Grappling with Grief
In the times in which we live, there is no shortage of reasons to grieve. All around us, in our personal lives, and in the media, there are stories of brokenness, pain, defeat and death. An airplane carrying hundreds of passengers vanishes. A little girl is kidnapped. A fire devastates a neighborhood. Countries are on the brink of war. A pastor takes his own life. Our homes and schools are unsafe. The stories go on and on. As soon as we are over one tragedy we are thrown unwittingly into another. Either directly or indirectly we are often grappling with grief.
Grief is one of the most highly subjective and yet generally invasive concepts with which we ever have to deal. Even when two people experience the same grief-causing incident, they will not grieve in the same way. Some people are criers; highly emotional and distraught when they grieve. Others are quiet, contemplative and stoic. Some seem to be immobilized by grief, while others cast themselves into obsessive busyness as a distraction from grief. Some of us are helped by being around people and then others need time alone to process and sort out our thoughts and feelings. In actuality, each of us finds ourselves doing most, if not all, of these descriptions at some point while we are grieving.
Indeed, the only real commonality about the way we grieve is that we grieve in stages. Grief is a process and it is different for each of us. You never know quite how you’re going to feel at any given moment; especially during the early moments of grieving. Research has revealed that grief has the following stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance (See Grief.com – for more information on these stages). While we can put our grief into stages, there is no guarantee that each of us will experience all five or that we will experience them in any particular order. The universal truth is that no two people grieve in the same way or according to the same schedule.
So how do we grapple with grief? Well, we find good instruction and wisdom to help us in the Word of God. The first thing we should understand when we are grieving is that God is available to us. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble.” (HCSB) When we are hurting, it is sometimes difficult to find friends and family members who understand and can help us. Nevertheless, God is always ready, willing and able to help us, all we need do is let God in. In our times of distress, our cries and calls to the Lord, will be heard and answered (See Psalm 18:6).
Second, not only is God with us during our times of grief, pain and difficulty, but also, God has just what we need. God is “the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). No matter what the circumstances are that have caused our grief; God always has the appropriate level of comfort for our hearts. Not all grief is the same. We grieve the physical death of loved ones and friends and we also grieve over disappointments and setbacks. We grieve the loss of our dreams and the brokenness of our relationships. We never really “get over” some types of grief, but we can gain strength, peace and even joy from God to help us cope in life. Matthew 5:4 gives believers a promise that should anchor us as we grapple with grief. It says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (NIV) As clearly as there is brokenness, grief and pain in life, there is also grace, strength and comfort available from God to help us.
As you grapple with grief keep a few other things in mind:
Grief takes time – Allow yourself (and others) time to grieve. Don’t let anyone impose their timetable on you for each heart knows its own pain. Nevertheless, this is not just a cliché, time does heal.
Grieving is a choice – You can get stuck in it or move forward through it.
Grieving takes work – Confront your sadness, express your pain and even vent your anger; leaving these undone will only make you bitter, not better. Moreover, be willing to speak to a professional. There are many tools available to help us heal. Don’t suffer alone or in silence.
It does get better – Talk to anyone who has done the work of grief and they must admit that it does get better. Take time to help someone else through their grief; you may be surprised by how much you help yourself.