Everyone will experience grief at some point in their lives. It is one of the most difficult emotions one will endure. While the physical toll from grief can feel crippling, God’s power is sufficient for all pain, and He offers a calming hope during the grieving process.
Zoe Clark Coates shared, “When someone dies that you love, it changes your life forever. It is not something you can ‘get over,’ the loss now becomes part of who you are.” I never understood grief until someone close to me died, and it seems that Coates said it right. In my mid-twenties I experienced a personal trauma that turned my world upside down. Since then my life has never been the same. It was like my timeline of life was ‘before’ and ‘after.’ Although this event was horrible, and I would not wish it on anyone, God brought good out of it.
After experiencing the loss of a loved one, I would say it is a very similar experience. Having gone through one trauma already and seeing God provide comfort in the midst of that pain, I now must remind myself to keep my eyes fixed on the Lord. I know he can get me through this because he has gotten me through a rough time before when I was lost in a deep, dark place. Lamentations 3:32-33 states, “Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.”
Some of us face the grief head-on and experience the emotional ups and downs of the grief cycle. Others try and avoid their feelings by stuffing them down, forcing them to come out, and coping with them in unhealthy ways like anger, shutting people out, drinking, spending, etc. Every person’s experience with and response to grief is different.
How do we cope with grief?
First, we must educate ourselves about appropriate expectations and weed out the myths of what grief should look like. God made every person different, every relationship different, so people may process grief on different timelines. Knowing that it is normal for a person experiencing grief to bounce back and forth through an array of emotions can be helpful. The grief cycle, defined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, includes the following stages: shock/denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance. It is common for individuals to go back and forth in experiencing these different feelings before coming to acceptance. Grief is not a linear process. We must be patient with ourselves and adjust our expectations during times of grief.
Although you may feel alone in your loss, you are not. Many others have experienced similar losses, and the ones who have not may still be able to bring comfort in this sad time. Staying connected can be very helpful in a time of loss. Staying connected with people can help you gain emotional, physical, or spiritual support. A support system may include family, friends, church congregation (or other groups), co-workers, or even doctors and counselors. It is always important to have someone with whom you can sit and talk during a tough transition.
“Grief I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot…grief is love with no place to go” (anonymous). Looking ahead at life and knowing this person is no longer going to be in this picture is unbearable. We must take it one day at a time, one step at a time. Think: what would this special person wish for you at this time? Would they want you to be happy? Weeping for what was lost is absolutely okay, but we must allow God to bring light to our darkness and not stay in this sad place indefinitely. Psalm 61:2 says, “When my heart is overwhelmed lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Some people find a way to honor the special person that they have lost; others hold tight to the happy memories, cherishing them daily. God uses hard and sad situations to pull us in near to Him. What could God be revealing to you during this time of suffering?
Finding a new normal is just plain hard. You may not want a new normal, but the reality is, it is out of our control. Maybe you were extremely close to the person you lost and your whole life revolved around them. In this case, you may need to adopt a new hobby, surround yourself with uplifting people, or reach out and get involved in something new. Maybe this loss affects you deeply, but does not necessarily affect how you spent your daily time. For you, sadness can set in from specific triggers and around special holidays when you may have visited this person. Whatever your case may be, finding a new normal is tough. You will have triggers – people, places, dates, or things that remind you of your loss – which bring up intense emotions. Talking to someone about it or taking a moment alone to sort through these feelings and readjust your perspective can be helpful.
How to cope with grief?
Readjusting your perspective
Finding a new normal
If you find yourself getting stuck in anger or sadness which begins to affect multiple areas of your life, you might consider seeking out professional help. The clinical staff at A&M Christian Counseling Center would love to come alongside you in your journey of grief and help you find your place of hope.