We try to avoid grief. It’s uncomfortable – painful. We try to jump to relief and normalcy too quickly, before grief has done its work within us.
And make no mistake, grief is work. It is a process that should not be medicated away or otherwise circumvented. It is normal, but it is exhausting.
Usually those things that produce mourning in our lives are things for which we don’t rehearse a response. It may be unexpected or it may be a while in coming, and yet when it happens our sense of shock and denial cause us to say, “I can’t believe this,” and “How did this happen?”
Those five stages of grief are typical responses, but they aren’t neatly arranged, then once and done. They weave in and out of our lives, sometimes at the most inconvenient times. We think we’ve made it to acceptance, then the anger stage pops up again. Anger is a terrible phase to be stuck in, but many people prefer feeling mad over being sad.
Lamentations 1:16 “For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears; for a comforter is far from me, one to revive my spirit; my children are desolate, for the enemy has prevailed.”
It doesn’t have to involve true clinical depression, but sometimes it does when we just can’t get past it. It’s hard to believe that deep sorrow is a part of normal, healthy grieving. Mourning is not just about the sadness, but trying to make sense of it when it may never make sense. It’s coming to grips with the loss, whatever that means. And although that sense of loss may never completely leave us, it shouldn’t remain acute forever. It’s just so unsettling when a grief wave hits us and knocks us off our feet again.
Bargaining is the sneakiest stage. It’s not just about trying to make a deal with God. “Oh Lord, IF you will do this, THEN I will…” That actually takes chutzpah, since He is the One who determines the conditions and consequences of life. He says, “IF you will,” and “THEN I will.”
But bargaining often takes the form of “If only…” If only I had done this or that. If only I had not done this or that. Bargaining asks “why?” and “What if things had been different?” It causes us to launch into the realm of speculation and wonder how things might be now if that hadn’t happened. This kind of rumination can be a whirlpool that sucks us down to the depths of misery, since it proposes situations that will never be possible. As insensitive as it sounds, “it is what it is,” may be one of those clichés that can pull us out of that pattern.
There are not many answers to our questions when we are grieving. That’s part of what makes it so difficult. But we are not without hope.
1Thessalonians 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
Because we believe in a real, resurrected Yeshua/Jesus, we believe our mortal bodies will be resurrected also. That is our hope. It is more than wishful thinking.
We do have a comforter in the Holy Spirit. All of those “funeral verses” are read when we are numb with sorrow and less able to really hear them. Chapters 14, 15, and 16 in John’s gospel have comforting words about the work of the Spirit.
Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
That verse from Jesus in the Beatitudes may be hard to take when you are in the midst of mourning. But he gives a promise later about the ultimate resolution to our grief.
John 16:21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
I’m sorry I went long with this post, but I hope there is a word of hope and encourgement in these paragraphs for someone. Loss leaves a scar, but healing is possible if grief does it full work through the power of the Holy Spirit, our comforter.