Understanding grief and lossWritten by Focus on the Family Canada
What's inside this article
"I never realized that grieving was about more than just someone dying," a friend once told me as we processed some losses she had experienced.
Different for everyone
Most of us have either lost a loved one through death or sat with a friend who has done so. Perhaps we have heard of the stages often associated with grieving, which may include bargaining, denial, anger, depression and eventually, acceptance. Maybe we have gone through these stages ourselves or watched our friend go through them. Everyone experiences and displays grief in a different way and it is important to allow each person to feel what they feel and not prescribe a certain way of grieving.
In every case, grief is about losing someone or something that mattered to us. When it is a person, others around us understand and empathize and it is often a fairly public event in our lives. Funerals and memorials are deeply meaningful rituals that offer us the opportunity to express our love and pay tribute to those we’ve lost.
Grieving in private
However, other losses are less public or obvious. Couples who assume they will have a family grieve when they learn they are infertile. Singles who planned to get married someday find themselves aging and no one has come along. Individuals who have trained for careers and found success elusive lose promotions, or even jobs. Dreams come crashing down around us when disappointed expectations, illness, injury, divorce, abandonment, rebellion, conflict, natural disasters or financial hardships intrude into our lives. These are important losses as well, but often they are not grieved as they need to be.
Biblical perspective on loss
Sometimes we are sent a subtle message that we should just "suck it up" or "rejoice in the Lord always" when these things happen. Christians in particular may feel they are not allowed to really experience and grieve these types of losses. But we need a Biblical perspective on loss:
- Scripture demonstrates and encourages honest and open expression of sadness; consider especially the Psalms, where pain is lamented and feelings are aired freely. (Psalm 38; Job)
- Honest questions are asked of God. "Where are you, God?" (Psalm 79) "Does this really need to happen?" (Matthew 26:36-39) "Is there no alternative?" "Won’t You rescue us?"
- An invitation exists to join the community of faith in affirming that even in hard circumstances, God is there and God is good.
- The final word is that God remains faithful. (Habakkuk 3:17-19) We are invited to rejoice, not in our pain, but in the continuing presence of God at work in us. This is a matter of trust and faith.
We need to acknowledge losses in our own lives; we need to validate losses in the lives of others. We need to recognize them, grieve them, and then put them into perspective. God remains faithful. If you need permission to mourn a loss, consider it given. If you need help processing it, we’d be glad to talk with you and pray with you about that. Give us a call at 1.800.661.9800.
© 2010 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.
If you liked this article and would like to go deeper, we have some helpful resources below.Our recommended resources
Free advice on marriage, parenting and Christian living delivered straight to your inbox