Grief is the complex and painful process with the losses we encounter throughout our lives. Implicit in God’s invitation to live and enjoy relationships with others is the knowledge that we may one day grieve their loss, few areas of life are immune. Either through varying circumstances or, ultimately, our own death, eventually we lose everything.
One of the basic realities of grief is that the circumstances of our relationships – family, friend, close, estranged, loving or otherwise – impact the depth, length. and even the way we experience sorrow over what we have lost.
Everyone’s grief is different. While grief is a journey common to all, no one can tell you exactly how you should grieve because it is a personal path unique to everyone who walks it. And there’s no single right way to grieve. However, understanding how grief works and what influences it will better prepare you for what you encounter after a loss.
Grief exposes faith. One of the great ironies of life is that whether or not you consider yourself religious, grief reveals the element of faith in everyone.
It shows where you place your trust when faced with the reality of loss – and that’s faith.
The Bible reveals a pathway through times of loss that leads to higher ground. This experience, which often feels like death, is the perilous path through the “valley of the shadow” that David spoke of in Psalm 24:4. This favorite Psalm reminds us, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” The Good Shepherd reliably guides us through the valley of tears. He quiets our fears, comforts our hearts, and reassures us that we will make it through, though at times we may not be so sure.
While grief is unavoidable and complicated by the variety of relationships and circumstances in life, eventually every griever wonders, “Will life ever be better? Will the pain ever go away? Will I make it through this?
We are connected for connection. From the beginning, solitary existence was never a viable option (Genesis 2:18). We have been designed for intimacy, closeness, community. Through meaningful attachments, our individual stories take on deeper meaning and greater significance. These become the reference points for our lives. When these connections are severed, broken, or lost, it produces an inhuman level of pain, and it’s that pain that produces grief. “Bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love. . . It is a truncation of the process but one of its phases, not the interruption of the dance but the next figure.”
Expect Confusion. No one progresses through the stages of grief in the same order or at the same pace.
Shock is Normal. It is to be expected after the news of a loss. It’s our initial defensive response that enables us to carry on under unbelievable circumstances. God designed the shock to cushion and protect us, helping us survive when it would otherwise be impossible for us to function under the emotional overload of grief. Shock should be allowed to take its course.
Don’t Pretend. Resit denial. Be real. Attempting to outdistance the pain of grief by “being strong” is futile. It will only impede your progress. A grief denied is a grief unhealed.
After a loss, grief triggers an emotional avalanche that can sweep us off our feet and bury us under a heap of emotions we don’t understand.
Tears are not a sign of weakness, they are a gift from God. Don’t be afraid to express your grief honestly to God. Opening your heart to the comfort offered by God and others will, in time, help you find a renewed sense of strength and perspective.
Live with Your Loss. When you stumble and fall on your journey through grief – and you will, we all do – having someone who knows where you are and who can reach out and help you up is life giving.
Give yourself the freedom to enjoy life again. Yes, life will be forever different without your loved one, but different does not mean bad. Moving on with your life will be difficult and may bring conflicting emotions. But you are not betraying your loved one if you laugh again, go out to dinner with friends, take a vacation, or even love again.
Share your comfort with others. The comfort that God gives us in our sorrow and grief isn’t for us alone. It’s meant to be shared. Empathy and compassion are born of painful encounters with loss. When we see others through the tears of our own grief, we have a different perspective that uniquely qualifies us to minister compassionately to those who are in pain.
To God Be The Glory.