To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven; a time to be born and a time to die. —Ecclesiastes 3:1-2a
… but joy cometh in the morning. —Psalm 30:5b
Grief, in essence, is reaction to loss. In one sense, it is universal. In another sense, it is unique. Grief is similar to an uninvited guest who shows up and stays a long time. What is one to do about grief? Just live with it? Probably yes, but not just to live, but to live fully—not the same as before, but potentially and in full measure.
If you are like me, you are no stranger to grief. Perhaps, we can relate to Robert Frost, the poet, who wrote that he “has been one acquainted with the night.” To us—and to others who are grief-stricken—on some level, grief is a constant companion. We may have trouble finding words to describe how difficult it is to make it through a day. Do not despair; some feelings are deeper than words. Will the darkness go away? Light will come, but things may not be the same. We may experience a new normal. Simply put, we do not get over grief; we learn to live with it.
As a person, I have experience with grief. I am honored to help others navigate the grieving process. My experience and yours are as unique to each of us as our fingerprints. In time, we may find a way to be source of comfort to others. At first, we may first experience difficulty finding solace. Do not despair. Likely, we can gradually incorporate our grief and find life meaningful.
I was raised on a small farm in northeast Georgia. Living and working on a farm with animals brings one in contact with the beginning and end of life. When losses came, I noticed that persons reacted in different ways. I came to see that going through grief was like walking through a field. We walk through our own grief. Dr. Wayne Oates, who taught a course in seminary on Psychology and Religion (and who invented the word, workaholic), wrote a book entitled, Your Particular Grief. Although our personal experiences with grief are unique, we may, in time, be able to help others by sharing what has helped us through the grief process.
Many persons have found help in a grief support group. While a group is not the only route to healing, it is a viable option. There is something that happens when folks with tender hearts meet together in a safe place to share and to listen. Being heard helps one to feel as though one’s burden is not as heavy as it once was.
You may have noticed that some authorities may have their own theories about whether or not the grieving process has stages or phases or steps. Not to worry—in time, you, with God’s help and the lovingkindness (hesed; agape) of true friends, may get to a better place. If you have one, two, or more friends in whom you can confide, then you are blessed. When we talk to a trusted person(s) truthfully without fear of judgment, then both of us are helped. Being listened to and heard promotes healing.
To be clear, grieving is work. I usually tell aggrieved persons that grief may be the hardest work one will ever do. Your grief and my grief will not be identical. We do not force it; we do not hurry it along. Grieving is not an event nor a contest.
Persons with faith values may find solace in the company of others with similar—perhaps not identical—values. I find that that when believers grieve with prayers on our lips and with the Good Book, The Holy Bible, in our hearts (Ps. 119:11), I Thessalonians 4:13-14), we then have hope. When I talk to a person who is of a different nationality or value system, I remind myself that before me is a human being, a person of intrinsic worth.
Oftentimes, I may suggest to those who are grieving that to live in a way that honors the memory of their loved one(s). If you have a practical bent, then lend a helping hand. Offer to run an errand or to mow the lawn. Remember the less fortunate in prayer and deed. Donate to charity (even without receipt). Help someone anonymously. If people ask you why you are smiling, you answer, “I have hope.”
We are in this world a short while, even if we become centenarians. Donate blood, if possible. Make a difference. Live generously. Leave this place better than you found it. Pray. Forgive. Love.
S. D. White, M. Div., Ph.D., LCSW
Dr. White is a member of Warren, deacon, Life Group leader, and leads the Grief Care support group at Warren.
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