By Amelia, MoveIner and Counsellor (M.Div. Clinical Counselling, R.P.)
The glaring sunshine felt like a mockery of my anguish. How could the day be warm and breezy when my heart was shattered?
In the span of just a few hours, I had a lost a dear friend and a future child. I had stood by the bedside of my beloved friend as she finished her long struggle with cancer and went to meet Jesus. When I woke the next morning, eyes and heart swollen with grief, I got a phone call that the little girl we were to adopt was no longer ours. There was a mistake in the paperwork and she would never be our daughter.
It felt as if I had been shaken upside down, all that was familiar dumped out, my insides mangled. As quickly as it happened, it was over, and the relentless dance of grief began. Emails, texts, funeral planning, calls to our adoption agency, and on and on.
Loss interrupts life. And as suddenly as it comes, the moment of crisis subsides, and we are left to carry on. Only now someone or something is missing. The familiar rhythm of daily life suddenly jarring as we limp through the day, newly amputated.
My journey through grief was like being lost in a fog. In the span of three months I had found a close neighbour dead in her home, said goodbye to a grandparent, lost my friend to cancer, and had a failed adoption referral. My heart and soul were exhausted with sadness.
The Good News about Grief
When bad news shatters our world, there is hope. Isaiah 53:3 describes Jesus as being “acquainted with grief.” We know from Scripture that since the fall, God has suffered with humans. The Psalms remind us that God is near to the brokenhearted (34:18) and that he is our rock (Psalm 18:2). God did not create us to be capable of pain and suffering and then simply abandon us. Rather, Jesus entered into our world, engaging with the hurting and broken hearted, and ultimately took all of it on his shoulders. On the cross, Jesus bore our grief and pain.
The Longest Distance
Someone wise once said that the longest distance in the world is from our head to our heart. In grief, this is certainly true. We may know that God is with us in our despair, but it does not always feel like it. This is where we have to preach the truth of the gospel to ourselves repeatedly through the days of heartache.
Journeying Toward Hope
Perhaps you’ve heard of the five ‘stages’ of grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. While these are all very natural parts of grieving, psychology continues to explore the complex ways in which we process and navigate our way through pain. One thing is certain: everyone mourns differently.
As you are tossed amidst tumultuous feelings and thoughts following a loss, use these guidelines for healthy grieving:
Grieve honestly. Be honest about the range of emotions you’re feeling; many people are surprised to feel guilt or anger. The Bible warns us not to sin in our anger, but never condemns anger as an emotion. Find healthy and safe ways to lean into the rawness of all your emotions. For some, this might be expressing emotions through art, journaling, music, or physical exercise.
Grieve in community. Look for people who can share your pain, listen well or simply come alongside you. Remembering a lost loved one, or processing a tragedy can be restorative. Allow friends and family to meet your physical and emotional needs.
Grieve practically. Whether it’s cleaning out the deceased’s home or missing that weekly phone date, losing someone has practical implications. Look for ways to memorialize your loved one (save an important photo, frame a poem, etc.) and consider ways to minimize unhelpful painful reminders.
Grieve prayerfully. Jesus is Emmanuel — God with us. Bring your loneliness and regret and anger and heartbreak to God. Have others pray for and with you.
Grieve a new story. Slowly, like a spring thaw, the icy grasp of sadness will begin to loosen. Sow hope. Grief can be transformed into a legacy of change. Look for ways to pour your energies into something that would honour your loved one. Run a race, write letters, spread awareness, speak vulnerably, love someone else who is hurting. Weave hope into the story of loss.
Grieve wisely. Seek professional support. Grief groups, individual counselling or medication can be invaluable in helping you through the dark days of mourning. If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please seek urgent care at your nearest emergency room. You are not alone.
Grieving well will help you to not get stuck in the swamp of pain. C.S. Lewis wrote, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.” Whether it’s the death of a loved one, a breakup, losing a job, trauma, or a future hope crushed, loss is inevitable; healthy coping is crucial to the grieving process.
Despite all this, we know that we have an eternal hope that gives us comfort. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore, encourage one another with these words” (16-18).
Be encouraged, friends. In the midnight of our despair, God is with us. He sees our wracking sobs and shattered dreams. He promises to take us to be with him forever, and invites us to take courage from this word.