Over the past couple of years, as I’ve struggled to figure out what a world without a mom and a dad looks like, I’ve learned and relearned a few things about grieving that a griever and someone who is trying to care for someone in their grief may find helpful.
I’ve learned that the first rule of grieving is that there are no rules. Grieving is neither neat nor orderly. There is no clearly defined path or timetable to follow. Different aspects of grief (the painful separation, disbelief, anger, guilt, hopelessness, etc.) fade in and out of our hearts with no discernible pattern. And there is no way of knowing how many times we will experience any particular aspect or so-called “stage” of grief.
I’m learning that just because we feel or wrestle with something once doesn’t mean we will never do so again. Most people experience several recurring feelings and questions as they grieve, sometimes as if it were for the first time.
Since watching both of my parents draw their last breaths, I’ve been reminded again that it’s okay to grieve. As King Solomon observed, there is a time for everything, including “a time to weep” and “a time to mourn” (Ecclesiastes 3:4).
No matter what aspect of grief wells up inside of us, I’m learning that it is important to give ourselves permission to feel and express it. It’s important to let the feelings and thoughts come—raw and unfiltered—and to put words to them. William Shakespeare rightly noted, “Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak . . . bids it [the heart] break.”
As crazy as it makes me feel sometimes, I’m learning that I need to mourn. According to Jesus, comfort awaits the griever (Matthew 5:4). I’m learning that leaning into the pain of loss opens me up to lean on God and others for comfort.
Lastly, I’m learning that Paul was right when he wrote that Christians grieve with hope. It is the hope of seeing our loved ones again when Jesus returns that helps to make unbearable loss more bearable (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).
To learn more about helping folks in the throes of grief, tune into our upcoming Webinar, Shepherding Others Through Loss, on November 6, 2013, at 2 p.m. EST.