By: Dr. Norm Henry
Our losses from the current pandemic have been extensive, at times staggering. Losing a family member is a great grief. Losing your job is scary. We grieve the loss of corporate worship. Livestreaming worship is good, but we long to worship together in the sanctuary. We miss giving hugs to family and friends! Spouses grieve not being able to visit their husband or wife in the hospital or nursing home. We cannot even grieve together in person for funeral/celebration services. Our friends’ losses grieve us too. All ages have lost contact with friends. We all are grieving…but not together.
Waves of Grief
Grieving is a normal human experience. Grieving is an attempt to work through the pain of loss, accept the new reality, and reengage in life. Holding onto hope helps greatly! Grief is the experience of sadness, emptiness, and emotional pain related to loss. The more intensely you love someone, the more intense your grief is at his or her death. Grief comes in waves, at unexpected times, in response to memories. Grief is sometimes overwhelming. Grief can involve shock, hurt, confusion, disbelief, anger, and especially sadness while moving toward acceptance. Grieving is not some simple systematic working through the stages. Emotions often spin around and resurface.
How do we comfort those who are grieving, while we ourselves are grieving? “Jesus wept!” Since I am an alumnus of vacation Bible school, I know that is the shortest verse in the Bible but a profound verse. You know the story. Lazarus had died. When Jesus finally came, out of their grief, both Mary and Martha told Jesus that if He would have been there He could have helped. Jesus responded by weeping with them. He was willing to honestly express His sorrow, to be fully human while being fully God. Even those around could see how much Jesus loved Mary and Martha. Jesus did challenge Martha to believe even if she did not understand.
As discipleship leaders, you are positioned by God to come alongside those who are grieving, even if you do not know what to say. First, honestly bring your own grief to “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” Our hope is firm. So here are just a few practical suggestions. Listen. Many have said listening is a form of loving. Compassion means, “to suffer with.” When Job’s friends sat listening, Job found comfort. Ask your friend how they are doing, and let them tell you. Let them raise questions and listen. Say genuinely “I am so sorry” or “tell me what you miss most.” Then say, “I’m not sure what to say. May I pray for you?” Give them a call to see how they are doing. Send them a card like the old days. For yourself, and/or your friends, read the Psalms aloud. The Psalms speak to our deepest emotions. Jesus promises, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” by Him. So “mourn with those who mourn.” Have your handkerchief or tissues handy. Then engage in life with them as it is.
Many good resources on grief are available, but here is just one for now. The title comes from Psalm 30:11. Turn My Mourning into Dancing by Henri Nouwen. A friend gave me that book. It helped me.
May God comfort you and use you to comfort others.