Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, spiritual, and philosophical dimensions.
That’s the Google definition….my own is a bit less clinical.
My heart wails. My body takes longer to move. My head throbs.
In these times of global this and national that, even those who don’t posses personal grief are exposed to some form of grief on a daily basis through TV sitcoms and cop shows, internet communications, charity ads, local news broadcasts of wars and politicians and community tragedies, etc. All this exposure makes its mark on our generation. While our specific losses are different ( loss of a spouse is different than loss of a child, etc), there are aspects of grief that are similar across a wide range of loss.
When I lost three family members in four months the most helpful article I read was from a Jewish organization recounting the “What-to-do” issues surrounding multiple deaths experienced from terror attacks.
Things I found helpful were these:
- It’s OK not to be happy. That sounds obvious, doesn’t it?If someone is throwing a party – even someone you know and love – the best option is to politely decline attendance. That happened to me. I was invited to a wedding shower, a baby shower and other events… I said no. While I missed out on those social connections, possible new connections and all the “fun” of those events, it was awesome not to force a smile.
Later, when the desire for company outweighed my desire to stay at home, I did accept an invitation to a birthday party. I tried to force happiness. It did not go well and I wish I’d never gone.
Advice tested: Don’t go out to parties while grieving. Limit the scope of social activities for awhile.
- Let yourself experience grief. Deal with the effects of grief in all your parts (heart, mind, spirit, and body) as waves going through you. Grief ebbs and flows. Go with it.
- Grief ignored will pop up when you least expect it demanding your full attention. Being ambushed by grieving is no fun. Nobody knows why you’re having a meltdown. Those who want to help can’t and those who need you or depend on you, you will be unavailable for. Better to manage grief than to let it manage you.
- Grief does effect our physical well being so use your body in grief management. Express your grief in a positive physical way. One suggestion was the practice of tearing a funeral scarf which I facilitated at one of the three family funerals. It was a healthy, healing event.
- Turn your thoughts to God as Supreme Judge. Hand him the job of sorting out motives, situations, personalities, regrets, vengeance, wrongs and rights. Then grant him the honor of deciding the verdict…passing sentence if need be. Not your job. Don’t take on the extra burden of it.
- Prolonged grieving is not good, nor is it healthy. Designate a period of time. 30 days to one year are benchmarks used by many. The important thing is to allow yourself to grieve completely. Grief has a beginning, a middle and an ending.
- Open your heart to the reality that it is not your grief alone. Grief has ripples. What affects you effects those around you. Incidentally, those people have also suffered loss and need to process it.
Death and loss happen.
How are we going to deal with it?
Laugh? Finding a sense of humor about it all is actually very freeing. Like the time the mortician told us we couldn’t mail my Dad anywhere. Seriously!? Then we started thinking about where we might send him… hilarious. Please use the comment section to share your grieving humor.
Cry? Tears can heal such deep wounds. But crying at your core causes such headaches! …and runny noses. Just being practical: Ibuprofen and Kleenex are a good idea.
Talk? We should talk about grief openly before it visits because grief comes to us all. The best option is to prepare for it, not be blindsided by it.
As you consider grieving, please consider this; God grieves too. In fact it is one of the ways we are reminded that we have been made in his image. Note: the word ‘grieved’ in Genesis 6:6 is Strong’s #6087…the same word used in Genesis 3:16 translated as “… in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children…” Eve grieves during childbirth; God grieves over pervasive wickedness.
5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved [a]in His heart. 7 The Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the[b]sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Genesis 6:5-8 (NASB)
Here we have an ending and a new beginning. A grieving God providing a way out of the grief, a way through the cleansing from grief and the hope of better things to come.
May the way ahead of you bring the light of God’s favor and may you experience refreshing new life in his presence. Amen.