Understanding Grief and Loss
“Every time I drive past the Veteran’s home, I get a sick feeling in my stomach.” Margo had spent months at the facility caring for her husband. The day that he died, however, was a day she hadn’t gone to visit. She still remembers getting a phone call on that day informing her of his passing. And just like that, she was all alone.
Margo was grieving. Grief is an intense feeling of sadness caused by loss. Grief is real pain. And it lingers. We grieve because we love. Death causes the most profound sense of grief. A person might even feel guilt associated with grief. It might be guilt over unresolved actions or unspoken affections. Sometimes, the past can feed guilt and grief.
Some days, people can stuff their grief down inside; other days grief and loss can feel like a punch to the gut. Past memories and important dates such as holidays and anniversaries can creep up on a person and cause cruel pain.
There are stages of grief. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (On Death and Dying) offers some insight:
Denial > Anger > Bargaining > Depression > Acceptance
Like the pain of grief, these stages come and go, and can be severe in one moment and slight in the next. It is important that people know these stages are fluid and linger. A person can experience one or more of these stages at a time.
Grief has a purpose. It allows us to mourn our loss and express our love. Things don’t get back to “normal.” That is not the purpose of the grieving process. The goal is to allow people to express their sadness and to absorb those emotions into their lives as they learn to find a new way to move forward. Grief is normal. It’s okay to be sad.
Even Jesus grieved. The Bible tells us that he was so overcome with sadness that he wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus. It is healthy for people to express their sorrow in response to grief and loss. Jesus knows the pain of loss and the sadness of sorrow. He knows the power of death. The Bible tells us that death is a sad consequence of sin. Grief and loss are also bitter realities of sin in this fallen world. But in our times of sorrow, we have One who sustains us. He is our Savior, Jesus Christ who conquered the grave, so that we might have hope.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26
While it is natural to be sad and mourn the loss of a loved one, Jesus promises to be there with us and to hold us in his loving arms. He understands. He meets us in our grief. While there are tears on our cheeks, we have smiles on our hearts because Jesus dies and rose again. And he promises to come back to join us with our loved ones in the greatest reunion of all!
It is healthy and necessary to process our grief and the many ways it feels. Our Lord offers his comfort which allows us to redirect our hurts and sadness away from the “would’ve/could’ve/should’ve” wishful thinking patterns to real healing. No matter how we feel here, God promises a perfect, unending future with him. Today might hurt. Tomorrow is filled with hope.
Lord, I wish I understood your plans. I have to admit that I don’t. I am hurt, angry, and sad. Lord, I trust in your promises. Remind me that it is okay to be sad and that you meet me in my sadness. You will not leave me where you find me. You move me on to healing and hope. In your name, dear Jesus. Amen.