I wonder sometimes if we really take time to stop and think of the losses we experience in life. This is a topic we don’t talk about very much, but I think it’s important.
For example, how do you cope when a loved one dies—e.g. your father or mother who reaches old age and their health declines, and they pass away. How do you cope with that? It is one thing to talk rationally about grieving—it’s quite another thing to go through it. Grief is really about a broken heart—not a broken brain. So while understanding the process of grief is important, it doesn’t necessarily comfort us in our grieving. And then how do you go about helping someone else cope with their grief? Have you ever found yourself in that situation when words are useless? You just don’t know what to say to help. It can be difficult.
Mourning Losses—Big and Small
Someone once said, Growing up is a continuous process of mourning losses. And that makes a lot of sense. So, all of us are in the process of grieving some kind of loss. Sometimes our losses are minor. The loss of not having a friend show up for a luncheon appointment is a loss that can quickly be worked through, but it is still a loss. But then some of our losses are more serious. The death of someone we love—like a spouse, a child, a close friend, a parent or the ending of a marriage can be a loss that is really life-changing. These are losses that are not quickly worked through, and you may have already experienced one or more of them yourself. I know I have.
And between those two extremes are many other significant kinds of losses:
- The loss we feel when our children leave home—the empty nest.
- Loss of a job
- Leaving high school
- Losing a pet
- Moving to another community—loss of friends and neighbours and church community.
- Loss of health and our ability to do certain things.
These are all losses that we experience in different ways. Then there are some losses in life that are less tangible and more inward. There is loss of confidence, loss of goals, loss of self-image, and even loss of faith. I know people who grew up with a Christian background only to discard it later in life. They have lost their faith. And I agree that each kind of loss generates its own kind of grieving, even when we don’t consciously realise it.
When you stop and think about it, life is filled with many little and big losses, so that we are continually in some process of grieving our losses. All of our losses affect our emotional and spiritual well-being in some way. The question is how do we grieve our losses?
I like what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Christians: “We want you to understand how it will be for those followers who have already died. Then you won’t grieve over them and be like people who haven’t got any hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13) This verse suggests to me that there is more than one way to grieve our losses. It also says to me that the biblical approach to grieving is a hopeful approach. and that other ways of grieving may not be so hope filled.
If You’re Hurting, Grieve!
Today’s society generally brushes this subject aside and finds it very embarrassing to talk about grieving. Society says, Bury your feelings. Don’t talk about it —just get on with your life and everything will be OK. But did you know the biblical approach says exactly the opposite—the main New Testament message is, Feel your feelings. If you’re hurting, it’s OK to acknowledge it and be upset. We are not to stuff, bury, deny, discount, or put on a false image of bravery. This happens so much today and I believe we pay the price physically and emotionally. People get sick because they bury their feelings deep-down instead of acknowledging them.
The message in I Thessalonians 4:13 begins with one word: grieve!
One day Jesus hears that his close friend Lazarus had died. Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha, were special friends to Jesus. Jesus travels to be with them. I can imagine that the crowd is waiting and wondering what Jesus is going to do as he stands outside the tomb of one of his closest friends. The scripture says, “Jesus wept”.
For me, those two words speak volumes about how we are to grieve. If we could just see Jesus weeping, it might give us permission to weep as well. Weeping is called the language of the soul. It is the cleansing river of emotional release.
Society says. Be strong and don’t cry. We look at crying as a sign of weakness, but it isn’t. Grief is not something to be overcome, but to be experienced.
How often has a parent said to a child—and particularly a boy—Stop crying and be tough. This is most unfortunate, because we are communicating that crying is a weakness and should be avoided. That’s not helpful.
SOURCE: Nathan Good © 2006, Pittsburgh Mennonite Church