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Processing Loss and Grief

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3)

When we suffer a loss of a loved one, the emotions can be overwhelming. Yet stressful, when others expect us to behave in a specific manner that is deemed appropriate for them or want us to do things their way. I recently lost my aunt due to complications from surgery. After her passing, I began to have dreams about my father, who was her brother, and became concerned about her daughter. I was close to my father and took it hard when he died because I was not ready for him not to be in my life anymore. We were at the beginning of an adult relationship; I was getting to know the man, not just the father. My aunt and her daughter reminded me of that relationship. My cousin’s silence on social media as the news hit of her mother’s passing indicated that she needed time to process her loss. Time was something I needed when my father passed, but could not get it. I was surrounded by loved ones expecting me to behave the way they thought I would because of my loving relationship with my father.

Although my father prepared me for that moment, I didn’t want to hear it until it happened and found that I was the one who was lost. I could not process his loss sufficiently or I was in denial; I suffered a mental breakdown of hysteria because I felt like he left me. My world had come crumbling down! I wanted to go with him. After being strapped so tight to a bed and overly medicated in the hospital where he had passed made it even worst for me because I did not like hospitals or being in one either. Family members surrounding me, talking at me and making suggestions, it all just sounded like noise. Then, my uncle showed up and carried me out of the hospital, drove me around with no particular place in mind; we just drove. He rescued me! He did not pressure me to talk, he said, “where do you want to go?” I said, “to my father’s van.” We sat in the van in silence until I was ready to drive it home. This time with my uncle was the moment I was able to process my loss. My uncle made me feel safe enough to accept and grieve my father’s death.

There is no one way to grieve! We experience grief in many ways. Friends and family supporting the one grieving should follow that person’s lead. Resist judging whether they seem to be insufficiently sad or dwelling in grief too long. Sometimes others’ presence may be all we need even during our moments of chaos and responding with compassion, recognizing that I am entitled to be angry or numb. Sometimes we just want those around us to listen, ask questions, and share memories; this confirms the depth and validity of our feelings that can help in the healing process. Sometimes being left alone is all we want because often those around us do not acknowledge our form of grief. In other words, at a time when the pain is at its highest, others make us feel that we do not have permission to experience our grief. Either way, follow the lead unless their actions cause for further assessment.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4)

Processing the loss of loved ones may take some time or possibly even years. After 31 years since my father passed, the loss of my aunt has me grieving his loss all over again. The emotions of sadness, despair, longing, anger, and frustration awakened in me. At times, grief and sorrow can be so heavy and paralyzing that we begin to believe that we will not ever overcome it. However, my greatest hope is in Christ, Jesus! Loss of loved ones is not comfortable; nevertheless, it can provide incredible strength during this challenging time that can leave an amazing mark in our lives for precious memories. When we allow God to ease our pain and comfort us, it enables us to keep the positive memories alive and move us towards gratefulness for the blessings in our past, present, and future. The Lord’s compassion for us compels Him to weep with those who mourn, and afterward, He restores our joy. God’s love never fails! We may have ups and downs, but we must not put unrealistic demands on ourselves for healing instead allow ourselves the time to heal. In the beginning, it tends to be rougher, and the lows may be deeper and longer. Sometimes the difficult periods should become less intense and shorter as time goes by, but it takes time to work through a loss. My father passed a week before Christmas, which made it difficult to celebrate because of a strong sense of grief. Over time, after I had grandchildren, I began to celebrate it again with joy because my father seemed to enjoy that time of year, and I wanted my grandchildren to experience it.

Grieving for a loved one is a life-changing experience! Only God can get us through the process of healing our broken heart if we lean on Him. Even in the face of our suffering, a loss is also a new beginning of life for us to shine in God’s light. In the grieving process, we must express our feelings, but always remember that those feelings are only for a moment. Knowing this will permit us to feel another way at a later time. People will try to rush the process for us, but the timing of this recovery process is a matter of our spirit or our conscience. Others cannot judge when we have cried enough or mourned enough because the Bible instructs them to “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). God has given us the strength to fight through sorrow and pain on this earth; for “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). As a reminder, Jesus came to comfort the sorrowing heart and to calm the grieving, confused soul.

“For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalms 30:5)

There is no right or wrong way to grieve, but there are healthy ways to deal with the grieving process. It is a highly individual experience, and how we grieve depends on many factors, including personality, coping skills, life experiences, belief system, religion, how significant the loss was to us, and the type of loss suffered. There is no timetable for grieving; healing happens gradually; it cannot be forced or hurried. However, we must not deny it; attempts to suppress our grief will only prolong the process and demand additional emotional effort. Therefore, we must be patient with ourselves and allow the process to unfold naturally. If being overwhelmed with grief continues over time, many find solace in seeking out others that are grieving, trusted friends, or professional support. We must find what works best for us. More importantly, to remember, we cannot do it on our own; it is not expected of us to do it on our own. When we trust God, we are strengthened through our relationship with Him by reading His word, speaking to Him humbly in prayer, and asking for help with our sorrow.

Prayer

“Heavenly Father, thank you for the beautiful gift of life as I come to you with the broken pieces of my heart. I dedicate my life to You — please lead me and guide me as my Lord and Savior. I trust that you perfectly design the path created for me. Father, as I struggle through this valley, thank you for the blessings in my life. As I cry in despair, please draw near, and soothe my heart. Guide me to be patient and kind, and to reach out to those that love me. Open my eyes to see the eternal souls all around me who are in need. Lord, help me to grow and transform through this situation into a more compassionate and loving being. Thank you for the encouragement and support of my family, friends, and church. Lord, sustain me to seek you in each moment and to choose my thoughts wisely. Help me to find the strength to do your work. Thank you for helping me to be unafraid. Thank you for forgiving me and saving me through Your Son, Jesus Christ. I’m sorry for the sins I have committed, and Lord, help me to turn away from them and be the person you want me to be. There is great hope, Father, in the promise of eternal heaven with you. Please shine your beautiful light through me, despite my suffering. I love you, Lord. Your amazing unconditional love is beyond my comprehension. Father, I pray that love, compassion, acceptance, and peace will blossom in me as your presence lights my soul. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.”

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