It’s Good to Grieve

Dr. Donna HartFor Those Giving Help, For Those Seeking HopeLeave a Comment

Death causes us to be angry because it comes into our world like an unexpected slap in the face. As one researcher said, “Death is a social disease, like V.D. It is not polite, not well-mannered.”[1]

King Solomon concurred:

“No man has authority to restrain the wind…or authority over the day of death” (Ecclesiastes 8:8).

When death enters our social circles or families, we Christians can find comfort and assurance in the fact that our loved one is with their Father in heaven. We can be relieved for them, but we are not with them; our relationships are gone for the rest of our lives.

Early Response When a Believer Dies

Many people who have lost a believing loved one have the confidence that their loved one is in heaven, and have come to the conclusion that death is just a normal part of life. Some will turn to Philippians 1:21 and read,

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Then they will quote Romans 8:28 where Paul teaches us that “God causes all things to work together for good.” (NASB). With these Scriptures of hope in our minds, we have confidence that our loved one has life after death. We celebrate their life with a funeral, believing that they are going on before us. We know we do not grieve as those who do not have hope.

As the funeral ends and we head home with empty hearts, the reality of the funeral service cements the fact that we will never see them this side of heaven.

Feeling Alone After the Funeral

As our friends and families leave the funeral the memories start to fade away and we begin to feel alone. We cannot rejoice; we can only weep. Our Christian expectations put pressure on us to rejoice about something that does not make us joyful.

As we process Philippians 1:21, we realize the “gain” was for the person who died. There was also a deeper meaning beneath the surface of Romans 8:28. God was not saying that all things are good, but that He will bring good out of all things. This can make a huge difference in helping our hearts not to feel guilty about our pain.

It often seems that one of the measures of a mature Christian regarding death is how much we rejoice and how little we cry. Pain and hurt and difficulty are not supposed to dent our spiritual armor…at least not too…not too long. There is some tolerance for grief, but not much. [2]

Deeply Grieving a Loss

Grieving a loss is something we ought to do; it is natural and normal. Jesus wept as he stood before the tomb of Lazarus, despite knowing in a few minutes Lazarus would rise from the dead (John 11:1-53). The pain of loss made even Jesus cry. The Apostle Paul tells us that we are to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).

As our grief wears on we feel like we are getting weaker and weaker. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 takes our hearts to task and preaches to our hearts that we do not grieve without hope:

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.”

Why is it so hard for many of us as Christians to know how to respond to grief? Or to comfort others in their times of distress? Have we picked up the evaluation of death from our secular society?

In our society people are full of admiration for the bereaved who keep “a stiff upper lip” and behave “maturely.” Even if this is not put into words, the implicit demand on people is not to let themselves go. This may well collude with the mourner’s own defenses and increase his denial of a need to grieve.[3]

Maybe this is the time where we apply Romans 12:2 to the subject of grief, “And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

We have to admit that death and the pain of death make us uncomfortable. We have all been affected by death and will be affected many times in our lifetimes. Try as much as we might we can’t avoid the pain of grief.

We can feel caught in a hard place in our heartache. We can think that if we don’t celebrate our believing loved one being in heaven, we will be aching over our loss, and at the same time, fearing condemnation from our Christian friends and family for not being able to rejoice.

Encouragement for the Grieving

A word of encouragement is necessary for those who are grieving; if you can’t celebrate in your grief, there is nothing wrong with you. The time will come when you will experience God bringing you through loss to a better and good place, but in the midst of loss, do not be afraid or ashamed to grieve.

Embrace the sorrow. Don’t fight back tears. Let them flow when they are there. Don’t avoid thinking about your lost one. Pull out the photo album. Take time to remember. Be willing to talk about your sense of loss and pain with someone else. In doing these things, you will prevent a festering wound that would eventually spread infection to every area of your life.[4]

[1] Michael Simpson, The Facts of Death (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1979), 48.

[2] Ibid. 43.

[3] Lily Pincus, Death and the Family (New York: Pantheon Books, 1974), 13.

[4] Rick Taylor, 44.

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