike many books on grief, he does not just deal with bereavement, but considers grief that is caused by all sorts of other events: loss of friends or job, loss of vision, or ambition, divorce or retirement and so on.
In the practical and Biblically-based way that has typified his earlier books, Robert writes about the emotional and spiritual forces involved in the grief process. Whether you are suffering yourself, or anticipate consoling others, his wisdom, experience and examples offer insight, foresight and perspectives that cannot fail to prepare you.
Even in the midst of grief it is not too late to read this book. The many themes that Robert explores will enable you to home in on just what you are experiencing to provide the help you need most. There are no quick fixes to grief, let alone any easy triumphalism, but Robert shows us that it is possible to advance along the grief journey courageously, and to avoid many of the pitfalls on it. I commend it.
(Author of “C. S. Lewis and his World”)
May I say how impressed I am by your ability to pull together so many thoughts, quotes and stories, as well as research? Your heart, combined with your wisdom and long ministry experience is a stunning combination. This book is going to actively minister to many!
(Author, and composer of the song “I love you Lord”)
Rather as bees gather nectar from many flowers, I have benefited from the input of many friends and publications during the demanding process of completing this book. I would particularly like to thank Sally Mowbray for walking this journey with me from the beginning. You have provided valuable spiritual insight, as well as showing enormous patience in helping to edit the numerous drafts of this book.
Laurie Klein – your perceptive suggestions have greatly helped to shape the text, drawing on your experience both as a writer and as one who has received help with past abuse.
As surely as I am grateful to King David for the many biblical quotes I have incorporated, I would also like to thank two other Davids: David Barratt, for your clarity in suggesting structural changes during an early drafts, and David Woodhouse, for your contributions from your many years of ministry in this field.
Linda Louisa – your insights into the grief process are life-proven and poignant. It is always a joy to work with you.
Thanks to you, Dad, for once again coming up with many timely suggestions, not to mention essential help with the formatting. Rona Scott – for the anecdotes you have contributed;
Mike Field – for your help with proofreading; Peter and Mac Tompsett and Jane Carmichael – for reading the manuscript through; Tony and Brid Browne – for allowing me to reproduce several of your daughter’s poems. Alison wrote her moving poems, knowing that she did not have long to live.
Special thanks too to Elisabeth Harding for reading the manuscript through several times. Your long involvement in caring for the grieving, as well as your literary experience in your editorial capacity with New Wine Ministries, combined to make your comments sharp and perceptive. Each of you have blessed me with your thoughtful suggestions.
I dedicate this labour of love above all to Rosalind, who has walked with me through many griefs as well as joys during the twenty five years that I have had the privilege of being married to her.
Robert Weston © 2008 Canterbury