Do You Know How to Endure Grief?
WHEN the cold hand of death reaches into a person’s family and snatches away his mate or some other loved one, the shock of loss can be the severest emotional blow of his life. Many have found grief so difficult to endure that they have suffered sleepless nights, empty days and a feeling of not knowing how to go on, especially if the one lost is a mate. This is a time when it is essential to know how to endure grief.
It is not necessary to keep grief bottled up inside, hiding it behind a stoic exterior. The emotional pressure this builds up may greatly increase the difficulty of enduring it. There is nothing wrong with releasing that pressure by expressing sorrow and the feeling of loss. By permitting a natural outflow of emotion, but not to the extent of losing self-control, a person often feels better.
At the time the Bible patriarch Abraham lost his beloved wife Sarah he did not bottle up his grief in himself. He released it by weeping. (Gen. 23:2) So also did the Israelite king David when his son Absalom was slain. The Bible record states: “Then the king became disturbed and went up to the roof chamber over the gateway and gave way to weeping; and this is what he said as he walked: ‘My son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! O that I might have died, I myself, instead of you, Absalom my son, my son!’” (2 Sam. 18:33) Here was the deep grief felt by a father over the loss of a beloved son.
David did not grieve indefinitely. He knew that the living cannot bring the dead back to life, so they must adjust their life to continue without their dead loved ones. Although David cherished his memories of his son, his grief would have been more difficult to bear if he had closed out the world around him and retreated within himself, striving to live in an imaginary world with his son.
Many persons have come to realize that they keep the emotional wound open if they try to live in a world of memories. Some persons do this by keeping a house for many years looking just as it was when their loved one was living. Those who prolong their grief in this manner vainly attempt to live in the past, instead of realizing that much happiness can be theirs if they will live for the future. The loved one a person has lost would have wanted the survivor to make the necessary adjustments so as to have a happy and productive life. It is wise to make those adjustments.
The bereaved person is certain to be keenly aware of the gap left by the loss of a loved one, but the painful feeling of loss can be lessened by trying to fill that gap with constructive activities. Unselfishly doing helpful things for other distressed people has proved successful with many people who have lost their mates. It has helped them to get their minds off themselves. Perhaps the greatest barrier to enduring grief is the tendency of a person to dwell upon what he personally lost by the death of his loved one. Thinking about how lonely he now is and the things he must now do that his loved one had done for him makes his grief difficult to bear. But, getting his mind off himself and on what he can do for other people, he will find that his emotional wound can heal and the gap in his life can gradually fill in. There is much a person can do to make his life worthwhile if he will think of others, having love for them as he would like them to have love for him.
The truths of God’s written Word are a great source of comfort for a bereaved person, giving him a purpose in life. They can remove the apprehension he might feel from not knowing what has become of his loved one. Through the Bible the Creator of life tells him what happens to a person who ceases to live and it tells him what the hope is for that person to have life once again.
Because of that wonderful hope, a Christian does not need to have the bitter sorrow experienced by those who do not know what the great Life-giver has said about the dead or who lack faith in him because of unbelief. This dependable information does much to lessen the pains of grief. “Moreover, brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant concerning those who are sleeping in death; that you may not sorrow just as the rest also do who have no hope.” (1 Thess. 4:13) Like the apostle Paul, he can put his trust in “God who raises up the dead.”—2 Cor. 1:9.
For those who have gained a knowledge of what Jehovah God has put into his written Word, the Holy Bible, for the benefit and comfort of mankind, the unselfish service of instructing others in God’s Word can be an important factor in helping them endure grief. This good spiritual activity can help fill the gap death has left in their lives. It will keep their minds occupied with unselfish and upbuilding activity. It will give them a substantial reason for carrying on.
Those who grieve can find strength in God by turning to him in prayer. No matter what anyone might say, God should not be blamed for the loss of a loved one. By learning from the Scriptures the reason for death and the hope for the dead to live again, a bereaved person has reason to express appreciation to him. This knowledge removes the terrifying and depressing feeling that there is no hope. (Ps. 46:1) It helps immeasurably in the endurance of grief.
With the hope that God’s Word gives, a bereaved person can more easily adjust his life so he can carry on without his loved one. He will be grateful that his loved one tasted life and that he was able to contribute to the happiness of it. He will be thankful that God has lovingly provided for the resurrection of the dead.