Grief can be misunderstood by many. But the most important truth about grief is that the grieving process is not going to end all of the pain. It can be devastating to lose a person who is very significant in someone’s life. People can also go through a loss of the way they view themselves or the way other people are going to view them.
When Steve Arterburn, founder of New Life Ministries, went through a divorce, he experienced a great deal of loss. In his grieving, he had to address his insecurity and fear of the future. But more than anything, it was the loss of a safe and intact home for his 12-year-old daughter that hurt him.
While he describes his sadness as feeling different now than it did then, he acknowledges that it’s still there. He said, “There are certain things that happen even now that bring back all of those feelings. My daughter made it through with flying colors, and I think a deeper relationship with God. But the pain that she had to endure was horrible. And I don’t believe that she’s entirely over that pain today any more than I am.”
It’s normal for people to still feel some things years after they go through a major loss. Certain triggers bring back some of the pain. No deep grieving process is going to fix everything or make it all go away.
The grieving process helps people to live a life that isn’t dominated by the loss and helps them adjust to their new reality. While someone may never get over a certain loss, such as the loss of a child, they can get through it. People have to adjust in a way that allows them to function and get on with their lives. Somehow they have to adapt to the emptiness that is there when the other person they love isn’t. All of the grieving and mourning is designed not so that they’ll be free of all sadness, but so that they can live in a healthy acceptance that in this world they’re going to have trials and sorrows. Jesus was clear about this (See John 16:33).
In this process, someone can come to accept a different way of living and still have a fulfilling and meaningful life. Even if all they ever do with their life is help comfort other people who have lost someone in the same way, that’s a pretty great thing. When people are in the midst of loss, they just want someone who understands what they’ve been through and knows what to say, which many times means saying nothing. Sometimes just being there and being available is what is needed most.
If there was a grief graph, showing the flow of the healing process, it would go up and down. It’s not helpful to ask someone who is grieving if they’re still feeling sad or if they think they’re over it. The best question is, “Is this a good day or a bad day?” In the beginning, most days are bad days. But the roller coaster emotional experience continues to go up and down. Whatever kind of day it is for them, they need to talk about it. People should come alongside them and be present on whatever day that they are experiencing.
It is helpful for people to remember that this is not the only loss that they’re ever going to experience. Every day has the potential for additional losses. When one loss piles upon another, it is called catastrophic loss or trauma. When someone is up against loss like that, it’s important that they get professional help and not try to handle it on their own. God says that He won’t give a man anything that he can’t handle, but He doesn’t say that everything can be handled alone. All through scripture is Christ’s example of being with other people, especially in His worst moment of grief and sorrow.
There is an epidemic in the Christian community of ungrieved losses. Christians shouldn’t be part of not allowing someone to grieve or discouraging them from going through the grieving process. It can be so healing and the best way to adjust to the new reality of living without something or someone extremely important to them.
Click here to learn more about grief on newlife.com.