This is a post from the early days of The Beauty of Sufficient Grace blog on the subject of grief. I thought it may be helpful to those who are new to grief, and wanted to share it here....
The following text was originally published in The Women's Edge Newsletter by Sufficient Grace Ministries for Women, Inc. and written by Kelly Gerken.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted...To comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. - Isaiah 61:1b-3
As Christians, we have the peace of knowing that because Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, and rose again, that we will never taste death. We will have eternal life in heaven with Him. What a blessed assurance! Unfortunately, we still live in a world that faces death and loss everyday. And, although there is the wonderful promise of heaven, those of us who remain on this Earth still must grieve the losses of those we love (even if we are just separated for a short time.).
There are stages of grief that most people go through: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Others describe numbness, disorganization, and reorganization. Each individual is unique in their grief . A variety of responses are "normal" and can be expected, such as : anger, resentment, pain, sorrow, bitterness, emptiness, numbness, exhaustion, apathy, depression, and even some joy as you remember your loved one, peace as you think of your loved one in heaven with Jesus. There are so many feelings that come at will and even when the overwhelming sorrow has passed and a new form of "normalcy" has returned, you may out of no where, when you least expect it, feel grief's gripping waves overtake you once more.
Walking the journey of grief is an extraordinary test of our faith, and our will. Grief is a tumultuous sea, a relentless roller coaster that we cannot control or escape. The pain often comes in great waves, and tosses us about in a "sea of grief", so powerful that we may feel as if we are drowning. It is important to realize that it takes much time to heal and mourn. Unfortunately, there is no fast forward button for grief. So go gently. Be patient with yourself and your grief. Even when we know that our loved one is in heaven, we rejoice for our loved one, but we cry for ourselves. Our tears are for those of us who are left on this earth to ache for them, to miss and long for their physical presence, as we face the emptiness of walking through our days without the one we love. While we have great hope in Jesus and the amazing promise of Heaven, we acknowledge that there is a time to grieve, and we must take the time we need to do so.
The hope that we have as Christians is that we don't have to drown alone in our sea of grief. Our heavenly Father is able and willing to carry us when we cannot walk through the difficult journeys of this life ourselves. All that we can do is cling to Him, believing His promises. Some days we may not even have the strength to cling to Jesus, and in those moments, He will hold on to us because He is merciful and loving, full of grace and truth and comfort. He promises to never leave us nor forsake us. We have a great opportunity in the despair of grief to ask ourselves if we really believe His promises. When the waves of doubt come crashing in over our head, we must remember who our Lord is and what He has already done for us, in us, and through us. We can search His word and find hope and peace. We can look back on our own lives and see evidence of His hand gently leading and guiding our lives.
How do we face the task of walking through our days, passing the ordinary time, as the world around us goes about the business of life, while our world has shattered into a million pieces? The best advice I have heard comes form Elizabeth Elliott, who has experience great loss in her life. She says, "Just do the next thing.". Maybe the next thing is as simple as getting out of bed, putting one foot in front of the other, or just brushing your teeth. Sometimes there is great comfort in just the ordinary small, one step at a time pace of life that can carry you through to the next day. We can take comfort in knowing that God's mercies are new every morning and great is His faithfulness. Slowly, one baby step at a time toward normalcy, we will see the promise of a new day, a light at the end of the tunnel of grief. With time, those who grieve will heal and joy will be restored..
Taking the time to remember our loved one is an important and precious part of the grieving process. Some find comfort in journaling, creating a memory book of pictures and memories of the moments that make up our lives together. Sometimes it's the simple everyday memories that mean the most- a smile, a touch, a hug, a laugh, a smell. In the case of losing a baby or a child whose life was cut short, we not only feel the empty loss of the person, but also of all the dreams we hold for that precious life that ended so suddenly.
The old saying "time heals all wounds" has some truth to it, but I believe what is really happening in that time is that God is working in us to heal and restore us.. You may have heard the analogy that we cannot see the wind, but we see the evidence that wind exists as it blows the leaves on the trees. We can feel the wind on our face and hear the sound of it blowing past. I think God works in those invisible ways. We cannot see Him, but we see the evidence of His work in our lives. We feel the comfort of His Presence.
My friend Dinah gives a great analogy of how God mysteriously works. She likens it to the changing of the seasons. In the autumn the leaves change colors. Often though it is so gradual, so subtle that we don't realize it fully until one day the tress are orange, yellow, red and brown instead of green. In the same way as winter approached, the leaves fall from the tress. One day, we notice that the leaves are gone. We know they must have been falling for some time, but it was so subtle and gradual that we hardly noticed, until, one day when they were all gone and the land was stark and bare. When spring comes, everything brings forth new life. What once was dead is alive again. And one day it happens. You wake up and the leaves have returned once more - green and shiny and new. You can't point to a time when they began to bloom, exactly. You may have seen a bud or two. But it seems that it is sudden. In reality it was happening all the time, subtle, gradual, unseen, changing and restoring life. That is the best illustration I have heard of the way the Holy Spirit works in us to heal and restore. How subtly God works in us to change us until one day what once was, is no more. One day , we are no longer struggling. We have overcome what once held us captive, be it bitterness, pain, grief, or sin. God had been healing us all along, working while we struggled. He will take the tatters ashes of the broken hearts and made them into something beautiful ... God will use every tear, every moment of brokenness to make beauty from ashes to heal our pain and restore our joy.
~ Taken from the Dreams of You Memory Book written by Kelly Gerken and published by Sufficient Grace Ministries for Women, Inc. Copyright 2004-2008
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:A time to be born and a time to die...A time to weep and a time to laugh...A time to mourn and a time to dance...