There’s never a good time to talk about grief. Why talk about sad when I’m happy? And when I’m sad, or the skies are grey, I’m often looking for happy, so wrestling the topic of grief isn’t usually high on my list. Consequently, I’ve rarely – if ever – written specifically about grief.
But grief rarely arrives when I expect and frequently appears when I’m unprepared, which is one reason I’m so grateful for a new book by a friend of a friend. Reading Esther’s story has helped me give words to my own experience and her book is already a well loved resource on my shelf.
Within the first weeks of this year I’ve found myself talking about grief a half dozen times: a miscarriage, grandmother, a father, cancer returning, an avalanche, and a colleague. In every one of these losses there’s a ripple effect of grief – expanding circles of lives touched by the life they mourn.
The Bible says there’s a season for everything. A time to dance and a time to mourn. Today is not my season for mourning, but these conversations have been my window into lives who know grief today. I’m reminded that in my own grief, I was helped by those who walked alongside me. A friend of a friend who had also lost her fiancé in a tragic accident sent me a card that I treasured. Her words spoke truth to me and gave me hope. She was someone on a similar journey, just a little farther on down the road. I remember seeing that note as proof that there was life on the other side of grief. The road would be difficult, but there was light up ahead.
Someday you may find yourself in a season of mourning, or walking alongside someone wrestling grief. This post is for that season. Read it now and save it for later. Share it with someone grieving. I pray these unfinished thoughts offer proof that there’s life on the other side of grief. There’s joy on the other side of grief. Keep walking, there’s light up ahead.
Be honest with yourself, with those around you, and with God.
My own experience has taught me there’s no guide for grief, it’s messy, and it’s as unique as the person wrestling it. Extend grace to yourself and to each person who grieves. We must allow ourselves to mourn. Mourning brings a deluge of emotions, but healthy grief is honest grief.
A friend wrote me, “She’s led a full life. I know she passed peacefully, that she’s in a better place, but I’m so sad.” Another shared, “I know he’s no longer in pain, but I’m so aware of this hole in my life and I want him back.”
Great grief is evidence of great love. I’ve come to think of it as two sides to the same coin. We celebrate great love – it’s shiny and valuable. Great grief is the other side of the same coin – less shiny, but just as valuable. Even as I mourn a physical loss, the great love isn’t gone. I am who I am today because of the people I’ve loved. Their love has made me, me. Their absence doesn’t remove their love. Mourning their loss – lamenting their absence in my life – deepens my gratitude.
“God wants your sad so He can transform it with His hope.
He wants to bless you in your most broken places.”
It’s ok to be sad…or angry or hurt, or any number of emotions. It’s ok to be honest about those emotions.
What you do with your emotions will shape your path through grief (and through life). May I gently suggest taking it all to God? Some call it prayer. I tend to consider it throwing a really, good temper tantrum with God. He already knows how I feel, but He wants me to share it. He’s not put off by my emotions, He bends down to listen, sits down with me in my funk, and His quiet calms my inner storm.
Not long after losing my fiancé, I had one of those moments on the way to work. I was stuck in traffic on the GW Parkway waiting to drive over the bridge into DC. I remember sitting there, thinking, praying and I honestly just told God I’d rather have Richard back than have Jesus. It was a raw, unfiltered, honest statement of where I was in my grief and how my grief shaped my faith in that moment.
(If you’ve never been that candid with God, hear me, that’s His desire. God can handle all of you, all your emotions, and all your honesty. He’s ok with the tough questions, too. “Why did this happen? Why did you let this happen to me?”)
After that moment I began to glimpse a different Jesus that the Jesus I learned about in church. I knew Jesus intellectually, but the moment I could honestly trade that churchy Jesus for Richard was the moment I began to know the Jesus I’d only heard about.
I’d read the stories where Jesus asks His disciples, “But what about you, who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13-16; Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-20) And later, when wasn’t as pleasant to be a disciple, Jesus offers them a chance to leave, and Peter replies, “To whom should we go? You have the words of life and truth.”
Those two interactions represent the heart of what I believe. Jesus invites me to decide who He is. Not just what others say. Not what I’ve heard or read. He offers me a choice to stay or go, and when I stay, I discover life and truth and realize there isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be.
In my grief, I found the vulnerability to seek and discover the life and truth I was created to know but only read about. Jesus sat with me even when I didn’t pick Him. Even in that valley of the shadow of death, Jesus picked me, walked alongside me, surrounded me with His people to whisper truth and life to my aching heart.
Friends, we don’t talk about grief but it’s all around us and it’s time we equip ourselves (and each other) to keep walking in faith even when we find ourselves in the valley of the shadow of death.
If it’s your valley, surround yourself with those who speak life and truth. Look a little farther up the road for those who prove there’s life on the other side of grief, that there’s joy on the other side of grief. Keep walking, there’s light up ahead.
Earlier this week, a dear friend and I were talking about what to do to love some friends who are grieving right now. “I’ve been at a loss with what to do,” she said.
“Do exactly what you did with me,” I said. “Sit on a bench in the middle of Fairfax Corner and talk about nothing, anything, and everything. Call and text even when they don’t answer. Just be there.”
Friends, if it’s not your season of grief, just be there. Speak life. Whisper truth. Extend grace upon grace and marvel at the faithfulness of a God who allows us to see Him sit with the broken. Let their testimony strengthen your faith.