Dealing with Deep Grief
"The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18 (NIV)
Losing someone you love can cut into your heart so viciously it forever redefines who you are and how you think. It’s what I call deep grief.
It strains against everything you’ve ever believed. So much so, you wonder how the promises that seemed so real on those thin Bible pages yesterday could possibly stand up under the weight of this enormous sadness today.
I once stood at the side of a casket too small to accept. Pink roses draped everywhere. And I watched my mom as she lay across the casket refusing to let go. How could she let go? Part of her heart lay within, so quiet and so still.
I stood paralyzed and stunned. Just days ago we were laughing and doing everyday things and assuming that all of our lives stretched before us in spans of many, many years. And then suddenly … it all stopped.
In the flurry of funeral plans and memorial services we all operated on automatic. People were everywhere. Soft chatter filled in the gaps that our stunned silence could not. And people brought in enough food to feed the whole neighborhood.
But eventually people went back to their own lives. The soft chatter dissipated. The food stopped coming. And we were forced to carry on. Only we had deep grief wrapped about us that made our throats feel strangled and our feet stuck in mud.
I remember around that time when I tried to go to a drive-thru to order some food. But I couldn’t. I sat there with the speaker spouting words at me I couldn’t process. The cashier kept asking if she could take my order.
Yeah, I had an order. Take away my bloodshot eyes. Take away my desire to hurt the doctors that couldn’t save my little sister. Take away my anger toward God. And then take away my guilt for being the one who lived. I’ll take all that with no onions and extra ketchup, please.
I drove away sobbing. How dare they offer happy meals! No one should be happy today. Or tomorrow. Or next year.
This is the reality of deep grief. Even when you love God and believe in His promises. Even when you know without a doubt that some day you will see your loved one again. Even when you know hope is still there. Even when you know He is near.
It takes time.
It takes wading through an ocean of tears.
It takes finding a possession of your loved one you thought was lost and realizing God did that just to comfort you. It takes discovering one day that the sun still shines. It takes being caught off guard when you catch yourself smiling, only to realize it’s okay.
It takes prayer. It takes making the decision to stop asking for answers and start asking for perspective. It takes telling people to please not avoid saying her name — you want to hear it, over and over and over again.
Then one day you take off the blanket of deep grief. You fold it neatly and tuck it away. You no longer hate it or resist it. For underneath it, wondrous things have happened over time. Things that could only have come about when Divine Hope intersects with a broken world.
And finally you can see years stretching before you once again. You look up, blow a kiss, wipe a tear and find it’s still possible to dance.
Dear Lord, thank You for assuring me that Your promises hold true even when life seems to betray me. You are my strength and my hope. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 30:11-12a, "You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent." (NLT)
Psalm 18:28, "You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light." (NIV)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Are you deeply grieving the loss of someone or something?
Give yourself permission to mourn, cry and feel raw emotions. Bring your heartache to the Lord in prayer and allow Him to just be near in this hard time.
If you know someone deeply grieving, don’t ask, "Is there anything I can do?" Instead, be proactive and just do something to help them this week — buy groceries for them, mow their lawn, babysit their children, etc.