Navigating the Wilderness of Grief
The journey through grief can be a strange, dry, and lonely land. Understanding more about grieving can help you in dealing with it and can help you to better understand those who are going through the grieving process.
The wilderness of grief looks different for everyone. This is because your relationship to the person you are grieving was unique. No one else had the same relationship and experiences that you did with that individual, so therefore the wilderness walk will be your own. You cannot put a time limit on grief. It generally takes longer than you would have imagined, and everyone must walk through it in their own time.
Yet there are some things that are consistently true of grief itself. For example, grieving is very disorderly. You have no control over it; it will come and go as it pleases. Grief is also messy and knows no schedule. One cannot schedule when they grieve. It can come over you like a wave when you aren’t expecting it.
The good news is that grief is a journey and you are walking through it. Being able to be honest about the heartache of your loss is an important part of healing and getting “through” the wilderness.
We see in David’s life that he grew weary with the process of grief, yet trusted the Lord for His timing. He pours out his anguish to the Lord:
• “Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long? Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love” (Psalm 6:2-4, NIV).
• “I am weary with my sighing; Every night I make my bed swim, I dissolve my couch with my tears. My eye has wasted away with grief” (Psalm 6:6-7, NASB).
We need to do as David did. Each of us needs to express our pain to the Lord, and find a way to release the grief within us. If not, it will find its release and usually not in a very good way. It is proven that journaling can help in the healing process. In writing out your thoughts, you can express your deepest feelings and be helped in your healing.
Dealing with our emotions in ways such as crying can be challenging, because as we mentioned, grief has no schedule. It can hit in the grocery store or at work. Anything can spark a memory and the floodgates of tears will come bursting forth.
But remember, we are made in the image of God. Just as Christ cried and grieved over the death of Lazarus, so we too can know that tears are another way of letting the sorrow have a passage of release. Be patient with yourself or with a friend who sobs unexpectedly. It is with the passing of time that things improve.
Another emotion that can be tied into grief is anger. There can be anger at God, the doctors, or even at the one who died. Unvented anger must go someplace. So, finding healthy ways to express that anger is vital. It could be having someone to talk to who understands or finding a place alone where you can loudly vocalize your frustrations to God. Again, journaling is a very good way to release your anger.
Many people struggle with depression. Dr. Norman Wright shares this: “Loss is one of the main causes of depression. Matthew 26:37 tells us that Jesus began to show grief and distress of mind and was deeply depressed.”
Dr. Wright explains that sadness doesn’t last as long: It’s not as intense, and it is not immobilizing. Depression lasts longer, and it is immobilizing. But if one’s depression persists for months and becomes a way of life, it is no longer normal depression. This type of depression is what doctors would call “clinical depression,” and there is help for that. If someone grieving has suicidal thoughts, they need to seek help immediately.
There are so many other emotions tied into grief. I would encourage you to do additional reading on the subject. Another great way to learn more about grief is through attending a “Griefshare Class.” You can go to griefshare.org to find a class in your area.
In the wilderness of grief, one can feel like they are going crazy or acting strange, when so much of what they are experiencing is normal. It helps to learn about grief so you can better prepare yourself and be able to understand others.
*Article from December 2018 Primeline magazine. Used with permission.