In an attempt to overcome a childhood trauma, Emmie Willis developed a unique 28-day healing program.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). To many people, this concept is confusing. Blessed are those who feel that all is lost? Blessed are those who are working through tragedies that have shaken their worlds?
The good news lies in how the verse ends: “. . . for they will be comforted.” We don’t need to mourn forever. No matter how devastating the tragedy, how intense the feeling of loss; in the end, there is comfort.
First, though, we must pass through the season of mourning, for blessed are those who let themselves mourn, who accept that this is a time from the Father; blessed are those who do so with all their hearts, who simply let go and mourn.
When we have let go, when we have allowed ourselves to go through these overwhelming emotions, God can come in and comfort us and bless us in ways we never experienced before.
Unfortunately, Satan also knows that giving people time to mourn will only help them in the end, so he works hard to put pressure on those who need to mourn, trying to get them to give up their right to do so.
He whispers lies such as, “Be brave, don’t cry.” “If you let others see you cry, they’ll never respect you again.” Or, “It really isn’t that bad. You should be over it by now.”
So people often give in to the myths, “toughen up” and don’t let their mourning go full circle. This is especially true of losses that society doesn’t understand, such as miscarriages and stolen childhoods. Yet, these need to be mourned so that they can be released.
The Bible Says
Humanity’s mourning began when our first parents lost Eden and experienced the brutal murder of their second son, Abel, by his older brother, Cain (Genesis 3 and 4). the dictionary tells us that to mourn is “to experience grief and express sorrow,” but the old testament prophets added another dimension: sorrow for sin and its consequences (Jeremiah 6:26).
Fortunately, we are not alone in our sorrow. the Bible tells us that God feels our suffering deeply. Jesus is the King of glory, but he is also a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering (Isaiah 53:3).
- “Jesus wept” (John 11:35) when he heard the news of the passing of his friend Lazarus.
- He helps us to understand that “he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4).
- During Jesus’ ministry on earth, “when he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).
- Jesus has promised, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
Mourning is a normal emotion that, because of our sin-filled world, we each will experience at some point in our life. God’s comfort can be compared with that of a loving mother, for he assures us, “as a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13).
— Arthur Patrick
My childhood was stolen from me by a paedophile. For years, I was stuck in a state of denial and anger. I was very young and this was too much for me to handle.
A few years after I escaped my terrible situation, I began being confronted even more by it emotionally. Nightmares came and random daily events would trigger intense emotional responses. It was so painful to deal with that all I could do was take a small step forward and then stop and retreat, because the emotions would overwhelm me.
When I first discovered the idea of letting myself mourn my stolen childhood, it seemed repulsive. I thought I should be over something that had happened years before, that I should be able to keep moving forward. Mourning seemed like such a backward step.
Then I came across an article about making a 28-day challenge. I couldn’t get past the verse, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” as a challenge for myself.
So one day, I offered a prayer. Then I wrote out a program: one activity, roughly 30 minutes, every day for 28 days, designed to help me with the mourning process. With my husband’s support, I completed the program!
I expected the proverbial emotional roller coaster. I expected to despair and weep. But God had already led me through those days. I hadn’t realised that I had been mourning on and off for years, and that my heavenly Father needed me to see that I was ready to move from the stage of crying and despair toward acceptance.
And at this time in my life, I finally had the support I needed—someone who realised that I needed to grieve this tragedy; someone who would hold me while I grieved, and then help me through to the other side. To this end, God had sent my husband.
Often my husband wasn’t present during the time I was completing the activities, which was OK, because he would have been a distraction. But afterwards, I was able to talk to him about what I had done and how it had affected me.
Anger, Fear, Denial
One of the activities early in the program was to put a physical action to each of the seven stages of mourning. The first two stages weren’t as confronting as I’d expected, but then I came to “anger.”
Anger and denial were my very first reactions to the tragedy. They were such strong reactions that they completely took over my life as a child. Denial turned into complete forgetfulness and anger turned into a temper rarely seen with such intensity in one so young.
As a child, my temper caused a lot of grief. I erupted inexplicably, damaging those I loved. After some years, I managed to give my problem over to God and never experienced a bad temper again. Unfortunately, because I thought the anger part was gone, I couldn’t see that, in fact, I was still angry. I had just redirected it. It had taken on other forms. For example, it was anger hiding behind fear that made me hate myself to the point that I would punish myself or seek out others to punish me.
For the activity, I had to put an action to this emotion that I thought I no longer possessed. In trying to act out an anger that I didn’t understand and couldn’t see, I had to really search and find it, so I could see it. This way, I could put it in front of me and deal with it.
I prayed and paced, and God revealed my latent anger, hidden and misdirected. Then God reminded me of a technique I’d heard of, in which people put what they fear in a situation they can control. They make the object of their fear smaller and less scary. So I took a breath, pictured the paedophile and punched the air. I was exhilarated! I laughed out loud. I could do this.
The monster who haunted me was going to get a beating. When fists weren’t enough, I imagined a huge hammer in my hands and myself beating him down to size.
Time For Comfort
That was the beginning of a very unexpected 28 days of mourning. The program is designed to help people work through grief and it has done that for me. God used it to help me refocus my negative emotions in the right direction. I’d mourned and now it was time to be comforted.
The journey I took empowered me. After my 28-day program ended, I noticed that I started standing up for myself more. I even managed to say “No,” a word I rarely used, even when I should have. I have stopped beating myself up for mistakes that are not my responsibility and started placing the responsibility on those people truly responsible.
Even my nightmares aren’t so bad now. Instead of running away from someone or instead of being held against my will in dark places, in my dreams I’ve confronted my monster. It no longer has a hold over me. In one particular triumphant dream—the first of its kind—I managed to say “No!” to the paedophile and made him listen, so I wasn’t tortured. I triumphed! He had to listen to me!
My husband is proud of me. He sees that I have stopped blaming and punishing myself as much as before.
God put that verse in the Beatitudes just for me. He saw that I would need a reminder that He designed us to have a time for mourning, a time to walk through the dark valley that haunts all of us. But He also told us that at the end of the chasm, there is comfort. There’s a time to mourn—and a time to heal. He led me through my time of mourning to a time of healing.
Allowing myself these 28 days of mourning brought me to a new level of understanding of His promise for “those who mourn.” Through my journey, I’ve realised greater comfort and greater blessings because I allowed myself the freedom to mourn with God and, in turn, experienced God’s amazing comfort.
The Seven Stages Of Mourning
- Pain and Sorrow
- Release and Resolution