How to Accept the Death of a Loved One

Death can seem so overwhelming, frightening, and so final.  You don’t know how to accept the death of a loved one. You mourn the loss of your loved one.  You do not want to let them go.  You grieve the life that you thought you would be experiencing in the future; the life with your loved one by your side, the adventures you would have with your loved one, the events you wanted to experience together.  You experience pain, sorrow, often anger, and even some regrets.  You remind yourselves of the last words you said or didn’t say.  Did you say “I love you” the last time you saw them?  Were you angry at them recently?  How long has it been since you saw them in person? 

So many emotions go through your mind, and you become almost paralyzed by your sorrow.  You get angry at doctors who couldn’t cure you loved one, at family members and friends whom you feel “didn’t do enough”.  You even get angry at God, for not healing your loved one; for not answering your prayers for healing. Does any of this sound familiar?  It is all too familiar to me.  I have been here.  I have felt all these feelings, and more.  I have experienced the deep, deep sorrow of losing my loved one. 

If I Can GoThrough the Loss of My Loved One, So Can You

People told me early in my grief, “you will get over it.”  I said no; I will never be able to “get over it”.   Others told me “God will get you through this.”  I didn’t believe them.  Some even tried to tell me “I know exactly how you feel.”  But it is my feelings, my sorrow!  How is it possible for someone else to “know how I feel”?  The truth is, they can’t.  But the reality is, very few people know what to say, or know how to respond to your grief.  Some may understand better than others because they have had a similar major loss.  However, each person is unique, and each person grieves in their own way.  So, despite my having experienced a very difficult loss of my own, I cannot legitimately say, “I know how you feel”.

But here is what I can do:  I can tell My story; share what helped Me survive, how I have been even able to accept the death of my loved one, despite the difficult months it took to get here.  It wasn’t easy, and it didn’t happen overnight.  But if I can get through the loss of my loved one, so can you. 

How to Handle the Pain of Grief

First, you are not alone. 

Despite the extreme pain, sorrow, grief, you are going through, you are not alone.  God promises to never leave you.  He promises to renew your strength.  God has experienced an extreme loss as well when His son was tortured and then hung on a cross.  He understands your feelings of sorrow. 

Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Deuteronomy 31:6

For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.

Hebrews 13:5

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

 Psalms 56:8

Second, get help in dealing with your grief. 

Whether you choose to talk to a counselor or go through some type of a grief program, talk to someone, or even multiple people.  Sorrow is not meant to be handled alone.  Talk to your good friends and family members.  Locate a Griefshare program near your city or find a grief support group.  In my loss, I went through a grief program with hospice care.  It was an 8-week program and helped me understand all the feelings I was experiencing and helped me manage through the grief.  Any of these options will help you learn how to better handle your feelings.  They will teach you how to grieve. 

This sounds strange I know, but unless you have already had an extreme loss, you really do need to learn how to deal with grief. 

For instance, did you know that “grief fog” is real and in the early months after loss, you might have trouble thinking straight?  The good news is this “fog” will pass.  Or did you know that there is an average “grief timeline”, but that it may vary widely from person to person?  The bottom line:  do not try to go through the difficult process of grieving the loss of your loved one without some help.  Walking through it with some help, will benefit you tremendously with the long-term acceptance. 

At some point during your grief, you will begin remembering the happy times more than your sadness. 

  • You will find joy beginning to replace the sorrow and pain.  You will begin to understand more clearly what is meant in Psalms 30:5 that says, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.”  And if you know that your loved one has a personal relationship with Christ Jesus, then you begin to remember that just because you can not physically see your loved one here on earth anymore, you can and will see them again in Heaven.  For those who have accepted the gift of salvation, our home on earth is only temporary.  Jesus says in John 14:

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

John 14:2-3
  • You likely will not understand why your loved one had to leave this world, but at some point, you may begin realizing that by their being in Heaven, that means they are no longer in any pain or suffering, here on Earth.  This was the situation for my loved one who was very ill before dying.  While I did not want him to be gone, staying here on Earth meant living longer with his illness.  But in Heaven, he has been given a new body.

He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.

Philippians 3:21
  • For some people however, your loved one was not ill; in fact, they appeared to be in perfect health and happiness.  In these situations, while it may be harder to understand why they were taken from you, if you can focus on the joy they will have in Heaven, eventually it may become easier to accept. 

“Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation.

Psalms 35:9

One thing I believe wholeheartedly:  God does not enjoy seeing anyone suffer in this world. 

I have had people ask me “Why does a loving God want me to suffer so much? Is He mad at me, or is He punishing me?”  The answer is emphatically NO!  God does not want you to suffer, nor is He mad or punishing you.  Nor does God cause diseases, car accidents, or other tragedies.  All suffering in this world, is a result of sin. Not yours or my personal sin, but sin in general.  Instead, I believe our Heavenly Father can use our suffering, caused by the world we live in, and work all our sorrows for His glory and our good.  This is near impossible to comprehend or accept when in deep grief.  But as you begin to heal, and learn how to live again, it becomes easier to see God’s love and grace, even through our sorrow. 

For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

This is the love our father has for us!  Do you think it was easy for God to accept the death of his own son?  Not at all.  I believe God grieved, in the same manner you and I grieve. And I know He feels our pain when we lose a loved one as well.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalms 34:18

How to Accept the Death of a Loved One

Did knowing that a loving God cares for me, help me to accept the death of my loved one?  No, unfortunately during my grief, it did not.  But what it did provide to me was assurance that I would, eventually, be ok.  If God loved me so much that He gave His only son for me, then I knew He would get me through every hour of tears, every long difficult night, and every sad thought I encountered. 

So, while I grieved, I also started learning how to live again without my loved one by my side.  I learned how to get up in the morning by myself.  Then I learned how to eat a meal without my loved one.  When I got sick, I learned how to take care of myself.  And during every day that I survived, I prayed I would make it through the next.  I cried out to God often.  And each time, He assured me I would be ok.   As the days, weeks, and months went by, I began to see what God was showing me all along:  If I could rely on Him completely to give me comfort and rest, He would begin healing my heart.  And as my heart was healing, I was beginning to accept the death of my loved one. I was learning how to accept the death of a loved one

I have been told that loosing a loved one can be compared to loosing your arm or leg. 

When you first loose your arm or leg, you have so much pain that it is at times unbearable.  You often need medication to help you make it through the most difficult days.  Then, when the pain lessens, you grieve the activities you are no longer able to participate in.  For a runner who has lost his leg, this can be a deep grief to overcome.  Then you begin to learn how to walk again, through rehab and a prosthetic.  As you learn to walk, you grow in your confidence, and eventually you can begin running again.  Somewhere along the journey, you learn to accept your new life, and your new capabilities, and you learn to enjoy your life once again. 

Finally, whether you have lost a loved one or a leg, you have 2 choices of how to handle it: 

You can either choose to get bitter, or you can get better.  You either take your loss and allow it to make you a better person, or you allow it to tear you down.   Even in loss, grieving, pain, sorrow, and suffering, there is beauty.  By God’s grace, you will begin seeing glimpses of beauty and hope.  Don’t ignore it, don’t miss it! Don’t let the hurt and pain get the best of you, choose to be better.  Choose to see the beauty.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. … For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

2 Corinthians 12:9, 10

how to accept the death of a loved one, grief

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If this video connected with you in some way, and you’d like to find out more about having a relationship with God and how His forgiveness and grace applies to you, a great place to start is praying the prayer below. The words themselves aren’t magic, but if you earnestly pray them and mean them, God will hear you! He’ll help you in ways you don’t understand, and we’ll help you find support and next steps.

The Prayer

Jesus, I don't know You, and I don't know what Your plan is for me. But thank you for coming to die in my place. I'm sorry for anything I've ever done wrong in my life. I don't understand how You could ever forgive me, but if You really would, I would like to accept your free gift of grace and complete forgiveness. Please come into my life and take control, and help me trust You. In Jesus' name I pray,

Amen.

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