When you are grieving, it can feel like that single emotion controls every aspect of your life. From your relationships and physical health to your ability to work or do the simplest tasks, grief is ever present. If you don’t have proper care and a plan of action, grief will assume control of your life. But before you can take effective action, it’s essential to have an understanding of grief. The following are a few places to start when exploring your grief.
Grief is universal.
Everyone has or will feel the sting of grief. We feel grief so personally that it’s easy to think that we are alone in our suffering. Remind yourself that there are others in your life who are also trapped in despair. Seek out others in pain, starting with your own faith community. The idea that Christians have some special protection from suffering is a myth, and when people spread this falsehood, it can damage the faith of those who suffer. God’s story is a story of suffering. If Christians want to reflect Christ in their lives, there’s no avoiding the fact that we will suffer.
You will never be the same.
Every experience we have in life changes us, sometimes just a little and sometimes dramatically. A significant loss will have a lifelong impact on the survivor. It’s fair to say that most of us expect people to grieve over the loss of a loved one, but many are not informed about the persistence of grief or of the importance of long-term care. The friends of a survivor might expect him or her to get on with life as usual after a certain amount of time, believing the adage that time heals all wounds. Grief will always be part of the survivor, and while the effects of loss may subside, grief will always be part of this person’s life.
People will say dumb and hurtful things.
There are so many things that we don’t understand about our world, and for many people, suffering is at the top of that list. When you or I suffer a loss, we find ourselves in alien territory. Most of us are never taught strategies to handle grief. It can be easy to forget that our family and friends find themselves in the same situation. We turn to them to support us in ways they normally have no training for. It can be scary to support a friend in grief. That fear can lead others to say the wrong thing or avoid us altogether. It might seem unfair, but even in your grief, you need to show grace to others who don’t know how to respond to your loss.
You are going to feel alone sometimes.
When we grieve, it’s easy to feel abandoned by the people in our lives and by God. It’s easy (and normal) to feel like no one understands us or that they don’t even notice our pain. We’d like to think that the people in our lives would be proactive and reach out to care for us. While some people are wired to care for others, the sad fact is that most people will need you to initiate and seek them out for support.
God is a different story. He will always show up in times of grief. We need simply look around to see and feel him. God is prepared for our anger and our questions. He understands that we are designed for eternal life and that the struggles of our earthly life are beyond our ability to withstand alone. Using his own image as a model, God created us to be an interdependent part of his family so that we can persevere through the challenges of life. Our very character dictates that we lean on God and others through our suffering.
Grief can be your biggest platform.
The pain of life presents an opportunity to magnify God for others. With every wound that life brings, believers have the opportunity to show the world the way their lives reflect their faith and the redemptive character of God. People often see only the pain and darkness of grief. You can use your grief to reflect love and light by inviting people into your healing process to see the way God, Scripture, and your faith community are sustaining you. Nonbelievers need examples of people who are able to walk through the hardest parts of life while maintaining an eternal perspective. You have an amazing opportunity to show the world that God is real, loving, and sustaining even through the difficult parts of life.,/p>
Grief can bring you closer to God.
In grief, we choose to move toward God or away from God. When Job found out that his world had been destroyed, he went and worshiped God. This reaction might seem strange to us at first until we realize that this was his first reaction because he loved God and because of his relationship with God. Job knew where he had to go. We can each make the conscious decision to prepare like Job. Invest in time with God and decide how he fits in your life so that, during times of pain and suffering beyond your ability to endure and when your life goes sideways, faith will drive you to God for support.