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Topics we’ll be covering in this article:
- Grieving the loss of a loved one
- Dealing with the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance
- What physical and emotional issues might you experience during the grief cycle?
- How do you find the strength to get through the grief?
- Could you be numbing the pain of your loss?
- When will the fog of grief lift?
- What can I do to promote my healing and reconstruct my life?
- Ensuring ongoing relationships are supportive – my role
- Remembering: creating a continuing bond with the one you lost
- What does the Bible say about grief?
1. Grieving the loss of a loved one
In my case, I experienced both anticipatory grief and the grief of loss after a prolonged illness.
My daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer at 47. Over the next three years of Chemo and clinical trials there were encouraging results followed by other times when tests identified a worsening of her condition.
We were both scared and both grieving
One night she woke me in the night and said “Mom, I think I may be dying! My heart breaking, I said simply, “No honey, not tonight. Give me your hand. I will hold it all night and we’ll have breakfast together in the morning.” She smiled and said, “Oh, OK.”
Most of the time we couldn’t talk about our fear and grief, sometimes it was a touch of the hand or fluffing of the pillow that expressed our love. Though we sometimes found it hard to acknowledge our fear, we always held to hope and our faith in God….and, we were both fully aware of the seriousness of the diagnosis.
2. Dealing with the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance
As you move along the pathway of grief, you will probably experience one or more of the five stages of grief listed above.
Anger is a common response in grief
Anger can stir up deep feelings of resentment and even rage. You find yourself asking: How did this happen? Why did God let him die? Didn’t God promise healing if we asked? You may find that your feelings change abruptly and unpredictably. You may become very sad and unable to function normally. These are all common feelings, but they will not necessarily follow any order and can reoccur over time.
The stages of grief can take place in anticipatory grief as well.
What is anticipatory grief?
Anticipatory grief is generally more silent than grief after an unexpected loss. It is a grief we tend to generally keep to ourselves for fear of upsetting our loved one. Emotions are rampant as you experience hope dashed, time and time again.
Sometimes you want to avoid well-meaning friends who ask hopefully “how is it going”. You don’t want to deal in reality or let your words confirm that it is not going well. You want to pull away so that you don’t have to acknowledge the truth to yourself and others.
3. What physical and emotional issues might you experience during the grief cycle?
Sometimes the pain of grief presses in, and you feel you can’t breathe from the force of it. You are hurting, you are exhausted and overwhelmed. You are not sleeping or sleeping too much You are unable to stop crying.
Perhaps you can’t stop crying
A Bible verse that came to my mind during the early days of grieving was:
Psalm 6:6-7a NLT: “I am worn out from sobbing. All night I flood my bed with weeping, drenching it with my tears. My vision is blurred by grief.”
You may need help and that’s ok!
These feelings and emotions are understandable and expected as a part of the grieving process, however if your grief is so overwhelming that it is interfering with your ability to function at home, at work, or with life in general you may be in need of professional help.
Seek help from your doctor or a professional counselor if you are in need of help.
Help is available. Speak with a counselor today
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-8255 Chat Official Website
When to seek professional help
For example, choosing unhealthy ways of coping (drugs, alcohol, etc.), having thoughts of harming yourself or others, feeling frozen in your grief or having feelings that you simply can’t go on, are all indications that you need to talk with a professional counselor.
You may also want to see a physician if there are other bodily changes such as sudden weight loss or gain, changes in sleep patterns, headache or other physical signs.
Help is available and you need to ask for it
4. How do you find the strength to get through the grief?
Grief itself is exhausting!
When a loved one dies, you may be feeling unable to take care of the most basic tasks, and yet there are a number of immediate needs requiring your attention; planning a funeral, writing an obituary, receiving family and friends, etc.
It is overwhelming!
Let others help you
Begin now to let others help you. Many funeral homes can be instrumental in taking care of these details. You might even enlist a close friend or relative to help you. Others are grieving with you and would probably like to find ways to be helpful. The funeral alone tends to drain you emotionally and physically.
Before you are ready, there are many other details requiring your attention: paperwork, financial decisions, legal requirements, bills and other unexpected Issues. The weight of your loss seems to get heavier!
Bible verses that have been very important to me throughout my grieving process:
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1 and, Psalm 74:26. “My flesh and my heart fail: but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 119:28 “My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.”
How long does grief last?
Grief does not go quickly and often continues for a long time. To regain strength, I found it important to pray, to be “tender” with myself, get rest, eat right, exercise and seek supportive friendships. I needed to share stories about my loved one, I needed to hear others mention her name and sometimes I just needed to cry.
5. Could you be numbing the pain of your loss?
Sometimes we find many ways to avoid the pain and grief that controls our life. Some of the ways people numb their pain include the following:
- working excessively
- watching too much TV
- exercising too much
- shopping too much
- jumping into relationships
- using mood-altering medications
You might be turning to unhealthy escapes that may be preventing you from moving toward healing
In processing my grief, sometimes I felt afraid to “feel” my feelings, to acknowledge them….I was stuck. I felt no one really understood. One day, it hit me clearly. God understands!! He lost his Son too! And like my daughter, who prayed to be spared, God’s son asked his Father, to “remove this cup from me” and then followed with “nevertheless not my will, but yours be done.”
As a Mother, though it was hard, I also had to come to the place of “Thy will be done.” As it turned out, Christ agonized and died on that Cross, but He rose from the grave and lives today. Because of that, God’s peace comforted me as I was reminded that I will see my daughter again too. Now, I was able to move forward again.
6. When will the fog of grief lift?
Following the expected or unexpected loss of a loved one, you generally experience shock . It is so painful and overwhelming that it is hard to accept. Temporarily, the shock may protect us, but eventually the impact hits.
Grieving is a natural reaction to losing someone.
People experience it differently, but at some point, and in some way the grief begins and continues. Though I felt moments of unbelievable sadness and pain, I found ways to distract myself. That is not necessarily a good strategy, but one familiar to my reaction to pain. Immediately, I began to deal with details at hand; writing the obituary, taking care of friends and loved ones, and planning the Memorial service.
To fully heal, one must grieve
However, once grief hit, it hit me hard and has continued over the past 2 ½ years, often for long intensive periods; but now the intensity comes and goes. Time and the comfort of God’s presence have lessened the pain. However, it only takes seeing her picture or recalling a memory, and the pain is suddenly very real again. There is no set time to grieve and it can reoccur when we least expect it. However, to fully heal, one must grieve.
7. What can I do to promote my healing and reconstruct my life?
Suffering can be beneficial when it leads to some kind of “resurrection in us “….when a strength or a sleeping energy in us is aroused, or when you develop clarity about life’s purpose and direction. Joyce Rupp If your grief work has been productive, it is possible that you are experiencing a time of growth, a time when you may realize strengths or attributes that you didn’t know you had. Or, you might still feel sad, exhausted and/or angry. Nevertheless, you come to realize that you need to start building your life again. You may have children or work situations that require attention.
Taking slow but steady steps is a wise plan
Sometimes, you have to come to terms that it is not disloyal to let go of the grief that you have for your loved one. To address ongoing emotional issues, you may find journaling, participating in grief groups, and/or spending time with healing friends will help. You will also have to deal with dreaded tasks such as cleaning out the closet, disposing of a loved one’s possessions, etc. For me, it helped to have a list of items I could check off as I completed them.
Sometimes, you still have to deal with emotion that you have been holding on to
That question you’ve been pushing down still comes to the top again and again. “But why did she die?” In the writer’s case, I had based my prayers and hope on that scripture in John 14:13: “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
But we did that Lord! She still died. Honestly, I still can’t answer that question, but I do believe God has a purpose for everything, that he is always in control. We have His promise that He’ll cause “all things to work together for good to those who love God.” Romans 8:28.
God has not forgotten you or your loved ones. He has a plan and a purpose that is good and is still being played out!
“Our human perspective often doesn’t allow us to grasp His greater plan, but His good handiwork is in everything—even our pain, hardships and losses (Isiah 55:9) tells us that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than our own. He sees the beautifully complete big picture.” ( InTouch Daily Readings). God has not forgotten us or our loved ones. He has a plan and a purpose that is good and is still being played out!
8. Ensuring ongoing relationships are supportive – my role
Death is an uncomfortable subject for many people
Often friends are unsure about what to say or what to do. Sometimes they are reluctant to say anything; they may even avoid you. Often, they say things out of their own discomfort and can offend us without meaning to. For example: “I know just how you feel, it’s for the best, you’re strong, you can handle it. Some want to move you out of your grief with comments like, “Don’t cry! Get a grip on yourself.” Usually they are well-meaning but hurtful.
It may be in your hands to find supportive relationships and to be honest in letting people know specifically what you need
Supportive people let you talk and help you heal. They are available when you need them, they do their best to understand what you are feeling, they don’t judge, and they can “just listen”… sometimes to your story, again and again.
Depending on your comfort level you may want to write a grief letter to friends expressing what you are feeling and what you need or share your thoughts with a trusted friend so they can let others know. People will find it helpful to know exactly how they can help, and you will need friends.
“Two are better than one,…if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes4:9-10
9. Remembering: creating a continuing bond with the one you lost
Memories of the one you lost become treasures! “When you make your way through grief, you don’t leave that person behind. You bring them with you, where your memories of that person and your thankfulness for that person become a happy experience, not filled with so much pain.” Susan Lutz.
Remembering and celebrating your loved one brings much comfort as you heal
For our family, feathers became a reminder that we would see our loved one again. We all collected them….even her fiancé called me one night to tell me he found a white feather on his footstool. The Christmas before our loved one died; she gave each female in our family a beautiful woven scarf with a lovely note attached. When the girls gathered for this year’s Christmas pose, I draped her scarf over my shoulder in her honor.
Other ways to protect memories are through journaling, looking at scrapbooks, sharing stories and creating new traditions. My oldest daughter created beautiful paintings for her sister to carry with her for each Chemo treatment. Each painting had an encouraging message of hope and healing on the back. Now, those paintings have become another beautiful treasure.
Our greatest treasure is to know that we will see our loved one again!
10. What does the Bible say about grief?
Emotions are God given. Scripture is filled with those who have turned to the Lord in their times of deep grief and lament. Lament is “the honest cry of a hurting heart wrestling with the pain and promise of God’s goodness. Christians affirm that the world is broken, God is powerful, and He will be faithful. Therefore, lament stands in the gap between pain and promise.” (Donna Gaines) You have a right to “cry out.” to grieve, to deal with the pain you feel.
Especially in the loss of a loved one, we have come to understand that in experiencing and overcoming grief, it is indeed a journey. What do the scriptures say about grief?
Grief lasts longer than you would think
How long Lord: How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? ……But I trust in your unfailing love, my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise for he has been good to me. Psalm 13 1-2; 5-6
God will comfort you
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4
The Lord will be with you
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you: he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8
God will not forsake you
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you. Lord you have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9: 9-10
You are not forgotten
God has not forgotten you. He has a plan and a purpose that is good and that is still being played out. Proverbs 3:5. ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your understanding.’
Jesus suffered and grieved
Jesus himself was fully human, he suffered and he experienced the cross. It is not his will nor does he want us to suffer life’s hurts, but he does allow the suffering to happen because to do otherwise would block our human nature and our human condition. And God has promised to comfort us over and over in the scriptures.
He Hears our Voice
I love the Lord for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me. I will call on him as long as I live…..I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord. “O Lord, save me.” The Lord is gracious and righteous. Our God is full of compassion.
We have hope!
And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 NLT. 523
Experiencing and overcoming grief – it’s a journey
Why pray with your supporters?
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor; If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Expressing the depth of your hurt and emotion is so critical in enabling you to feel up to the hard work of grieving
Someone said, “What you don’t feel, can’t heal. I did not want to accept that my precious child actually died when she and our entire family had prayed so hard for her healing. I felt abandoned and confused. We had tried to be so strong throughout the years of her illness. We had counted on our prayers and God’s promise to hear them. I didn’t want to feel my feelings….had I failed to pray in the right ways? How did this happen?
If you would like to understand more about how you can experience true hope in healing from the pain of your loss and how a relationship with God can be yours, please watch the video below and then connect with us.
The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’