I was praying the other day and the Lord brought to mind all those in my network who have passed away in the past couple of months. It was overwhelming. There were several people I’ve known through my ministry who recently died. A couple of days ago, I visited dear life-long friends who lost their Dad. And I had a conversation with my Mom whose friend’s husband passed away.
So much loss!
The Lord moved in my heart. He said, “Doug, bring up the topic of loss and grief; and let your Whole Life Worship community chime in.”
Especially with the pandemic, I’m sure you have either experienced profound loss or know someone who has. This is an important topic to talk about because loss is one of those things that, if we don’t work through it in good ways, it will work us over in bad ways. I’m convinced that one of the reasons for the uprise in mental health issues these days is that people – even and maybe, especially, Christ-followers – don’t know how to handle loss well.
I’m no expert, by any means. But I want to share the little I do understand about this. And I invite those of you reading this who are more experienced in loss/grief (therapists, grief counselors, etc.) to chime in and share your thoughts by posting a comment (either on Facebook or on my website, for those of you who subscribe).
So, I’ll start by saying:
1. There is a difference between loss and grief. Loss is what we face. One moment we have something; the next moment, it’s gone. While losing a beloved one (spouse, child, parent, friend) is a huge loss, any loss will have an effect on our lives. Losing a job, a relationship, a beloved pet, a prized possession, or a dream are all significant losses.
On the other hand, grief or grieving is a response to loss. And I add, grieving is only one of many responses to loss. When some people experience loss they respond, not by grieving, but by stewing in unacknowledged anger or stuffing their sadness or filling their time with all sorts of activity. I think people do this because they don’t want to face the painful process of grieving.
2. There is a difference between “bad grief” and “good grief.” Not sure if I said that correctly, but there is a sterotype of grieving that does NOT end well. And I think because of that stereotype, many people are afraid to grieve. This is the grief where we let the emotions take over and define our reality. The result is that our world gets smaller and smaller. We fall into an enormous pit that we can’t climb out of. And then we start thinking that no one understands what we’re going through. I think that is bad grief.
“Good grief” (and not the Charlie Brown expression, ha ha!) is when we are open to our emotions and work through them. They don’t define us, but we allow them to be expressed. My friend, Pastor Jack (who recently lost his dear wife), described it like this: “Bad grief is like standing in the ocean and the huge waves of emotion just slam onto you. You end up underwater and you can’t breathe. Good grief is learning to ‘body surf’ the waves of emotion.” This doesn’t mean that good grief avoids the pain or that you won’t get slammed, but that you see it coming and you know to ride it out, instead of drowning in it.
3. Good Grieving involves inviting God and good people to walk with you. I am reminded of Jesus’ profound Beatitude, “Blessed are those who mourn (grieve) for they shall be comforted.” It is difficult, if not impossible, to go through the Good Grief process without the help of others – especially Jesus. Jesus says to us, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). When we grieve our loss, we need to have the companionship of the One who is “acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3b). We need supernatural power and strength to help us through this long journey.
That includes having godly, good, and safe human companionship – those who rightly represent the hands, feet and heart of Jesus. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one … if either of them falls down, one can help the other pick them up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Allowing good people to accompany you on the journey of grief is vital. It picks us up emotionally, it opens up our lives to good possibilities and it gives us hope that we can and will get through this.
I want to leave by sharing that there are some great resources to help those who want to grieve well. May I suggest “GriefShare?” GriefShare is twelve-week, small-group based program where those who are grieving can get good tools, as well as an opportunity to share and hear from others who are working through their grief. When I oversaw our support groups at church, GriefShare was tremendously helpful for those who experienced loss.
For more info, go to https://griefshare.org. They will help you find a GriefShare group in your area.
Again, I invite you to join in this conversation; especially if you are a grief specialist or therapist or pastor or someone who has gone through the “good grief” process. We need to have this conversation for the sake of those who are overwhelmed with their loss; which seems to be happening more and more these days.
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