Two observations on grief…
First, everyone grieves differently. Some take it head on. Some become angry. Some are engulfed in tears. Some are helped by looking at pictures. Others cannot stand the sight of pictures. Some need people around them. Some need alone time. Some grieve right away. Others unravel their grief gradually, over weeks and months and years. Others feel nothing and then suddenly discover their grief a long time later, hidden in some moment that triggered something in them or that freed them up to grieve.
Second, grieving is often secret. We do not want to burden others with our grief, so when it returns, we leave it unmentioned. Or maybe we don’t want to be a bother to others. Perhaps some memory surfaces, but we don’t want to weigh down our spouse or children or friends with our sadness, so we tuck it away. Or, frankly, we just know other people don’t want to hear it again. They’ve moved on, and they want us to move on, too. They want to believe we’re okay and to check that box off.
The result of both of these dynamics of grief is that we are often sad alone.
Proverbs 14:10 observes, “The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.” There is something at the soul level that is uniquely ours. Even in joy, and definitely in sadness.
What should we make of all this?
One, we should remember people are grieving. At any family gathering, any party, any church service, any youth group, any classroom, any meeting, someone is likely there who is sad, whether you know it or not. (Don’t believe all the smiles and doing greats.) When I remember this, it changes the way I react to others.
Two, we should be charitable to others in their grieving process. It may look very different than our own, but our judgment against them would only leave them more alone. I find this to be difficult to do in practice because it’s not always clear how their grieving process is going, especially when it looks very different than our own. It’s tempting to insist they grieve more the way you think they should be grieving. We will need a lot of wisdom from the Lord for how to interact and be most helpful.
Three, when we are grieving, we should venture some honesty with others, at least with some safe people we trust, people who we know will love us no matter what. We may choose to keep certain moments of grief to ourselves, but our sadness cannot always stay to ourselves. Though we may try to shoulder our own burden, it cannot only ever be our burden; it must be shared with others. So, we’ll have to risk something – put ourselves out there, admit our sadness – if we’re going to get help.
Four, we can remember that Jesus knows. He knows better than anyone. He understands what we’re feeling even better than we do. As the prophet Isaiah says about Jesus, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4a). He raised people from the dead, but there are no doubt many friends and family whose passing he grieved and whose earthly healing was not in the plan. Indeed, it appears Jesus suffered the loss of his earthly father, Joseph, a good man (Matthew 1:19). So Jesus knows our grief, both as the all-wise Son of God and as a man who walked a mile in our shoes.
Five, we can look forward to complete healing. A day is coming when sorrow will be know more. Our wounds will be healed. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Jesus grants not only forgiveness to those who call on his name but restoration and redemption. I imagine (speculate) this healing will be analogous to the healing of our physical scars. I can look at the scar on my thumb and remember the story and shake my head at my foolishness that led to the scar, and I can appreciate how God worked and redeemed. But there is no more pain. No more pain as I touch the scar. No more pain as I remember the story. And yet I can still remember the story to honor the journey, to honor the dignity of my story and life, and to honor God and his work. I believe every grief will be so repaired.
What would you add to this list?
And if you are grieving right now, if you’re sad in this season, may the Lord Jesus bring you healing and help.