Bereavement and Grief
It is in God’s plan that we grieve
“Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her” (Gen. 23:2b)
Bereavement brings many strong emotions to the surface. These may be a sense of utter worthlessness, absolute despair, guilt, anger, fear, weakness and bitterness, etc. They are not shared by all hurting people but may ebb and flow.
A sense of relief can be the first response to bereavement especially when a loved one has had a long illness and a difficult death; this is quite normal and you must not think that it is wrong for you to feel this way.
The bereaved needs to be very patient with themselves and self-pity must be guarded against. The powerful side effects both emotionally and physically are mostly temporary. Emotional effects are loss of strength, zeal, joy, and initiative. Laziness leading depression can set in.
Planning can seem pointless and loneliness is by far the biggest problem. To keep your pain to a minimum, some become reserved and distant toward others. It has been known for people to hear voices or see a vision of their loved ones after they have died. Physical effects are also common and feeling unwell is not unusual.
The side effects are common - leaving one vulnerable to making wrong decisions; quick changes like moving home, re-marriage or changing job etc. This means that each day needs to be treated separately and life in the early stages of bereavement must be lived a day at a time. It helps to know that grief is like a wound - a wound of the heart - will need time to heal.
Grief is an intensely powerful experience which leaves one feeling powerless, deprived and hurting and it will take great emotional adjustment to get back to normal. The grief that is awakened by a death can be quite prolonged and you will take some time to recover. It is so powerful at times that, “it tears life to shreds” and may take years to get over.
Grief generates shock and often leaves one feeling numb, stunned and so bewildered making it impossible to grasp fully what has happened to you. It is best to trust God at all times and it is only by submitting to His providence, that help and peace will soon come from heaven.
Older widows are advised that it may take two years to get over a death and some never really recover or reach normality again. Children will adjust with help from family and friends but patience is necessary.
Anger is another strong emotion connected to death and it is more often than not linked with the questions, ‘Why?’ or ‘Why me?’ or ‘Why now?’ This leads to enquiry and seeking answers from medical staff, police, doctors, the clergy and family members.
Anger can be directed towards persons or an event and even towards God himself resulting in a sense of injustice which questions God’s providences and love and will tempt one to be bitter (Ruth 1:20-21)
Bitterness brings anger, evil speaking, and malice together (Eph. 4:31) because it is a rotting bog that will swallow up all kindness and joy (Heb. 12:15). It will make one retreat from others, rebel against forgiveness and make one redundant in Jesus’ service. Non-repentance of bitterness will destroy all spiritual life in a professing believer (cf., Mark 6:19).
Personal repentance is the antidote for the poison of bitterness (Eph. 4:32). Bitterness increases our own suffering by injuring the soul and souring the heart. It has to do with holding a resentful spirit that refuses reconciliation.
Our fallen human natures often respond with resentment when we are hurt. This can lead to a reservoir of revulsion in the soul that will break fellowship with our Father in heaven and others and results in personal backsliding. Its effects are removal of joy, increase of criticism, a lack of prayer and sustained resentment towards God while the heart remains hardened.
Hope and patience are alive and well only when God’s people look forward to the fulfilment of the promise of life after death which is, “the hope of their calling” (Eph. 1:18). Charles Spurgeon held his hope and said,
‘The glorified [Christian] weeps no more, for all outward causes of grief are gone. They weep no more, for they are perfectly sanctified. They are without fault before His throne, because all fear of change is past knowing that they are eternally secure. Sin is shut out, and they are shut in. They drink of a river which shall never dry; they pluck fruit from a tree which shall never wither. They are forever with the Lord and every desire is fulfilled.
Eye and ear, heart and hand, judgment, imagination, hope, desire, will, all the faculties, are completely satisfied. We know enough by the revelation of the Spirit, that the saints above are supremely blessed. That same joyful rest remains for us. It may not be far distant. “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”’
Let Christian hope carry you through as you trust in Christ Jesus for peace and new grace in your time of need and sorrow.
“I do not want you to... sorrow as others who have no hope.”
(1 Thess. 4:13)
Rev Ian S McNaughton is presently serving as the Vice-Chairman of Barnabas Fund in the UK.
Photo by Kyle Johnson on Unsplash