Grieving the Loss of a Loved One

with Biblical Insights

When anyone enters into grief, they enter into the valley of the shadows. There is nothing pleasant, noble, or heroic about grief. It is painful. It is process that can't be ignored and penetrates our deepest core. There are multitudes of emotions involved in the grief process that often feel out of control and in conflict with one another. Each loss brings a plethora of feelings including but certainly not limited to emptiness, love, anger, remorse, fear, self-pity and helplessness.

Grief is defined as intense emotional suffering. Some synonyms associated with grief are sorrow, misery, sadness, anguish, pain, distress, agony, torment, affliction, suffering, heartache, heartbreak, broken-heartedness, heaviness of heart, woe, desolation, despondency, dejection, despair, angst, and mortification according to Google Online Dictionary. It is a natural, normal, predictable and expected reaction to loss of someone we hold dear to us.

The word grief actually is derived from a Latin verb meaning "to burden". Many explain the process as though they are carrying a heavy weight, or burden. While grief is not an illness, the bodies physical response to it may feel as though it is. Normal routines and chores may become increasingly overwhelming. Mourning is the expression of grief and comes from a Latin verb that means "be anxious". Mourning is the process of remembering and thinking about who and what we have lost which brings many uncomfortable and anxious feelings. The purpose of grieving loss is to go beyond ones personal reactions in order to face and work on adapting to loss. Dr. Gerald May, MD, said :"Grief is neither a problem to be salved nor a a problem to be overcome. It is a scared expression of love...a sacred sorrow." When working through grief and the mourning process is delayed, it can result in depression, apathy and numbness.

Grieving is hard work. Effective grieving is also not done alone. The following are some appropriate expectations to have in the grief process.

1. Your grief will generally take longer than other people think.

2. Your grief will take more energy to process than you probably imagine.

3. Your grief will show itself when you least expect it and surface in every sphere of your life.

4. You will grieve not only for what you have lost already but how that loss affects your future.

5. Others will have unrealistic expectations about your mourning process and may respond at times inappropriately and insensitively.

6. Your grief will affect your decision making, organizational tasks and intellectual processing.

7. You may feel at times as though you are going crazy or that you will never survive such deep anguish.

8. You will morn not only for the actual person you lost, but also for the hopes dreams and unfulfilled expectations you held for and with that person, and for the unmet needs because of the death.

9. You may find yourself having a number of physical reactions.

In summary, your grief will bring with it an intense amount of emotion that may surprise you and others around you at times. Most of us are not prepared for the catastrophic response we have to a major loss. Usually, our expectations are too unrealistic and more often than not, we receive insufficient assistance from friends and society.

Each loss that someone experiences is not an isolated event. It is connected to other losses or what counselors refer to as "secondary losses". An example of this is when a spouse dies. Many would say "He or she lost his/her spouse", when in reality much more than a spouse has been lost. Secondary losses include friend, provider, cook, bill payer, laundry person, mentor, prayer partner, source of inspiration, errand person, companion, lover, protector, etc. There are some losses than we process easily and others we may never completely get over. Thankfully, the Bible dignifies grief by presenting it as a God-given, therapeutic response to loss. Here are some Biblical insights for understanding grief (Wright, N. H., The Complete Guide to Crisis & Trauma Counseling):

God grieves:

The Father grieves over evil in Noah's day (Gen.6:6).

The Son grieves over the death of Lazarus (John 11:35-38).

The Spirit grieves over believers' sin (Eph. 4:30).

God responds to our grief: