Grief: “a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed.”
We know what it is without reading the dictionary entry. Everyone has experienced it in some measure. Some grief is very intense like the grief felt when a spouse or parent dies. Grief is even more intense when a parent loses a child according to those who have experienced such tragedy. Other grief may seem superficial when compared to these losses, but the loss of a pet, job, or friendship is still something difficult to handle.
In my years of trying to minister to others, and due to my additional training as a funeral director, I have often been asked to give counsel to those who are grieving. Such a task is not easy, and I have never felt adequate in my attempts to assist others who have experienced loss. However, through trial and error and by working through times of grief in my own life, I have discovered some steps that seem to be helpful when dealing with grief. (These ideas have been gleaned from many sources, and it would be impossible to give credit or document every author or work that has influenced my thinking in this area.)
- Be informed about grief. Many are familiar with the stages of grief popularized by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages of grief are experienced by most, but they are not always in this linear order, while some may be experienced simultaneously or more than once. However, it is common for those grieving to feel that they are “going crazy.” Cognitive functioning is sometimes altered, people have mood swings, weight may fluctuate, and a host of other strange phenomena may be reported. Knowing to expect this will help those experiencing such and those around them to not be caught off guard by how differently they may be acting.
- Acknowledge the reason for grief. Many wish to deny grief as noted above, but this does not assist the individual in working through his or her grief in a healthy way. Yes, it hurts to admit that someone or something has been lost and will not return, but such is necessary for healing.
- Talk about the loss with those who care. Some think they should keep their grief inside. Some choose not to share out of fear of what others will say, think, or do. The friends of Job helped him while they stayed quiet, but once Job began to share his grief they only found fault and compounded his grief! Memory is a wonderful tool God has blessed us with, and it should be used to help process grief in a healthy way.
- Express grief in the way that feels right. No, I am not sanctioning you to rob a bank if you feel grief over losing your job. However, it is true that everyone grieves differently. Some think they are too tough to cry, but even the Savior wept at the tomb of his friend according to John 11:35. Bill Flatt wrote: “God created tear ducts; they must have a purpose.” Indeed, they do and if crying makes you feel better, then cry. Others might express grief by engaging in an enjoyable hobby or visiting a spot they had previously visited with the lost loved one.
- Try to adjust to the new normal. Some incessantly lament: “Things will never be the same.” This sentiment is correct, but it does no good to make this complaint. Instead, try to find ways the new normal might afford opportunities not previously enjoyed or might allow the one who has grieved to now have a perspective that will enable him or her to assist others in their grief.
- Trust in God. Out of all the suggestions offered or that could be offered, this one is the most important and the one most certain to assist. The Word of God is filled from cover to cover with the truth about how God cares for us. Psalm 23, Psalm 46, and Psalm 121 are some of the most reassuring passages concerning how our Lord loves and helps us. The New Testament likewise contains many beautiful verses of comfort. A couple of verses I especially enjoy meditating on are found in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
There are other methods and suggestions to add to this brief list, but I offer these in helping you if you are in a season of grief or if you might be trying to help someone who is. Above all, I give this admonition—LIVE FOR THE LORD! For those who are obedient to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and who live faithful in His service to death, we view death much differently. We feel sorrow over the loss of those we love, but if they are in Christ we retain hope and understand their existence after physical death is much better than the existence they had on Earth. Why? They are now at home with the Lord. Read 2 Corinthians 5:8, Philippians 1:21-23, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, and especially Revelation 14:13: “’Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.’” Live so that those who grieve your passing will grieve with the hope of one day sharing a sweet reunion with you in Heaven. If you want more information on how to do this, we hope you will reach out to us; we would be happy to help!