Job described his loss: "My eyes have grown dim with grief; my whole frame is but a shadow." (17:7) One of the Psalms confesses: "...my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak." (31:9-10)
There is no one set way of grieving. People grieve in different ways. There is no one set way of healing either. Some people are helped in one way, but that may not help another person. There are similarities in ways of grieving: shock and denial, anger, bargaining, resignation and acceptance are some of the responses to grief. Not everyone experiences all of these reactions with the same intensity nor for the same length of time. That is what makes it different for everyone.
One recent study by a psychologist, George Bonanno of Catholic University, suggests that laughter helps in processing grief. This is contrary to the usual ideas about grieving, but for many it is a big help. One may not really feel like laughing, but natural--not forced-- laughter is possible. A friend of mine who went through much grief commented about laughter: "I've found it essential to healing." I have attended several memorial services for people in which people volunteered stories and memories about the deceased. Invariably, these stories were humorous and everyone laughed in celebration of the memory of the person. The stories often combine tears and laughter and they both are therapeutic.
Much bereavement literature regards laughter as a form of denial. This is mistaken. Laughter is a form of celebration of the life of the person and focuses on their good qualities and influences on friends. In a different reaction, one widow remarked: "When I really feel down, I start to think of the most terrible thing he ever did to me, and then I don't miss him so much."
The loss of a loved one leaves us lonely. If you can reach out to friends there is the possibility of laughter and this bonds people together. Grief-stricken people also find help in faith in Jesus Christ. One women remarked that she misses her husband dearly, but it is a comfort to know that he is in the presence of the Lord. She would not bring him back, but she herself looks forward to a reunion in the presence of the Lord. This hope keeps her going. While she is alone she has focused her life on things she can do to help others.
For those who want to help people in grief, there must be a willingness to listen. This may mean listening to repetition of stories they have heard before, but talk therapy is part of healing. It is hard to listen to the same stories over and over and we just want them to be out of their pain. But that IS a way out!
grief its time. The mind has to process
until it is ready to let go. It is recommended that widows
and widowers not make major life changes for the first year.
One of man's greatest needs is for purpose in life. Often our sense of purpose is found in our relation with family and friends. When death takes them from us our sense of purpose is gone. We need to find new reasons for living. After grief has done its work, one must not sit at home alone. There needs to be challenging experiences. Consider the case of Margaret Burks who lost her husband in 1985. At 76 years of age she enrolled in seminary and became the school's oldest graduate. At 80 she went to Israel for an archaeological dig. Now she is in Tanzania teaching in a seminary at the age of 84. This may be an unusual character study, but the bereaved have much to offer to others.
Think of some possibilities: big brother/big sister programs, teaching English to a foreign student, teaching reading to someone who has never learned to read, "adopting" a college student from another country, volunteering at the local hospital, teaching a Sunday School class, taking a course in computers, taking a course in anything that piques your interest, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, organizing a block party for people to get to know one another, baking a cake for newcomers to the community, join a support group for the grieving, volunteer to fold the bulletins at church, help with meals on wheels, or anything that makes you feel fulfilled. (See Healing From Emptiness on this web site)
The disciples of Jesus were filled with grief when he told them he would be crucified and on the third day rise from death. He assured them that they would grieve but their grief would be turned to joy. (John 16:20) For the Christ-follower there is companionship and comfort even in the midst of grief. He told his disciples "Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." (16:22)
The words of the Bible describe God as the ultimate source of comfort. "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 have received from God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4) Comfort comes from God as well as other people who are his friends.
If you are in need of learning to know God, check out "How To Get To Heaven From Wherever You Are..." on this web site.
The Healing Site
For further reading:
Susan Zorinebelt-Smeenge and
C. DeVries, "Getting to the other side of grief," (Baker)
Granger Westberg, "Good Grief, " ( Fortress)
Zig Ziglar, "Confessions of a Grieving Christian," ( Nelson)