Grief is a natural reaction to a significant loss; it's both an emotional and often physical response to losing someone or something that has meaning in one's life. Grief is a process and sometimes a lifelong journey, and at times can be an unpredictable one. Unfortunately, grief is the result of living in a fallen world that has yet to be fully redeemed. God never intended for us to experience grief. When sin entered the world in Genesis 3, grief entered along with it.
Although many of us may naturally try to avoid it, we will all likely face grief at some point. Maybe it's the loss of a loved one, a job, a house, or a marriage--to name a few. Unfortunately, grief is not uncommon throughout the history of humanity; it is all over the pages of scripture. For example, in the Old Testament, we see the Israelites mourning the loss of Moses (Deut. 34:8). Additionally, we see David, a man after God's own heart grieving through his psalms. In times of distress and uncertainty, David cries out (Psalms 6), "I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. Away from me, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my weeping. The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer."
Furthermore, in the New Testament, we also see the Lord Jesus grieving at times. When Jesus' friend Lazarus dies, He weeps, even though He knew the outcome. When Jesus hears of the death of His beloved friend and second cousin, John the Baptist, we see Him withdraw by boat privately to a solitary place. One can only imagine that Jesus was experiencing the loss of John and wanted to find time alone to cry out to His father in His sorrow.
Many times, grief is extremely overwhelming and sometimes even crippling. Additionally, grief is not something that is necessarily always "resolved." For those experiencing grief--birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc., can be highly challenging days, even years after one's loss. Grief does not adhere to any timeline. It's also important to note that everyone experiences grief differently. While some may find it beneficial to join a support group, like Grief Share, another may find it beneficial to receive individual counsel or one may find the support of both to be helpful.
If you're experiencing grief right now, know that you are not alone. Jesus cares about you and doesn't leave you alone in your despair. Instead, He welcomes you to approach Him. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, "Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." In His love, Jesus wants you to go to Him with your grief so He can walk through it with you.
It is possible to find both hope and healing in your hurt.
This does not mean you won't have difficult days, but it does mean you're never alone. It doesn't mean you won't feel weak, but it does mean that He promises to be your strength. It is possible to find both hope and healing in your hurt.
Allow yourself space to cry, and on the days when you don't find yourself crying? That's okay, too. Allow yourself to set new routines or keep old ones. While it's crucial to not completely isolate yourself, staying home is okay when you don't want to go to that holiday party or be around a crowd. There is no "right" way to grieve, and sometimes it may feel like you're on a roller coaster when you are having a more difficult day than before. Read through Psalm 23 and allow yourself to feel whatever emotions surface, but take them to God. Reach out to a trusted Christian counselor who will help bear your burdens by supporting you, praying with you, grieving with you, and most importantly, will point you to hope amid the pain you are carrying. If you're ready, find and join a local grief share support group where you'll connect with others going through their own journeys. When all seems hopeless, cling to the hope we have in Christ. In God's Healing for Life's Losses, Bob Kelleman writes, "We live in a fallen world, and it often falls on us. When it does, when the weight of the world crushes us and squeezes the life out of us, we need hope. Brilliantly, the apostle Paul deals simultaneously with grieving and hoping. "Do not grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope." (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
...when the weight of the world crushes us and squeezes the life out of us, we need hope.
Life is temporary, and often we seem to forget this until grief comes knocking on our door. In Revelation 21, John writes, "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." As you face your grief in the present, don't forget the promise of what the future holds where He makes all things new.
Maybe you're not currently grieving, but you know a friend or loved one who is. What advice can I offer you? It's normal to feel awkward and not know what to say. Don't let this awkwardness keep you from saying something to a friend who is facing such a difficult time. Many people are apprehensive about what to say to someone experiencing such sorrow, but ignoring the fact that the person is grieving is unhelpful.
It's normal to feel awkward and not know what to say.
Simply saying, "I don't have any words for you right now other than I'm sorry you are going through this" can mean a lot. Don't try to fix their grief by encouraging them to stuff their feelings, by giving quaint verses to help them “get over it,” or by saying to look for a silver lining. As uncomfortable as it may be, sit in their grief with them if they are willing to open up that space to you. In Romans 12:15, we are commanded to not only rejoice with those who are rejoicing but to mourn with those mourning as well. So instead of saying, "let me know if there is anything I can do," offer them specific help, like watching their children, grocery shopping, etc. If they don't accept your offer, that's okay–don't take it personally. Knowing that you are there and making yourself available can have an impact. Be patient with your friend and be there for the long haul. Maybe you signed up to bring a meal shortly after the death of a loved one, but make sure you're consistently following up later to let your friend know you are still there for them. Most importantly, rely on the Holy Spirit to guide you in showing grace and compassion to your loved one in their time of need.
- Carol Ann Sheppard, MA