Coping with grief is a unique process for each and every one of us. I hope that you can find encouragement in these lessons.
Ten years ago, this month was one of the hardest I’d been through. I lost several people I loved in just a short amount of time. Looking back, I can see that God had a lot to teach me about grief and that it would take immense healing.
But at the time, I struggled to cope with the overwhelming waves of grief. I got to a point where a basic level of grief and depression were my norm. I was functioning and I was doing well on the outside, and so I saw nothing wrong with this state of living.
But over time, I realized that I was living crippled. I wasn’t living in the abundant freedom and healing that Christ offered me.
So today, I want to share some of the powerful lessons that God taught me about coping with grief. I’ve learned these four lessons about grief over the past ten years and I know I will continue to learn how to live them out in the years to come.
God wants to bring you healing and hope in your grief. If you feel stuck in your grief or overwhelmed by the pain, I pray that you can find encouragement in these things that God has placed on my heart.
1. Time Helps, But You Can’t Set Limits
Time heals all wounds, right? So shouldn’t grief disappear in a specific and finite amount of time?
This was what I believed for years. And it left me feeling ashamed of the grief that still followed me.
Sure, the sharp and gut-wrenching pain began to fade as time went on, but components of that grief followed me far beyond the time I thought I’d need. And even now there are times where it catches up to me and feels raw and fresh.
Healing takes time. As I will dive into further below, it takes different amounts of time for each person and each situation. No specific amount of time is wrong.
God brings healing in His perfect timing. As much as possible, I want to encourage you to not rush the healing process because you want to escape the pain.
God can do beautiful things when we are grieving. During the time of grief that you are going through, I want to encourage you to surrender your pain to God as best you can.
Allow the time you need to find true and abundant healing and in doing so, you can find hope even in the darkest parts of grief.
2. Grief is Complex. It’s affected by the rest of your life
We lose someone we love. We grieve. We move on.
This is the pattern that the world paints about grief. And yet, it is so much more complex than this.
Grief is not only different for each person, but it will be different for each loss, depending on what the rest of your life and your heart is going through.
I’ve been through many different losses and I can honestly say that the grieving process was different for each.
Some of the factors that affected the complexity were:
- My age at the time of loss
- What I was going through at the time
- How I discovered the loss
- Final moments with the loved one
- The amount of trauma associated with the loss
- The support I found immediately following the loss
- My understanding of grief and how I allowed myself to walk through the pain
These are just some of the things that will affect the way that you experience your grief.
It is okay that it is different. It is okay that it is complex.
You can begin to allow yourself the freedom to experience the loss as you need as you understand what complexities will affect the grieving process.
3. Your grief is your own. Don’t place expectations on the healing process
Grief is unique to you. Often, the world will make you think you need to handle it in a specific way. But I’ve found that the more I tried to do this, the harder it became to deal with it.
I spent years thinking I should be over the grief of loved ones I’d lost and because of this I stuffed that grief so far down, I thought it had disappeared.
But as time went on, it would resurface in a crippling way.
This only made me feel even more ashamed and guilty of my grief. After all, the reason I’d stuffed it was because I was supposed to be over it. And here it was coming back as if I’d just experienced the loss yesterday.
I spent years in this cycle before I realized that grief is different for everyone.
Because of the complexity of the losses I’d experienced, this grief needed time. And more time than I expected.
I needed to sort through the different complexities and understand how each of these affected my own experience of grief.
Your grief is your own. Whether you are handling it as you expected or as those around you expected does not affect how your grief manifests.
Take time to let go of the expectations and allow yourself to experience the grief you feel in your own way.
When you allow yourself this freedom, you can truly discover how to heal.
4. You need support, even though people may not fully understand
How easy is it to want to close out the world when we are swept into grief and pain?
No one can fully understand the loss you are going through and oftentimes people say the wrong words or do the wrong thing. And as much as you want to appreciate it, it just makes it that much harder to stay strong.
But in order to find healing, you need those people that you can stop being strong around. You need a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear. You need to process and to let out some of the feelings you have swirling inside you.
I want to encourage you to reach out in your grief. Whether it’s days, months or years later, try to muster up the strength to reach out and find that support.
No one will fully understand your pain, and that is okay. But by finding a friend or loved one or therapist that you can process the pain with, you will take immense steps towards healing.
Grief is unique to you and to your experience. Take time to process and understand the complexity of your situation. Don’t allow the expectations of those around you or previous expectations on yourself to hinder the needs you have while you are grieving.
God wants to bring you healing and hope. Coping with grief isn't easy but I pray that you will be open to the grieving process you need to walk through in order to heal.
What has helped you in your journey of coping with grief?