I had plans to attend a quarterly ladies’ event at church that evening. “It would be good for me to get out and be around people,” I reasoned. As I stared in my closet vacantly trying to decide what to wear, grief overtook me and the tears began to flow. There was no stopping Niagra Falls, and there was no muting grief’s expression that night either. I could usually put on a good face, pretend I was happy despite struggling over my child’s math homework moments before, or be pleasant with one patient after another had been rude and caustic, but this was different. I just couldn’t bring myself to go, put on a “happy face”…it took too much energy. While everyone else would be walking in with girlfriends as their companion, I didn’t like my new companion: grief. And in many ways, it reminded me of my first experience with it, at way too young of an age…
All eyes were on my brother, who was six years my junior, my mother, and I, as we sat on the front row of the church. My mother and I had just returned from a summer in Wilmington, Delaware where I had been a “resident” at the Alfred I. DuPont Children’s Institute while undergoing invasive reconstructive surgery rather than taking driver’s education training like all my other 15-year old peers. Leaving the hospital in a full-length cast, we made haste and drove across the country, arriving home just in time for a celebratory dinner with cake and ice-cream for my brother’s tenth birthday. Little did we know that we also arrived home just in time to kiss my father goodnight one last time. He died that night from a massive heart attack at 42 years of age. As we sat on the front row of the church for his funeral, my eyes stared longingly at his face in that casket, but I was ever aware of others’ eyes upon me. Is she OK? How will she take it?
These were not the only instances of grief to toss me upon the shore, leaving me battered and thirsty. Death has claimed several I loved dearly. My husband went through his own battle with a rare form of abdominal cancer at the same time that cancer claimed my mother’s life, and we lost our baby to miscarriage. I’ve lost friends to premature death, including a very dear spiritual mother who was my biggest cheerleader and a great prayer warrior.
But grief and loss don’t necessarily have to come in the form of death. Separation, divorce, moves, deployments, and just the normal ebb and flow of life can make relationships fizzle out, leaving a gaping wound in need of comfort and healing. We can experience grief from the loss of a job or a move or even the loss of a dream and expectations we had.
God gave us grief as a way of managing loss. Even Jesus was grieved and wept over the death of His friend Lazarus. Grief reminds us not just of how much we lost, but how much we loved.
To some degree, our grief and loss is complicated because it’s so individual and even when it’s a shared experience, our expression of grief can be so different from others’. Yet the grief we experience can bridge the gap to someone else’s pain. But there are some aspects that are constant and if we can remember them, they will help us in the grieving process:
1) You can only ever take the grieving process one day, one hour, one minute at a time. “Crying may last for a night, but joy comes with a new day.” (Psalm 30:5).
2) Grief is hard, but God is faithful. In our grief, even when others do not understand or cannot relate, He is well-acquainted with our sorrow. “He was despised and rejected–a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief” (Isaiah 53:3).
3) God doesn’t expect us or require us to remain strong. In fact, His word promises that in our weakness, He will BE our strength. “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
4) Don’t fight the grief—you need to feel it to heal it. Rest in His provision for you during this time. “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).
5) We never go through grief alone—God is always right there beside us, and promises to catch all our tears. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Psalm 56:8).
6) Everyone grieves in their own way. Don’t compare your grief to someone else.
7) Keep your eyes focused on the ultimate comforter. We lose our peace when we focus on the problem rather than on our Heavenly Father, our Problem Solver.
8) Treasure the memories, as well as the blessing of the moments of today. None of us knows how many more days we will have. Count each day as a blessing.
9) Never be ashamed to need or ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather, it signals courage and strength. Others want to help but don’t know what you need. Help them help you by asking for what you need.
10) Let God see you through—He will redeem your grief. “Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve but your grief will turn to joy” (John 16:20).
As I sat across from her, tears streamed down her cheeks. “I am in awe of the empathy you have for me…And to me, that means everything!”
To me, there was only response to that, “It’s just a love He’s given me for you. A comfort I can give you because of the comfort that has previously been shown to me. He loves you. He sees you. He wants you to know you aren’t alone.”
Sometimes we don’t need anyone to DO anything. We just need them to be present in our lives. To show they care. To help us not feel so alone. To walk with us through the grief. And then eventually, we will be able to comfort others. In that way, our grief process becomes a gift to others.
“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:4).
Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
Dr. Michelle Bengtson
Latest posts by Dr. Michelle Bengtson (see all)
- The Gift of Grief: 10 steps to help us through the process - March 8, 2016
- Change Your Thoughts and Improve Your Health - September 22, 2015