Recently my family has experienced a great season of grief – over and over again it seems. Grief is often an extreme and exhausting “emotion.” For those of you that have experienced it, you know what I mean. In Death and Grief: a Guide for Clergy by Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, grief is defined as this:
“Grief is an emotional suffering caused by death or another form of bereavement. Grief involves a sequence of thoughts and feelings that follow the loss and accompany mourning. Grief is a process and as a result, is not a specific emotion like fear or sadness, but indeed is a constellation of a variety of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Grief is the internal meaning given to the external event.”
Part of the coursework for my college degree was to take a class titled “Death and Dying.” It is there that I read the above book. Oh how greatly it has helped me in the years following. Grief is a complicated emotion to understand, let alone cope with. It has many causes, and not all of which are physical death.
Grief is a biblical emotion as well. We see God grieving over the people He has created in the story of Noah. We see Jesus grieve over the cross that was in his near future, and we see God grieve in the suffering inflicted on his son. However, we also see examples of human grief. Mary, Jesus’ mother, during the crucifixion, Mary and Martha over their brother’s death. We see Jesus grieve and weep over this death as well (even though He knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead).
These stories are comforting and soothing in times of painful mourning over any loss, but they often do not answer all of our questions.
I attended a funeral of a dear family member this last weekend. Let me tell ya… we all had some questions like “why him?” and “why now?”
He left behind an all too young bride and three children from a death that took him in the middle of the night. These things I will never understand. It is an easy answer to simply say, “God’s thoughts are not my thoughts.” And that would be (thank goodness) too true. But it is harder to pick up life after the fact.
If you are experiencing grief here are a few things to consider:
1. Remember: grief can come from all types of things. Examples: graduating, death, sickness, loss of financial stability, broken relationships, etc.
2. Be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to grieve in your own unique way. Our culture often sets a standard for grief to be short and well hidden. This does not necessarily need to be true. Grieve how you need to and for however long you need to.
3. Recognize the transition your life and emotions are going through. As you look at the situation and the future, you will go through stages of grief. A mourner often originally tries to evade the loss. However, they later encounter this new reality and reconcile themselves with it.[i] Let yourself spend as much time as you need in each of these areas.
4. Seek God. It is easy to be angry at God in these times, and that is OK. God is big enough to handle our questions and our anger. But also remember that God is the ultimate Physician who heals both emotional and physical wounds. He will deal with you with loving hands during this sensitive time of your life.
Dear fellow mourners, in all things remember this: that we have hope.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13
[i] Information taken from Death and Grief: A Guide for Clergy. By Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt