06 Feb Grief
Grief. What a strange word.
Grief is an interesting thing to experience. It comes and goes like the ways of the ocean. At times you feel the gentle tug against your heart and at other times if feels as if the waves are engulfing you and cannot even breathe. The intensity of your emotions vary from moment to moment.
Recently, my Dad passed away after almost three years of battling cancer. We mourned during the last six months of his life as we watched his strength deteriorate and the strong, vibrant man fighting till the end — never complaining but fighting to survive. Then, my cousin, overcome with difficulties of life also passed away. It is a hard thing to understand. And just after that one of my children’s teachers was killed in a car collision leaving behind two young boys and her husband. Oh the pain…Three weeks later a dear friend of ours was killed whilst cycling one morning. The car came across the road onto the verge where they were cycling and took him out. His life was taken in those moments and the shock of it has caused a community to reel with pain. His wife and children are left to pick up the pieces. How do you even deal with the unexpected death of a loved one? How do you reconcile the pain of such a loss? I know that we grieve with hope. Hope of being reunited one day. We will join them and not the other way round.
I have realized that we need to be honest in our grieving and ask God the tough questions that help us mature (Read Lamentations 3). Don’t pretend.
From dealing with four different types of deaths around me, I have come to learn a few things…although I’m still on my grief journey, this is the little I do know.
9 POINTS IN DEALING WITH GRIEVING
1 Let people help you. Let them in and let them support you. The weight of grief is lighter when it’s shared.
2 Allow your emotions out. Experience the pain, cry the tears, ask the hard questions.
3 Allow yourself to be comforted
4 Be kind to yourself. Lower your expectations of what you are able to to and can do. I remember even leaving my bank card in ATM machine. My mind wasn’t focused for a while.
5 Try and rest – physically too.
6 Drink a cup of tea and breathe!
7 Find an outlet for some of your grieving energy for example, write, garden, walk, sit and read, talk or just be silent.
8 Eat – keep up your strength
9 Allow God to comfort you in your times of mourning.
Jesus said, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18 KJV).
Over time, the intensity of your grief will likely subside, but do not try to rush the grieving process. And do not expect your feelings and emotions to be like anyone else’s. God made you unique, and your grieving process will be a personal journey.
If grief threatens to overwhelm you, try saying with the psalmist, “My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word” (Psalm 119:28 NIV). Cling to God’s promises as you work through your grief. “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength” (Isaiah 40:29 NKJV).
No one can tell you the length of time for your grieving. How long does it take to mourn the loss of your husband, Father, sister, Mother, friend or child? Only you know.
In an article I read on Focus on the Family’s website, they say that it is generally agreed that there are four “tasks of mourning” every bereaved person must accomplish to be able to effectively deal with the death of a loved one:
The first is to accept the reality of the loss. It is necessary to grieve the physical finality of losing a loved one and come to grips with the fact that you will not see that person again in this life. But the spiritual life goes on. If your loved one was a professing Christian, not only will you see him again in the life to come, but he is now in an immeasurably better place — in the Lord’s presence, with no more pain or fear or sorrow. This is true for all who die in the Lord. “‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ We mourn for ourselves and those around us, not for our loved ones. They are where we yearn to be. We miss the space they occupied on earth, the atmosphere is a little less full.
Second is to allow yourself to fully experience the pain — most often through tears — provides relief. Jesus wept over the loss of His friend Lazarus, even though He knew He was about to raise him from the dead; we, too, have permission to weep.
We all experience pain in this life, and the only thing worse than the pain of losing a loved one is the pain of never loving or being loved in the first place. In a way, the pain of grief is a gift to us because it is evidence of the presence of love. This thought is hard to process but love requires great risk.
The third task is to adjust to an environment in which the deceased is missing. This urges and requires us to assume some of the social roles performed by the deceased, or to find others who will.
And the final task is taking the emotional energy you would have spent on the one who died and reinvesting it in another relationship or relationships. Many people feel disloyal or unfaithful if they withdraw emotionally from their deceased loved one. But the goal is not to forget the person who has died; it is to finally reach the point where you can remember your loved one without experiencing disabling grief. I guess this part takes time.
I really want to encourage you if you are grieving not to rush into making major decisions or changes that could add stress to your life. Give yourself time and space to grieve. Practically, you might benefit from setting aside an hour every day or two to “process” your grieving, especially if your loved one’s death was recent. To do this, turn to caring family members or friends for support. Read a good devotional book, such as Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman (Zondervan 1997) or perhaps look up Scriptures in a Bible Concordance for words on comfort, healing, hope and peace. As you look up the verses, think on each one and record it in a prayer journal. Allow God’s healing words to sink in.
Psalm 94:19 says, “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, your comforts delight my soul” (NKJV).
In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced what became known as the “five stages of grief,” which represent feelings of those who have faced death and tragedy. Based on her years of working with terminal cancer patients, Kübler-Ross proposed the following pattern of phases many people experience:
- Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”
- Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
- Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”
- Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”
- Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what has happened.”
Although these are common responses to loss, there is no structure or timetable for the grieving process. That said, understanding grief and its common symptoms are helpful when grieving. Recognizing the difference between trauma and depression is also beneficial.
- Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D. (1969) On Death and Dying. New York: Macmillian, p. 45-60.