I’ve learned a lot about grief the last few years. I have lost many people in my life and have shed many tears. Grief is a journey. Grief is very personal. Even though others share the loss, you walk alone.
The pain and rawness of emotions are very real and grappling with them is part of the grief journey. As I continue on this journey, I realized there are ways to grieve with hope. Choices to promote healing the pain and rawness of loss. As I reflect back on my grief journey thus far, this is what I have learned.
- Half-empty cup. Grief itself is not a choice, but how you respond to grief is a choice. Grief starts out looking at the loss of the person. You feel a void, an emptiness. They are missing from your life and you miss them terribly. So you see the cup half empty. As you focus on the loss and the emptiness write everything down which comes to you. All the things you miss about them. All the things they liked to do, things that remind you of them. Write it all down. Keep a journal. This helps for step 2.
- Half-full cup. At some point along my grief journey, I made a choice to shift my focus from what I was missing to the life lived. I moved my focus from the empty side of the cup to the full side of the cup. I wanted to remember and celebrate the life lived. To remember what they liked, what they did and what was important to them. I have started a memory book, which is not yet complete. I write my memories and look at pictures to celebrate their life. I have asked others for memories and wrote those down too. This way I can share the memories with my kids and others. This choice is not an instantaneous fix, it heals over time.
- Honor and remember. I also choose to do things in my life to honor and remember them. To do things they would like to do and think of them while doing them. Yes, it may bring a few tears or a flood of tears, but those tears and the activity heal. Experience their love in doing the activity together. I feel my dad’s love when walking through the woods and seeing deer. My dad liked to go to McDonald’s and have coffee. So I’m doing that today. No, he wouldn’t have had sugar and cream in it, but I can’t drink it black.
- Put your anger into action. Grief and anger are companions. I know from experience and from hearing the voices of others who have lost loved ones. There are many organizations started to honor and remember someone who’s died. Find one that fits you or start something new. Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) is just one example. I’ve also seen memorial 5k run/walks, trees planted, memorial dances, laws passed in memory of someone, park benches, etc. I hear today of so many people who lose loved ones to addiction, opioid abuse, and accidental overdose. Be the change you wanted for your loved one. If they didn’t get the help they needed, then try to be the help for someone else. If they died due to suicide, join an organization for suicide prevention. If they died due to a drunk driver, be an advocate for safe rides home. Find a way to put your anger into action. Do something. Be the change. Pay it forward.
- Remember God’s promises. It’s hard when we lose someone we love to think they are somewhere. They are gone from our life, but they still live on. Even though here on earth we cannot with one hundred percent certainty know what happens after death, there are many passages in scripture which promise life eternal. Look them up, read them, write them down, trust them.
In the midst of acute grief, I read a small book saying Christians were not to grieve because we will see our loved ones again. What hogwash! That message is not Biblical. The Bible doesn’t say to not grieve.
The Bible says those who mourn will be comforted (Matthew 5:4). The Bible says God binds up the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1). The Bible says God heals the brokenhearted (Psalm 147:3).The Bible says to not grieve like those without hope (1 Thess 3:13). To mourn is normal. God created us to grieve. To live, love and grieve is all part of the human existence.
We, as Christians, grieve and mourn with hope. We focus on the life lived, the promise of seeing our loved ones again and God’s promises of eternal life. God heals our emptiness of grief.
What steps can you take to grieve with hope (even baby steps)?
Which of God’s promises do you hold onto?