Coping with Grief and the Loss of a Loved One

The loss of a loved can be one of the most painful and difficult times in a person's life. I write this page with the aim of encouraging you as you deal with your loss. In my own life I have experienced, and am still dealing with the loss of my Mum to cancer 4 years ago.

The best way I have heard loss described is as: 'the path not chosen'. No-one chooses to lose a loved one, but when you do you have to walk the path of life without that person, a path you would never have chosen to walk.

Everyone's experience of loss is different and no one can ever understand how you feel, even if they have suffered a similar loss. E. Kubler and D. Kessler in 'On Grief and Grieving' write that, 'Our Grief is as individual as our lives'. God made us all as individuals and we all deal with changes in circumstances in our own unique personal way.

The death of a loved one can cause so many different emotions inside and often you may not understand why you are feeling like this. You may feel:

- Numb or an alarming sense of indifference

- Denial that the person has really died

- Angry - Why have they left me? Or why have you taken them from me God?

- A deep sense of sadness

- Guilty - I didn't do enough for the person, I wish it was me.

- Bewilderment and shock - especially if the death was sudden

- Fear and anxiety - how can I cope without the person?

All these emotions may come at different times during your grief. Grief can cause a rollercoaster of emotions.

Give Yourself Time to Grieve

One of the most important things when dealing with the loss of a loved one is to give yourself time to grieve. In Ecclesiastics Chapter 3 it says,

'To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; Atime to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance;' (Ecclesiastics 3:1,2a,4)

There is a time to mourn and weep. There is a time to be sad. You don't have to pretend and say everything is ok when it isn't. There is no quick fix to make things better. Let yourself be upset and cry. Don't worry if tears don't come but just let yourself come to terms with your loss in your own way. Be gentle with yourself and don't be too hard on yourself if you don't feel you are coping. Losing a loved one can be one of the hardest and most difficult times of your life. It is important to remember that,

"Grief is not an enemy - it is a friend. It is a natural process of walking through hurt and growing because of the walk. Let it happen." Doug Manning 1979

Sometimes people question how long the grieving process should take. I think it all depends on how great the loss is. Some people say it can take up to two years to accept and adjust to living without the person; but there is no set time period, especially with the loss of a child. Another way of describing loss is that it is like losing a limb to ambutation. Your body will heal but life will never be the same again. The intense pain and heartbreak that you feel over the loss of a loved one though will soften and even though you will never get over your loss, you will learn to adjust and cope without the person. I think this is why Ecclesiastes says 'There is a time to mourn' because the time of mourning will pass, it is there for a season and the intensity of grief will lessen with time and become more manageable.

Turn to Jesus

In the Beatitudes in Matthew Chapter 5 verse 4 it says, "Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted." When I looked up blessed in the dictionary some of the definitions included the words: 'fortunate, favoured, happy and content'. No one would say you are fortunate to lose a loved one, but when you mourn you can be confident in the knowledge that God will comfort you. Psalm 34:18 says, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." God loves you and is the only one who can understand how you feel and know your pain. Let Him carry you through this difficult time.

Taking One Day at a Time

Many people find the most difficult time when dealing with the loss of a loved one is weeks or months after their death. Wider family and friends have resumed their everyday life and may not be around as often. It is then when you are faced with the reality of what your loss means.

If you are dealing with the loss of a loved one I encourage you to take one day at a time. Ask God to give you 'your daily bread' to cope with the day. Some days you may feel up but the next day you may feel down. Little things may remind you of them and make the pain greater. Birthdays, anniversaries and holiday times can be difficult and can make your loss feel greater. At these times it may help to remember all the good memories of those times. Some people find that journaling can help them to process their loss or talking to a trusted friend.

WHY, God?

During times of grief, many people feel angry with God for their loss. Why did God allow it to happen? If you feel like this, you are not alone. In Psalm 22:1-2 the writer says,

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest."

Why does God allow us to suffer? We may never fully understand why (in this life), but one thing we do know God is not to blame. He is waiting to comfort you. Give your pain over to him and you will find comfort that you cannot get from anywhere else.

To finish this page I have added the song, "Be Still My Soul" written by Catharine Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel, 1752. I hope the words comfort you in your time of grief and loss.

1. Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side; Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; Leave to thy God to order and provide; In every change He faithful will remain. Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2. Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake To guide the future as He has the past. Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake; All now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

3. Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart And all is darkened in the vale of tears; Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart, Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears. Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay From His own fulness all He takes away.

4. Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on When we shall be forever with the Lord, When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored. Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past, All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

God is always there; He is faithful and never changes. Give all your sorrow and cares to Him. I pray that He will guide you day by day and comfort you in your loss. As Christians we have the assurance that Jesus has defeated death and we will live again with God in Heaven.