My brother and sister-in-law were killed in a car accident two weeks ago.
Scott was barely 49—my only sibling.
I’m writing this while in the beginning stages of grief over the tragic loss of Scott and his wife Dawn. I’m still reliving the phone call from my dad telling me they were killed. I can hear Daddy sobbing and struggling to get the words out. I can see Scott and Dawn’s bruised and swollen faces. I hear the sound of the mortuary door thudding closed—the finality that I will not see them again this side of Heaven.
There’s no way around it. Grief sucks.
The truth is, I have become well acquainted with grief over the past several years. Perhaps you are, too, and that’s why you are reading this post. The trials have prepared me to grieve this devastating loss.
I Desire to Grieve Well.
As much as I abhor this grieving process, I also realize I can either grow better or grow bitter. As a woman of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, I choose to grow more like Him. That’s right, I get to choose.
I didn’t choose to go through this loss, but I can choose how I will respond to it.
There is no timeline for grief.
People are unique and so is grieving. No two people share the exact same grieving process and loss.
Professionals say there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While this may serve a guide of sorts, there is no universal roadmap.
Accepting the Loss
Accepting the reality of the loss involves overcoming the natural denial response and realizing that the person is physically dead. It helped me to view my loved one’s bodies. It helps me to journal about it and share my thoughts here. In addition, talking about the circumstances surrounding the death has been very helpful.
Grieving is about loss, not just death.
As I said before, I have experienced a series of losses. Along with the deaths of several family members including my mother, there has been mental illness, divorces of those dear to me, job losses, and estrangement from close family members.
And some losses were disguised. Things like a graduation, although joyous, can also carry a sense of loss when we realize that the season of childrearing is over.
I have a friend who is going through a divorce after nearly 30 years of marriage. My daughter made a strategic career move and left a job she loved. Another dear friend is moving. I have many friends in the “empty nest” stage. With all of these events, loss may be experienced.
Loss means change. Change can be difficult.
When we realize that things are shifting in our lives, we become angry and frustrated. We want to hold onto the way that things used to be rather than accepting that they are changing.
I’ve noticed that lately, sadness and grief seems more pronounced with my brother’s death. My middle son and his wife moved out of state. My daughter graduated from college and moved out. My oldest son serves in the Air Force. He and his wife, and my first grandchild live seven hours away and could move even farther. Basically, things are changing.
There is no painkiller for every type of pain we face, such as grief.
Eugene Peterson, author of The Message wrote, “The main difference today is not how much people are hurting, but how much they expect to be relieved from their hurting.”
Our modern culture looks for immediate relief the first sign of any discomfort.
When my son ran his first high fever, my initial response was to give him Tylenol to bring the fever down. I soon learned this is not always best. Not all fevers need to be treated with medications. A fever is your body’s natural response to infection. Bacteria and viruses do not like heat. A healthy body will increase the temperature to try and kill off the infection. By decreasing the fever with medications, you can increase the time it takes for your body to fight off the infection.
This brings me to my next point.
Grief is part of life.
We will all experience degrees of loss/grief throughout life. Telling myself this simple fact has helped me process and progress. Like a fever, grief demands our attention with its searing pain. But the pain of loss is natural and many times must run its course. This doesn’t mean we ignore the pain (fever) or downplay it.
We must give ourselves permission to grieve.
Whether it’s the loss of a beloved pet, a loved one, a job, a divorce, or something else—it’s okay to grieve.
It’s okay to cry. It’s okay not to cry.
It’s okay to ask for help.
Some fevers do not run their course and dissipate. This is our body signaling to us we need help. It might mean talking to a friend or to a professional.
No one understands grief like Jesus does.
Jesus understands the many shades of loss and grief.
“He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.”
Not only does He understand, but Jesus walks within the loss and grief with us.
“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” John 14:18
“God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
Our pain is temporary.
There are times in life when the loss and grief we experience is so intense, it may seem as though it will never end. The truth is, as long as we live on this planet, we will experience troubles, pain, loss, and grief. But our hope rests on this fact: this life is not all there is!
Christ reminds us that in this life we will have many troubles. But He also tells us to “take heart, for I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Before Jesus left the earth, He promised that He was going to go and prepare a place for His followers where there would be no more pain.
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” John 14: 1-4
“Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21: 3-4
Our pain can be used to help others.
God never wastes a hurt. He will use what we go through to strengthen us and to help others if we will allow Him to.
“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.” 1 Corinthians 1: 4-7
So, as grief rose its evil head with the recent loss of Scott and Dawn, reminding me of the other losses I am currently experiencing—I have chosen to take comfort in the promises of God. I am not alone. God not only understands my pain but He is also with me in the pain. I am journaling, talking to Him and others about my grief. I will allow God to use my losses to comfort others. And I hold on to the hope that the troubles we face here on earth will come to an end when we see Jesus face-to-face.
My friend, if you are currently experiencing a season of grief and loss, I pray you will run to the true source of peace, comfort, hope, and love found in our Lord Jesus. Only through Him can we grieve well.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
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