A recent experience with a family coping with grief has provided me new insights into how we handle grief. The situation involved the death of a young woman, age 59, who died from cancer. Assisting the family over several weeks was spiritually and emotionally challenging. Yet, the end result has added to my understanding about grief and the insights go beyond this one episode.
The death of a loved one is a difficult process of transition to life with that person to life without them. So how do we come to grips with our sorrow? Matthew 5:4 says it well: “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.”
Notice that it acknowledges the fact that we mourn; it does not admonish us to “get over it.” The fact is we do not “get over grief,” we learn to deal with it.
There is also a reassurance that those who grieve will be comforted. There is a difference between being blessed and being happy. A person who mourns will be in God’s care and offered hope for a life after death. That applies to the person who has recently died and to those who remain; all have the hope of life after earthly death if they believe in God’s promises.
There is a very useful set of books on grief put out by the Stephen Ministries called “Journeying Through Grief”. One of the introductory lessons is called the three N’s of grief and it is very helpful information:
• Grief is a very normal, natural emotion. Grief is normal because it is how people respond to significant loss. It is normal to expect people who have lost someone they love and care about to be deeply affected by their loss.
• Grief is natural: it is built into us. We love and when we lose someone we love, we grieve.
• Grief is necessary. This is important. I am going to repeat this: grief is necessary. It is a healthy way to come to grips with our loss. Ignoring our feelings will only prolong the grief and cause more pain.
It has been my experience that many Americans have the philosophy that one just “toughs it out” and denial of the significance of painful events is a norm. There is a fallacy to that because in the long run there is the toll on one’s spirit by not having a healthy approach to painful events. Taking another look at these three N’s , it seems there can be a broader application. There can be the pain of losing one’s job, the sorrow over a broken relationship, and moving away from a long-established home to mention a few.
The one steady promise in any of these events is God’s willingness to offer comfort and strength for life’s difficult journeys. We are not alone.
The Church Corner is organized by the Plateau Ministerial Association, and the opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Courier-Herald. For more information about the Church Corner, email PMA president Keith Marshall at firstname.lastname@example.org.