[John 11:17, 33-37]
What emotions can you detect in this passage?
Which emotions are part of grief?
This story ends with Jesus calling Lazarus back to life and all the people are astounded at the miracle. According to the gospel accounts, Jesus brought several people back to life. Most people, however, once they die remain so. That is our experience with death.
Believers in Jesus do have hope, even though while in grief, someone else might have to hold that for them for a while. The hope that Christians have comes from several verses in scripture like this one: [Revelation 21:4]
Eternity will be a wholly different experience than life on earth. Life here can be hard. This promise provides hope for a better future in heaven. Also, not only is there hope in eternity, but in this life as well. Jesus said: [Matthew 5:4]
Mourning is part of grief. God has arranged comfort for those who mourn. Also: [Psalm 23:4]
This is the famous psalm that begins with “The Lord is my shepherd”, written by King David. David used to herd sheep when he was young and understands this metaphor much better than we do today. A shepherd keeps their sheep from all danger, and when tragedy does strike, they take care good of their injured or sick sheep. We might understand a mother/child metaphor better.
What is King David trying to assert through this metaphor?
Do you ever feel God’s rod and staff comforting you? Explain.
The apostle Paul, in the letter he wrote to the believers in the city of Corinth, wrote this: (He LOVES writing run-on sentences, so take your time with this one.) [2 Corinthians 1:3-4]
Who is the comforter of believers?
Who comforts others?
How do we comfort those who are “afflicted”?
(Affliction is 1. a cause of persistent pain or distress as in “a mysterious affliction”; 2. great suffering as in “felt empathy with their affliction” and 3. the state of being afflicted by something that causes suffering as in “her affliction with polio”.) Death of a loved one, severe illness, accidents etc. are therefore all afflictions.
There are (at least) six basic needs in the grief process.
- To have the pain witnessed and acknowledged.
- Their world has changed forever
- Just sit with them, accepting them where they are at.
- Do not try to cheer them up. That is dishonouring. No platitudes like, “At least…”!!
- To express feelings
- For them to find and identify their feelings
- Feel the feelings, don’t describe them intellectually.
- Take breaks through distractions whenever needed. Touch the feeling, then withdraw. Repeat. Accept grace.
- To release guilt
- Guilt is about control which was lost. We would much rather be guilty than helpless.
- Allow this feeling, talk about it. Run down and explore every “what if” rabbit hole.
- Work through old wounds.
- “Why me?” is a symptom of an old wound.
- Old wounds can be helpful in new afflictions that require grieving.
- Integrating the pain and the love
- Millions of baby steps towards acceptance of the new reality after the loss. Life will never be the same.
- Finding meaning after the loss
- Not to find meaning in the loss – it is often meaningless
- Meaning is not in the loss; it is in you.
- Finding meaning by working through the loss.
- Having meaning is a decision to live and honour the loss.
Grief is complex. All of these points are part of it, in no particular order or time-frame. When the world tells us we are “doing grief wrong,” we can rest assured that we are not. Grief is always a personal journey best done with support and without judgment. Lean on friends, family, and professionals as much as you can. It is a personal journey but not one to be taken alone.