Grief Explained

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What is grief?

Simply stated, grief is a sadness we feel when we experience loss. It’s an unwanted affliction, an intense anguish, and an extraordinary sorrow we endure when our longings go unfulfilled. 

Grief, sorrow, loss

No one is immune to grief!

Because grief is a human experience, no one is immune. It doesn’t respect people and can strike at any time. It’s not something any of us want to experience, but we’ll all have to endure it at some point in our lives. We experience grief when someone we love dies, when our dream doesn’t materialize, and when we move from one season to the next in our lives. And we often grieve when we look back on what could have been

A Time for Everything

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

 There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

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Experiences we never got to have

People we didn’t get to love

Dreams we failed to accomplish

Don’t get stuck in grief

Nobody wants to grieve, but everybody has to. That is, if we want to feel better and begin to experience life again. If we don’t, we’ll be stuck in the same day for the rest of our lives, hoping and praying that what we lost will somehow be reversed. 

The shortest verse in the entire Bible is found in John 11:35, and it simply says, Jesus wept.” It comes after Jesus was told that his dear friend, Lazarus, died. Was He grieving the loss of his friend? Was He being empathetic toward Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters? We’ll never fully understand the entire context, but we can be assured that our Lord was compassionate and experienced sadness while He walked the earth. This two-word verse seems to give us permission to grieve. After all, our Lord and Savior did, and He knew the outcome of the story. 

We need to learn how to process our grief in a healthy way from the different kinds of losses we’ll experience on earth. As we process, we’ll begin to see ourselves healing from the inside out. 

Process Before Progress

Grief brings an initial sting of pain when we realise what’s been lost. But it also appears when we’re reminded of our loss throughout the day. It can come on suddenly and before we know it, we’re in tears, full of anger, and feel absolutely hopeless. We don’t like hurting, but if we want to make any progress in our grief, we have to process through our pain—process before progress. 

Don’t Ignore It

The only way to get over grief is to get through it. To literally look grief square in the eyes and address it is incredibly difficult. We can’t subdue our grief nor can we let it strangle us. Addressing our grief means that we grieve when we need to grieve. We don’t ignore it, but stop what we’re doing and grieve. It could be through tears or screams. However we process our pain is how we process it. 

Don’t Compare It

There are different kinds of grief, and according to most experts, grief comes in stages. We may not hit all of them or even in the same order or at the same time. In fact, we may go through one, move through it, and then come back to it later. The point isn’t that we hit stages according to some plan, but that we understand that there’s not a “one size fits all” grief process.

Your pain and experiences are yours. 

It may not be our own grief we’re processing, but instead watching someone else in theirs. And we don’t like it. We do or say things to try to get their mind off their loss. While there’s a time to help others so that they aren’t constantly sitting in their pain, we can’t rush people through grief because we’re uncomfortable watching them in it. Let’s think of their needs, not how awkward the situation feels. Maybe we just sit with them as they cry or provide a need for them that they just can’t do. Whatever it is, let’s keep them in mind and do our best to stay mostly silent.

It’s hard to see progress with grieving. In the early days, it feels like we’re drowning and not making progress, but we are. Grieving our loss actually takes an effort on our part to get to the end of grief’s road.

Don’t lose heart. 

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalms 34:18

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
Proverbs 17:17

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7

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Different Kinds of Losses 

When we hear the word grief, we often think of losing people. While that is a significant part of loss, it’s not the only kind. There are different kinds of losses that bring a variety of feelings. Some are sudden and unexpected, while others are seen coming. We lose things daily and grieve those losses no matter how big or small they are. The death of an expectation, dream, season, idea, or friendship can usher in extreme sadness. Let’s consider a few types of losses we’ll experience on earth. 

Loss of a Person

Relationships are precious gifts from God. He wants us to love and enjoy people. The loss of life is the most difficult kind of loss because it’s final and can’t be undone. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13, Believers Who Have Died 13 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.

We’re told that believers in Jesus will grieve differently than those who don’t have hope. The verse doesn’t tell us to be strong and not grieve. The Apostle Paul tells us to grieve, but to grieve with hope in mind. We can grieve deeply and simultaneously experience the joy of Christ fully, knowing that we’ll be reunited with our fellow believers in Christ one day.

Loss of a Dream

When our dreams, plans, and hopes aren’t realized the way we wanted or even at all, a grief settles over us. We doubt and wonder if anything good will come to us in the future. It’s okay to be disappointed that we didn’t get what we wanted. But, it’s in this time that we can adjust our gaze and look up at Jesus as He’s perfecting our faith. Our dreams may seem grand, but God’s dreams for how He wants to use us on this earth will far surpass our limited viewpoint. 

Loss of a Season

Looking back on our lives is quite common. Whether we’re lamenting on a season when we were the star of a sports team or wishing our children were still young, it can be painful.

But, this is life—it’s always moving forward even if we don’t want it to. 

As we remember past seasons, let’s thank God for them and then rejoice in the future God has given us. For with new seasons come new joys.

We can experience the highest of heights but we can also walk through the darkest valleys. The greater we love, need, hope, and depend on someone or something, the greater the grief. The intensity of our grief will be dependent upon how much hope we placed in the loss. As we are patient in our grief process, let’s trust that God is working things out for His glory and our good

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

You must feverishly pursue a relationship with God and keep the Holy Spirit Helper by your side always.

When Healing Comes

We will grieve and grow daily. That’s what grief does. Some days, we sit in it and might even feel like it’s smothering us. Other days, the grief slightly lifts us as we peacefully remember our loss. 

Sometimes, Jesus will heal us completely while we reside on earth. Other times, true healing only comes when we’re finally in the presence of Jesus after we’ve joined Him in heaven. Regardless of when our complete healing comes, we can start to heal in the here and now. But how much? As mentioned earlier, processing our pain brings about progress. The depth and speed of our healing truly depends on how well we process our pain as we trust God and allow His Spirit to help us. 

So, how do you know when you’ve healed? Here are a few indications that healing has begun to occur in your life.

Signs of healing

A sign that you’re healing is that the memory of the loss no longer destroys your day. You see something that reminds you of loss and it doesn’t cause intense pain. What once ruined your entire day may only affect you for a few hours or minutes. In some situations, when the loss was more extreme, the pain you feel now is a dull ache and not a stabbing sensation. In others, it might even become factual information to you and not conjure an emotional response. In short, your recovery time from the reminder has shortened.

Another sign that you’re healing is when you can begin to see what God has done in and through you because of this loss. This doesn’t mean that you would want to endure this again or that you wouldn’t want the person alive again, it just means that you see how God has begun to work out all things for His good. Even in the wretched, awful, life-sucking pain you’ve endured, you can see how you’re becoming a better version of yourself. 

One final sign that shows that you’re healing is when your why questions become how questions. Instead of asking, “Why did you let this happen?” to God, you’ll begin to ask, “How are you going to use this?” The mental and spiritual shift occurs when we recognize the comfort He’s given us can and should be used to comfort another. 

One of the most challenging things about grief is that you’ll think you’ve made significant progress in your healing, but then are reminded of the dream that didn’t happen or the loved one you no longer see. This generates more pain because you feel like you’re worse than you were before. You’re not. What this means is that your healing journey halted for a minute. You may have even taken a few steps back. When this happens, stop and grieve…again. And then allow yourself to look back and see the progress you’ve made. Every time you accept the loss and feel it, you’re headed toward healing.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

Helping others

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.
2 Corinthians 1:3‭-‬4

Our pain and grief now – God can use in you to help others

God With Us 

We won’t always understand the will of God. His ways and thoughts supersede ours every single time. We won’t always like God’s will, either. Because our longings are unfulfilled and when grief lands on our doorstep, we certainly don’t like that. 

In our grief, we get utterly disappointed. Disappointed with people, situations, and yes, even with God. We often don’t want to voice that, but honestly, it’s how we feel sometimes. We desired a particular outcome, and because He’s the God of the universe, we knew He could make it happen. But He didn’t. And we’re disappointed and wonder if He even cares. 

God beside us

We have to remember that when we feel paralyzed in our grief and feel alone, God isn’t far away. Some think their pain means God is absent from them. He isn’t, and never will be.  He’s omnipresent, nearer than our breath, and His Spirit is our constant companion. He hasn’t left us to get through this intense pain alone. He is Immanuel, God with us. 

Holy Spirit
  • He doesn’t expect us to walk through the “valley of the shadow of death” on our own (Psalm 23:4)—He’s carrying us through it. 
  • He doesn’t require that we have our own strength but to know that “He is our strength” (Habakkuk 3:19)—He’s supplying us with it. 
  • He doesn’t demand that we muster up our own source of understanding but to “trust in the Lord with all our hearts” (Proverbs 3:5)—He’s guiding us as we go.
Hope

Even when our pain seems to have a death-grip on our hearts, we can still grieve with hope. The hope we have knowing that this earth isn’t our home and that one day we’ll never experience any emotional, physical, or spiritual darkness again.

For we’ll be with Jesus

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21:4

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Posted by Stephen Baragwanath

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