UNDERSTANDING THE GRIEVING
By DANNY MINTON
I recently posted that May 28th would have been our son Scottie’s 45th birthday. It’s been four years since he passed away suddenly. Kathy mentioned to some friends that she wished he was still here. One responded to her that she was being selfish to say that. I’m sure she meant good intentions, but it was very insensitive.
I spend a lot of time with people in death situations. Losing a parent is hard, but most expect our parents to pass well before we do. It’s harder to those who lose a sibling. They were our first real friends and the ones we grew up within all types of situations. Even harder is losing a spouse. Several of you who read this have gone through it. More than likely you have spent more time with that one person than anyone else in your life. They were your life, your hope, and dreams. Most in some way or another find it possible to move on but never forgetting.
Even harder and in most many cases the most heartbreaking death we come across is the death of a child. I can still remember one of the first funerals of which I was a part. It was my Uncle George in the early ‘70’s. My Granny who was in her mid-80’s was heartbroken about her “baby” dying. Many of my friends reading this on Facebook have lost a child. Many others have been heartbroken by the loss of a spouse, parent or sibling. I see and feel your pain in your posts and ache for each of you. For many, your grief goes back decades while other’s heartache is more recent. It is a pain that softens over the years, but never completely goes away.
I pray that none of you ever feels the pain of losing a child no matter what age. I pray that God will give peace to those of you who have lost loved ones of any kind. As we deal with anyone who has had a close loved one pass, remember it is never, ever selfish to wish they were with you again. It’s never selfish to want to hug them. It’s never selfish to want to share part of your life with them. Sure you’re happy for them that they are in a better place, but selfish to want them with you? Never. There’s another word for how you feel. It’s called love.
I’ve read that psychologists say that there are five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I guess this is a good clinical way of helping people deal with times of grief, but for those who have never been down that road, it’s difficult to know what to say or how to act around those who are grieving. Many times the best way to comfort is with a gentle touch on the shoulder and to saying nothing. Even when we’ve felt grief ourselves, each person handles it differently, so we never really know how the other person feels completely. The one stage of grief that overlaps all the clinical analysis that everyone who feels grief has in common is that feeling of emptiness; something is missing in our life, a void that we want to fill but can’t.
I believe Jesus understands that feeling. In John 11 Jesus goes to the family of a friend, Lazarus, who has died. In turn, the two sisters, Martha and Mary, come out to meet Jesus, grieving and wishing Jesus had been there to save their brother from death. Jesus makes a couple of statements that don’t give much comfort at the time because they don’t completely understand them. But then Jesus does something that probably meant more to them during this time of grief than any words he had to say. He looks at Mary and the people around her weeping and hurting, feeling that emptiness of the loss of Lazarus, a loved brother, and friend. No more words, he looked at them and as he walked to the tomb, “Jesus Wept.” He was not weeping for Lazarus. He was not grieving for himself. He was feeling the pain of Martha, Mary and their family and friends. The most tender way he expressed that was by crying with them and for them in their emptiness of grief.
How long will a person grieve? In truth, grief never leaves you. Oh, the anger and depression may ease and fade away. The sleepless nights will become fewer in-between. You’re able to talk about the person without the myriad flood of tears. The wounds of grief will fade, but the scars will always be there. People will sit and hear a song that reminds them of their loss. They’ll drive by a special place and remember the past. A smell, a sound, a taste in the air will bring back a special memory forming a tear and reminding you that that void you thought was filled still has a place that remains empty.
As you deal with people, who are grieving be careful what you say. Be careful not to be judgmental of them or reprimanding. Never tell them it’s time to get over it. Never tell them they are being selfish, because their loved one is in a better place. They know where they are and how much greater heaven is for us all. You know it. I know it. However, never fault someone for wanting one more conversation, one more hug or more time with those they loved on this earth. Remember, you never overcome grief, you never get over it, you simply learn to live with it.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, … But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ