Just a few months ago, my wife and I received the heart-breaking news that our 46-year-old daughter had died as a victim of a murder-suicide incident. Shock, disbelief, tears, intense pain and sorrow swept over us like waves in the ocean. Our minds raced with questions for which we hoped could be answered. Law enforcement officers were able to tell us when and how our daughter died. The troubling “why” question could not be answered then or now.
In this time of intense sorrow, we were surrounded and comforted by the love and prayers of brothers and sisters in the family of God. A Celebration of Life service for our daughter gave us the opportunity to give thanks to God for her life, to declare our faith in the Risen Christ Jesus, and to imagine the joy our daughter, Cristi, now knows living in her forever home with Jesus.
This grief journey has provided us with yet another opportunity to grow and learn more about coping with grief, death, sorrow, and loss. There are some insights gained on this journey that I pray will be helpful to others who also are walking in the moccasins of grief.
- Know that grief is a normal reaction to the loss of someone’s death or the loss of something that we valued and treasured. God made us with the capacity to grieve when a parent dies of a sudden heart attack, or when a child is killed in a tragic accident. Grief happens when a marriage fails, a career ends abruptly, or when we suffer the loss of homes or other precious possessions in a flood or fire. Grief is normal. Denial of the emotional pain or hurt is unhealthy.
- Realize that grief is the result of loving someone or something deeply. Someone wisely stated that “grief is the price we pay for love.” Although it hurts to lose someone we love, imagine the pain if we had never known the person and received the blessings of God through their life. I learned this lesson firsthand through the death of my father nearly seven years ago. One way I found to balance the sorrow and sadness of missing him, was by expressing my gratitude to God for giving me a loving and godly father to be my spiritual mentor and a shining example of how to follow Jesus and serve Him faithfully.
- Choose to allow trusted friends and family to help you cope with grief God never intended for us to deal with grief in isolation. Surround yourself with people whom God can use to help you work through your grief. Ask for prayer warriors to “pray without ceasing for you.” Find a friend who will be a confidant and a safe person for you to vent and express your honest thoughts and feelings. Get connected with a small group in your church where you can find love and support.
- Keep on celebrating the life of your loved one. We keep our favorite picture of our daughter, Cristi, in a prominent location in our home as one way to remember her and to give thanks to God for her life. I frequently share stories and humorous quotes passed on to me by my father as a way of keeping his memory alive in my heart.
- Accept the fact that grief can disrupt every aspect of your life. Many people experience disruptions in eating, sleeping, and the overall capacity to function. Financial losses, broken relationships, miscarriages and countless other losses wreak havoc in our lives. When your life is turned upside down, hold on to the hope that God is more than able to restore sanity and stability to your life by His sufficient grace. (2 Cor. 12:9).
- Be patient with well-meaning people who attempt to comfort you with familiar clichés. Some of the more common clichés include: “It was their time to go”, “Be glad that you know he’s in heaven”, “You can have more children”, “you will get over this in time.” These worn out platitudes seldom provide genuine comfort and they can actually be more harmful than helpful.
- Don’t be surprised when you get ambushed by grief. Grief will knock you down like a wave in the ocean when you least expect it. Be aware of some of the things that can trigger your grief: a song, the smell of a particular cologne or perfume, passing by a favorite restaurant, birthdays, holidays and special anniversaries. When grief catches you off guard, choose appropriate ways to process your feelings in the moment.
- Look for opportunities to encourage and comfort others. 2 Cor. 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,” Because we know that God never wastes a sorrow or pain, we need to be available for Him to use us to provide comfort for others. Don’t worry about saying the right thing, concentrate on just being present with your friend or loved one as they weep and mourn.
- Learn to live one day at a time. Jesus said, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34). Everyone wants to heal quickly from their pain and hurts. Take each day as it comes and let God lead you through the steps of grief recovery.
- Trust in God, not time, to heal your broken heart In this writer’s opinion, time heals nothing, but God can heal anything and everything. Psalm 147:3 declares, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” My faith in God is strengthened by meditating on His faithful promises: “God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1); “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:27); “Fear not; for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
This is a representative list of ways that I have personally found which helps me deal with grief. When trials and tribulations come my way, I remember that our “light and momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). I rehearse the truth that God is Sovereign over everything and that He will make a way for me. Whatever grief you may be facing in your life, keep your eyes on Jesus. Make this your daily confession, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57).