Ever been ambushed by grief? This past weekend, I was enjoying an evening with my boyfriend, Jim, when suddenly grief snuck up on me and took me down without warning. Watching Christmas movies has been part of our family holiday traditions. Jim (also a widow) and I watched a seasonal Hallmark film—you know the kind—cute, predictable and sure to bring tears. As the storyline unfolded, it touched a few areas we could relate to: death of a spouse, changes in family dynamics, and helping the family through the loss of a loved one while dealing with your own grief. The main character in the story had lost his wife; as a result he had not wanted to celebrate Christmas. His children, especially his young daughter, now without a mother, needed and wanted her dad’s attention. The grieving widow, instead of drawing his daughter closer to him to share the burden of each other’s grief, chose to push his daughter away. The widow had unanswered questions and unresolved issues and felt he had been dealt an unfair blow with the loss of his wife.
I was reminded of the Top Ten Lessons of Grief from GriefShare™.
Knowing why won’t take away pain. Even if you do know why and how your loved one died, it won’t bring them back. Most of the time, it won’t make it easier to get a handle on your loss, either. For some reason, we have an insatiable desire to have our questions answered. The bottom line is we must come to grips with the fact that God is sovereign (or in control.) It helps to focus on scriptures like, “But I trust in you, O lord, I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands,” Psalm 34:14–15.
Ease back into church. Friends might avoid you; even church leaders might not comfort you. You might have to figure out some new ways God might ask you to relate to the church. Pastor Paul resigned the staff of our former pastorate nine months prior to his passing; thankfully, we began attending another local church while he applied for new pastoral positions. After Pastor Paul’s death, I tried attending the church we had pastored for seven years; I thought it might help me to be around people we had served, yet it was just too emotionally painful for me to attend. There were too many triggers and memories of the past. So I settled in to the church we attended when he died. The pastors and staff there loved on me and helped ease me into a new normal.
Your thinking and behavior affect your feelings. Tell yourself the truth with God’s help. The truth can only be found in scriptures like Philippians 4:8, which says, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is right, whatever is noble . . . think about such things.” Grief is loaded with good lies, opportunities for us to be envious and bitter; these lies can make us demanding and hypercritical. We talk to ourselves all the time in our minds, ask yourself regularly, “Am I telling myself the truth?” Within the first year after Paul’s death, I was surprised at my reaction to an invitation to a forty-fifth wedding anniversary celebration. I thought, “Why should I be happy? Paul and my marriage lasted twenty-eight years. I will never see my forty-fifth wedding anniversary with Paul.” I realized I was being selfish and I decided to choose to share in my friends’ joy and celebrate with them.
Your joy will return. Deep sorrow can actually expand your capacity for joy. Our joy is not dependent on how we feel. Once we get through the numbness of our loss and get into the groove of our new normal, one day we will realize the cloud of grief that hung over our heads has dissipated. Our joy has returned. Instead of being sad, we can even smile at the little things that we miss about our departed.
Grief isn’t your biggest problem. The biggest problem we have is our sin. Jesus Christ has taken care of all of our sin by nailing it to the cross. “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with all its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross,” Colossians 2:13–14.
Read the rest of the lessons on Wednesday’s blog post!