THE JOURNEY OF GRIEF
“No! No! No!” My voice reverberated off the sterile white walls of the hospital lobby while my body was frozen. This couldn’t be happening...again.
We found ourselves in a place of loss, and the grief struck like a lightning bolt. Sudden. Fierce. Paralyzing.
Where were you when you were hit with grief?
When we faced recurrent miscarriage, we found ourselves vacillating from emotion to emotion, sometimes strong, but often weary and weakened by the sorrow of tears, uncertainty, and emptiness.
What have you faced during your journey? A verse that we related to says, “I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease” (Lamentations 3:20-22).
Your grief journey is unique to you, and we pray that you accept yourself as your grieve. We look to God's Word to gain insight about grief. In Scripture we see that God mourned the disobedience of His people (Judges 10:16), Hannah grieved being unable to have a child (1 Samuel 1:16), and Rebecca and Isaac grieved when their son married a woman from an outside clan (Genesis 26:35) (Elwell & Beitzel, 1988). Jesus even grieved the death of Lazarus, though He knew he would bring him back to life (John 11:33-35). If our Lord grieves, it's ok for us to grieve as well.
As you reflect upon your journey of grief, look to Scripture. What grief experiences can you relate to? What can you learn from the strengths (and weaknesses) of those who have gone before you?
God, I need Your comfort and strength. I am in pain, but I lean on You and worship You. Thank You for filling the pages of Scripture with stories that can teach me how to live a life that is pleasing to You, especially when I face difficult seasons. Open my eyes so that I can learn from You.
HOW WE SEE OURSELVES
Grief often impacts every area of our lives. Sometimes it changes the way we think about ourselves. When we lost our first baby, I (Ashley) was able to worship God in the emergency room. With the second, I remember the echo I heard as I stomped my feet and cried out, “Nooo!” With the third, I whispered, “What happened to you little guy?”
With each of these experiences, I remember taking my pain to God, but my methods and emotions changed. And the way I saw myself shifted with each loss. I was able to accept the first loss a little easier, but after the second loss, I became really upset with my body for not protecting my child. In time, I have done my best to thank God for my body, but during that time, my deficits were nearly all I could see.
How has your loss impacted the way you see yourself? Have you felt like no one sees your pain? Or maybe even that God doesn’t see your pain? Revelation 21:4 says that “God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.” In order for Him to wipe our tears away, He has to see us and recognize our pain. So He sees us.
Another verse we held on to says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
God, Give me eyes to see myself as You see me. Sometimes I am tempted to think negatively about myself, but I need You to help me to draw close to You. You make me better, and You change my perspective! Fill me with love for myself.
HOW WE SEE OUR WORLD
Since your loss, have there been places you have wanted to avoid? Has it become too painful to visit the church where you attended with your loved one, to walk through a certain aisle of a grocery store, or even enter a room in your home? Grief impacts nearly every aspect of our lives.
For us, passing the hospital where we had hoped to meet our unborn children was very painful. We passed it daily because it was very close to our home. For a while, we gave ourselves permission to travel a different route. Our world was different. Our hearts were like tender feet walking across hot coals. We did not always know where those coals were laid. But when we could avoid some coals, we chose to.
Whatever pain that has resulted from your grief, remember that it is ok to hurt. Take some time to reflect upon how you see your world a little differently. Ask God to repair your brokenness.
In time, we had conversations with one another about the hospital. One year, I (Ashley) developed a really bad case of strep throat and was so thankful for the hospital. It helped me reframe my view of the hospital and try to let go of some of the pain.
“Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing” (Psalm 31:9–10).
Help me turn to You, to recognize how I view my world differently. Heal my hurt, and draw me closer to You. Amen.
HOW WE SEE OUR LOVED ONES
Have you ever felt upset with how your loved ones responded to a loss? Perhaps you felt frustrated that they did not express strong emotions or want to speak about their grief. This seems to be a common experience that individuals face when dealing with loss, so what is the root of this experience?
Is it possible that the deeper question we are facing is, “Am I grieving in an acceptable way?” If others act differently from us, we may feel negatively about our expression of grief.
Additionally, in our weakness, we look to others to care for us. When they don't behave as we hope, we become disappointed.
In the Bible, when Lazarus had died, Mary felt upset with Jesus’ behavior. When she saw Jesus, “she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died'” (John 11:32). She was grieving her loss, and she was upset that Jesus was not there. She was unhappy with a PERFECT person’s choices. How much easier is it for us to be upset with our loved ones who do not behave as we would wish?
We can let our hurt get the best of our relationships. When we need each other most, we are also quite vulnerable to becoming hurt and distant from those we love.
How has your view of your loved ones changed as a result of your grief? Is it possible for you to let go of some of the pain and ask God to help you accept that everyone grieves differently?
God, Thank You for my loved ones. Help me see them as You see them. I want to be whole, and I want my relationships to be strong. You know how my grief has impacted the way I view my loved ones and even how I view You. Strengthen me emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Fill me with love.
What would it look like to reframe your grief? To re-frame an issue, we choose a different perspective; for example, we can look for anything positive that came from the situation and hold on to that, focusing on our growth.
Can beauty come from terrible grief (Isaiah 61:3)? Can we look at the same loss with a different, more thankful and positive outlook? We believe the answer is a resounding YES!
As Christians, we have reframed the death of Jesus. It was a terrible event, but it ended with beautiful redemption. So we can reflect back on His death with thankfulness. Although it is still painful to think about his suffering, we can thank God for Jesus’ willingness to endure death for our freedom.
Have you identified anything good that has come from your pain? This doesn’t mean that your sorrow will vanish or that it is any less valid. However, what the enemy meant for evil, God can use for good (Gen. 50:20).
We decided that we did not want our hurt to be wasted. We didn’t want the enemy to win. So we determined to reach out to others who are facing grief. We often felt alone. If we try to help others experience a little bit of community amidst their toughest days, we win. Finding the good can help us realize that we are strong. We are resilient overcomers who refuse to allow the tragedy of this world to defeat us.
Did you rely on God more than usual? Did your family grow closer? We are not suggesting that your pain was good; rather we believe there is always good on the horizon because God is present and His goodness illuminates the hope in the darkness (Romans 8:28).
God, Help me reframe my grief experience. As I have been taught to look at the beauty in Jesus’ suffering, I can learn to see beauty in my pain. And out of that, You will receive glory. To see differently, I need Your perspective. Open my eyes to see.
How do you proceed through life when you have faced deep loss?
When we are hurting, people may offer us “comforting words” and inadvertently hurt us more deeply. This can cause us to want to isolate ourselves. Although it is not healthy for us to remain in isolation, perhaps if isolation is used well, it could be exactly what we need.
How did Jesus respond when he grieved? He withdrew to spend time with God (Matthew 14:13). Have you spent time in God’s presence during your grief?
For me (Ashley), throughout 2015, 2016, and 2017, I experienced a dry season. I sought God but faced a deafening silence. Daily, I continued to read the Scripture and to share the Word of God with my students. I led worship. However, I often felt sad. I was disheartened because I sought God and wanted to feel a deep connection to Him.
I was going through a tough time and was choosing to draw closer to Him even though it was difficult. And for a long time, I really did not feel much of anything coming from God. I continued to experience a distance.
This experience wasn’t completely new to me but was on a much deeper level than ever before. I remember being in high school at church camp and wanting to feel close to God. I remember saying, “I’m going to seek Him more.” And it worked. When I continued to worship (and even fight) to get close to God, I have found that God is still there. Sometimes I just have to work a little harder to get close to Him.
These experiences cause me to think that it is ME who moves. My pain, my sin (and the sin of the world) gets in the way.
What has gotten in the way of your connection to God?
Our connection to God is our lifeline. It’s what allows our spiritual heart to beat, to offer us purpose, and to enable us to strengthen others.
When Jesus withdrew, people followed him (Matthew 14:13).
People watch how you grieve as well. The way you grieve can be a witness.
Later in Matthew 14, Jesus was compassionate toward others and healed them. He was saddened, but His strength came from the Lord, so much so that He was able to pour out strength to others. Ask God to heal you but also to create an opportunity for you to minister to others as a result of your healing. What ministry can come from your hurt?
God, Help us to draw close to You (Hebrews 11:6). We want to move forward, both in this life and into Your presence one day. Illuminate our steps. Help us draw close to You so that we can draw others into Your presence. We want to move from grief into a place of strength so that we can encourage those around us. This takes supernatural power that only comes from You. Thank You that our weakness makes room for Your strength (2 Corinthians 12:9).