What can we expect with grief and what we can do about it?

Although our spiritual life impacts all we do, there are also some practical, human aspects of grief that we need to understand. I’ve discovered that if I can step back and analyze the grief process I feel less overwhelmed by it.

We need to understand that some varieties of grief are inherently more painful:

• If the person was young, or died as a result of tragedy or violence.
• If they died as a result of something with a social stigma, such as AIDS or drug addiction.
• Suicide can leave a trail of agonizing questions.
• Losing a spouse or child can be the greatest stress of one’s life. When parents lose a child, their marriage often breaks up.
• If you have been estranged from the person, their death is also the end of all hope of reconciliation and all the dreams that went along with that.
• If you feel somehow responsible for the death.
• If you have multiple griefs close together, it can be overwhelming.

There are common reactions to grief that we can plan for:

1. You may experience denial, anger, bargaining with God, eventually acceptance. Maybe you’ll go back and forth between them. It’s normal. Give yourself grace.
2. You may have difficulty concentrating and have lower capacity for work. Try to arrange a lighter load. Start with those boring ‘don’t-require-a-lot-of-thought’ jobs that you’ve been putting off.
3. You may have difficulty sleeping. Even if you do sleep, you may feel exhausted. Take initiative to be healthy. If you tend to eat too much, too little, or the wrong things when you are under stress, counteract that. Exercise and get fresh air. It’s amazing how much these things affect mood.
4. This is the time to take extra care with spiritual life. Surround yourself with avenues of the Spirit: quiet time, Scripture memory, streaming worship services, listening to podcasts.
5. All the if-onlys and what-ifs of blame and regret can be agonizing. I know that what I’m going to propose is perhaps the hardest advice of all, but it will also make the most difference. Forgive others. Forgive yourself.

If you have grief that doesn’t go away; if you start to feel like life is not worth living; if your grief is very complicated . . . don’t hesitate to get help. Attend a grief support group. Find a trained counsellor. We are so hesitant to get emotional help. But let’s compare it to a physical crisis. If we get a condition or illness that can be treated medically, we don’t hesitate to go to the doctor. Going to a bereavement group can be an act of emotional maturity and good stewardship of the life God has given us.

God uses a great variety of means to lift us up.

He drew me up from the desolate pit,
out of the miry bog,

and set my feet upon a rock,

making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.
Psalm 40:2,3