Recovering from Grief and Loss
with Imagery from the
Psalms of Lament

If you’ve spent much time on my website, you will see that I have found imagery to be very important to me in recovering from grief and loss. Photography helped me create images that gave definition to my feelings. Poetry does the same when it creates a picture with words.

I was told that telling my story would help me to heal, yet I also found that it is in plunging the depths of my inner story that brings the deepest recovery from grief and loss. This plunging the depths of my inner story required something far greater than a literal description of how I felt. The often extreme hyperbole of the psalms of lament helped me give expression to previously inexpressible feelings.

The psalms of lament provide images which can serve a metaphor for my fears, doubts, and anger. As I read descriptions of being abandoned in a dark pit or being surrounded by bulls, I get a concrete picture of the paralyzing effect of my fears. The contrasting image of having the wings of a dove to fly away and rest gives voice to my longing for freedom from paralyzing fears.

Notice the difference in how you respond to these two sentences:

I feel desperately sad.

I am poured out like water.

Both sentences are helpful in understanding my state of being. I am a person who hasn’t acknowledged my feelings much. So it is helpful for me to name when I feel sad. Yet the second sentence gives greater shape and definition to my experience. It provides a picture for me to explore in writing or prayer. It takes me to a new depth of feeling that I may not have been able to name or describe before. What about my life reflects the image of being poured out like water? How does it feel to be poured out like water? Where is God in the midst of my being poured out?

Here is a portion of Psalm 22 that is particularly full of imagery. Is there an image in it with which you identify?

Many bulls surround me;

     strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.

Roaring lions tearing their pray

     open their mouths wide against me.

I am poured out like water,

     and all my bones are out of joint;

My heart is like wax;

     it has melted within me.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd,

     and my tongue clings to my jaws;

     you lay me in the dust of death.

Dogs have surrounded me;

     a band of evil men has encircled me.

     they have pierced my hands and my feet.

I can count all my bones;

     people stare and gloat over me.

They divide my garments among them

     and cast lots for my clothing.

         - Psalm 22:12-18

What image do you identify with in your own recovery from grief and loss? You may want to take some time and silently imagine what it means for you to be in this image. Some questions to reflect on are:

What do you feel or notice in your body as you reflect on this image?

What is it like for you to see yourself in this way?

What do you want or need in this situation?

Where is God in this image?

How can you relate to God in this situation?

Learn more about using psalms of lament for recovering from grief and loss

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