What is grief and why does it seem to completely devastate some but not others?  Everyone, who lives long will go through some kind of grief in their life.  Grief is normally tied to some kind of loss.  The deeper the loss the greater the struggle with grief, to some degree.  But, the reality is that two people may suffer the exact same loss of a husband or wife, or mother or dad and deal with it in entirely different ways.  One widow after the death of her husband will hurt, struggle but get right back into her life and deal with the pain while staying totally involved in life.  Another can’t seem to get out of the house and just doesn’t feel the same about life itself anymore.  What makes the difference in people?

There are tons of factors that may affect how we deal with the loss.  Often the amount of time the person has had to deal with their grief before the death of the person may affect how they deal with the loss itself.  Sometimes it is harder for a person to deal with the loss of a mate in divorce than in death.  It is sometimes tied to how sudden that was also.  If the marriage had been in deep trouble for a long time and they were each causing the other all kinds of misery then it can be handled in a whole different way that if the partner being divorced thought all along that things were going great only to learn one day that the other partner hasn’t felt that way at all and is leaving.  But I’ve seen people face both these situations in totally different ways.

The health of the relationship before sickness and death can also affect how the grieving partner deals with the death of the mate.  Too often when a partner dies the other one feels a ton of guilt that makes the grief go far deeper.  Now it isn’t just the loss they grieve but the guilt that they could have done something or they could have been better to the person if they had just known this was the end of it all.

Our grief is also deeply affected both by our sense of hope in death for ourselves and our belief that the one who died was right with God and has gone on to be with God.  If I’m sincerely afraid or even am sure they were lost and they have gone to the torments of hell, then it will certainly bring on more grief for me.  It seems from Luke 16:1-31 that the rich man who lifted up his eyes in hell, was concerned about the fate of his five brothers back on the earth.  Paul wrote the church in Thessalonica to plead with them when their loved one dies to not sorrow like others who have no hope, for if we believe in Jesus and that God raised him from the dead it should lessen our grief and hurt. Also, if we are Christians and part of a local body of believers it will certainly make a difference if they are all around you, encouraging you, supporting you and loving you.

Many times when a partner has been sick for some time and then dies the grieving partner has so separated themselves from everyone else that they can’t seem to find their way back into the group.  It is extremely important when a person is still weeping, and dealing with the emptiness and broken heart that someone is there and checking on them.  It helps when children and grandchildren are around to talk about the one you love and show all the pictures of that person, laughing, crying and just having good memories of your days gone by.

It often helps the one dealing with grief to get out int0 some of the grief share, type programs that will put one into contact with others dealing with the same kind of loss and will offer you tons of information that will help you to know what is normal and what you should seek help about.  There have been tons of things written about the different stages of grief, which really aren’t stages at all.  They are different emotions and feelings or attitudes that many people go through in grief.  Many years ago I was called to make a trip to a rather distant town to conduct the funeral service for a young man that was a real leader in the church where he worshiped.  He was married and had teenaged children when he was killed in a terrible accident on his farm.  When I arrived the wife was smiling, meeting people, talking with everyone and saying things like, she knew he was with the Lord and even though it hurt they would be alright.  The people in the church were all talking about how well she was doing.  Before leaving I encouraged the other leaders to be sure and stay in close contact with her that there would likely be a time soon when it will hit her like a brick and she won’t be like she is now.  They were all confident that she would just do great since she had lots of faith.  I happened to be back there about six months later and at the worship time looked for her, but didn’t see her or her children.  When we went back to one of the shepherds home that afternoon, I asked he and his wife what had happened?  They said she had done really well for a few weeks, but then one Sunday it all seemed to change. She started crying when the first song was sung and before services were over she grabbed her children and rushed out sobbing loudly.  We tried to check on her but she is so mad about something that we can’t figure out what it is, that she has stopped coming to church altogether and the children aren’t coming much either.  Later that afternoon I drove over to her house and found her and the teen children.  She was angry, sad, broken and felt horribly alone.  We talked a long time about grief and how it hits a person and that anger, depression and frustration were all normal parts of it.  She knew the people at church had tried to be there for her, but it just wasn’t ever what she really needed and in her mind they were so insensitive to sing the songs in worship they had used for her husband’s funeral.  “Why can’t they see how that rips us apart?”

Grief is tough.  It isn’t something you can just shake off and go on.  A few days ago I heard a son say about his mother whose had lost his father three months earlier, “I just don’t get it.  It’s been three months and she still acts like it just happened.  Why can’t she just get on with her life and quit reliving it all the time?” A man that runs a rather sizable business called me one day to ask how long I thought it was reasonable to give a person off when they had someone close to die.  He was working on a policy manual and had written in that he would give them a week off with pay and one more without if they lost a mate or parent.  He felt that was very generous and that surely they could be over it in two weeks.  One of the reasons grief is tough and so many try to hide it is that people generally just don’t understand.

Think quickly of some things the Bible says we need to do for those who are grieving.  First, Paul told the Thessalonians to tell them this life isn’t all there is that Jesus is coming again and he will take us home and to comfort one another with these words in I Thessalonians 4:13-18.  In 2 Corinthians 5 he explained that if we die we leave this earthly dwelling and go to be with the Lord in the home called heaven.  When Jesus comes again he will change these lowly bodies so they may be fashioned like his glorious body so we can always be with him.  So comfort those whose loved ones were followers of Jesus by talking about heaven and God’s blessings for his people.  With anyone it is good to ask them questions about the person they lost and allow them to tell you all they want to about them.  It will often be very sad and brings lots of tears but that is healing for the person and helps you to understand and know them better.  Many times when one is horribly depressed in their grief the best thing is to do something good for them like clean their house and simply let them know you are there and love them all the time.  It is never good to tell someone it is time for them to get over it or get on with their life.  It only shows them that you have no clue how badly they hurt and what it is like.  You may say, but I have been through it and do know.  You know how you felt.  No one knows or understands how another person feels without them telling you.

Always remember the golden rule to treat them the way you would want to be treated in the same situation.  Love them.  Forgive them if they say something that is hurtful.  Don’t stop loving and checking on the person even if they treat you badly.  Extend grace and compassion and give them time to heal from a massive wound.  Remember the story of David and Bathsheba and how God punished David by causing the child they had to die.  David first refused to be comforted while there was any chance that the child might live.  But when the baby died he arose, took a bath and changed clothes to go to the house of the Lord to worship.  Later it says he went in to Bathsheba and comforted her and she became pregnant with another child that would be Solomon the next king over Israel.  People are comforted in all kinds of ways but every person who has gone through a major loss needs comfort.  They need the comfort that comes from God and from those who have been comforted by God.  Remember 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with with we ourselves are comforted by God.”  What we receive we must share with others when they hurt.  Often our real healing comes when we start working to help another person going through the same kind of loss we did.

When you are in grief, it is vital that you maintain hope.  It is hope for a better day and a less painful time that keeps you moving forward.  It will get better.  While the loss never goes away, your mind and heart will begin to heal.  You won’t forget.  You won’t stop loving them.  But you can move on and begin to live again and one day you won’t think about the loss all the time.

About leoninlittlerock

Preaching minister for Central church of Christ in Little Rock. Author of over 20 books including: When a Loved one Dies, Spiritual Development, Skid Marks on the Family Drive, Challenges in the church, To Know Christ and A Drink of Living Water.
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