Mourners are plagued with questions after the death of a loved one. How can I live without this person? How long will the painful emotions of grief last? Do I have the ability to endure grief for as long as it may last? Will I ever be happy or experience peace again?
Mourners need two things to help them survive the grief process, especially the overwhelming, all-consuming experience of early grief when the loss is still fresh. First, they need to feel that there is hope that life and their grief experience will not always be like it is right now. There will come a future time when the grey clouds of grief hanging over the mourner part and the sunshine of peace and joy shines into their soul. Whether you believe this or not, this moment comes for every mourner as they progress in their grief experience. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, but time will give the mourner emotional and spiritual space to heal. When does this normally happen for the mourner? There is no set schedule for this parting of the grief clouds; every mourner experiences this at different times. But believe me, it can and does happen.
Second, the mourner needs to know the promise that he or she will have the resources necessary to get through grief. The resources are usually in people around the mourner, in grief books and publications, in support groups, in grief seminars and workshops, and in grief counseling. Many times these resources seem to just happen coincidentally timed exactly when needed. (I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe a coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.) Other times the mourner finds resources as he or she reaches out for help.
For many mourners, both of these needs are addressed in their faith system and their spiritual lives. Often mourners may forget to use the resources that are right there…especially those resources available through church, fellow church family members, in Scripture and in prayer to God. These are powerful resources for overcoming the struggles of grief. Don’t overlook them. God knows the emotions of grief. He created mourners with all our emotions as human beings. I believe that God in His wisdom gave mourners the grief process, as painful as it is, to help them process and come to terms with a death and the harsh realities that follow the death of our loved one. Grief serves as a transition for the mourner from life with the person to life without the person.
Here is what is possible for all mourners:
1. To know for certain that grief with its overwhelming sadness and depression is not without hope. Believers can understand the separation experienced from your loved one is temporary because through Jesus Christ believers have the hope of seeing the loved one again…and the hope of spending forever with them and our God. (I Thessalonians 4:13-18) Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
2. To know for certain that there will be hope, joy and peace in your future…not just the distant future but in the short term future also. Don’t think it will not or cannot happen for you. You will feel joy; you will experience happiness again. Be patient and pray for God to bring that time to you quickly. (Matthew 5: 4) Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
3. To know for certain that God can provide you all the resources necessary to help you get through the grief experience. Does grief ever go away completely? No it doesn’t because as long as you miss the person, you will grieve. But time and resources help you to change and your grief experience to change. Again, don’t think it can’t happen. It happens every day to mourners just like you. Just reach out for help to others, to professionals and to God. (Matthew 21:22) If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.
4. To know for certain that your grief experience prepares you to uniquely help other mourners in their grief process. Every mourner can know the comfort and encouragement speaking to another mourner who “has been there” in grief. You, at some point in your grief, will be given the opportunity to give comfort, consolation, support and encouragement to another struggling mourner. Be prepared and willing to help. What has been given to you in your grief by others you can give to other mourners you encounter. ( 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
Don’t overlook the important resources that are available to help you through grief. God never meant you to go through grief alone and without help. Talk to Him. He wants to hear from His child.
Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise” available online at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Love-Never-LPC-S-Larry-Barber/dp/1613796005 ), Barnes & Noble (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/love-never-dies-lpc-s-ct-larry-m-barber-ct-larry-m/1104364890?ean=9781613796016).
The grief survival guide is also available in Spanish as “El Amor Nunca Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa”
Both English and Spanish versions are available for Kindle and Nook. Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX http://grief-works.org.