Every day, we and those around us experience loss, change, and transitions that we must grieve. Grief is intense emotional suffering caused by loss, and while it is normal, it involves hard work. Does that surprise you – that grief not only equals loss, but it involves hard grief work as well?
Grief often begins with shock, whether it involves loss of life, loss of relationship, loss of livelihood, loss of the person’s living situation, or loss of health. There may be emotional or physical symptoms as well. Some people openly express their grief; others show no emotion. Perhaps you are right in the midst of your own grief work – or you may be helping others work through their own loss.
In the past, the model for Christians was to keep a stiff upper lip and to endure the pain and agony of the loss with little or no expression of emotion. Perhaps even more incongruent with the truth of Scripture are those Christians who put on a “happy face,” denying the pain of grief, which in effect denies the need for a Savior and a Comforter.
Expressing one’s grief does not express a lack of faith in God; instead, it can lead to a deeper understanding of the need for God. Grief is the proper expression of feelings associated with the loss of someone or something significant in our lives.
Many feel uncomfortable with others’ pain and don’t know what to say to those who are grieving. Walking beside one who is grieving does NOT mean that you have the perfect things to say or do – it DOES mean that you are willing to walk alongside during the process, listening, holding their hand, praying.
The more comfortable you are with grief as a natural process, the better able you will be to accept yourself or others who are grieving right where they are and effectively minister to them. And … if you are the griever, it means that you will be able to accept the listening friend who wishes to come alongside of you.
Crying, shock and numbness, nightmares, anger, guilt, irritability, restlessness, sleeplessness and loss of appetite all may be symptoms of the normal process of grief. As we walk beside others who go through the valley of the shadow of death, God promises (from Psalm 32) that “He will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; He will counsel you and watch over you.”
You do NOT have to figure this all out on your own – God will be your teacher! Ask for His help – and He most lovingly and most graciously will give it!
Barb Roberts 2011