Those in the grip of grief know that certain times of the year are difficult. Wedding anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas time, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can evoke strong emotions. Even Easter week can present challenges for grieving families. In my experience as a Funeral Celebrant, I have found that most people regard themselves as spiritual beings in search of a greater peace and hope when mourning the death of someone they love. When asking a family how little or much religious content they want in the life celebration, the most frequent response is, “We would like spiritual emphases. We just don’t want it to feel like we’re in a church service.” In all honesty, I don’t want my funeral to feel like a church service either! With that in mind, I offer these biblically based thoughts, especially to those grieving and feeling very alone.
It is important to understand that solitude and aloneness are different. Grief will often lead us to a healthy solitude, where we seek a sanctuary of deep contemplation that can be rejuvenating. Aloneness is the result of the dread of isolation that brings with it a heaviness of spirit. Grieving spouses might feel isolated from couples and friends, as if on an emotional island. Aloneness takes us down a dark alley of despair that no one could possibly understand our hurt. I cannot pretend to understand the pain of losing a friend or family member to suicide or homicide. My wife Kathy and I have been married for nearly forty-six years. I cannot imagine the dread of waking up each morning without her beside me.
My faith system is rooted in Christianity; in a God and Savior who have shown me many times that even when I feel alone, I am never alone. Here are some examples in the context of grief:
ALONE IN OUR FEAR – BUT NOT ALONE
Fear of circumstances, fear of the unknown or fear of not being in control. Not only will fear paralyze us, we often try to hide our fear. All of us possess hidden fears. We might attempt to fake it, cover them up or even medicate them. But fear is a universal reality which is exacerbated by grief. The solution is found in three concepts: Truth, Love& Faith.
Begin with telling God the Truth. Lamentations 3:55 says, “From the bottom of the pit I cried out to you, O Lord. And when I begged you to listen to my cry, you heard me. And you answered me and told me not to be afraid.”
Second – Rely on the Absolute Love of God. 1 John 4:18 tells us, “Perfect love drives out all fear.” God is love…His love is perfect…His perfect love is stronger than any fear!
Third – Put Faith into Practice.We must Remember that faith doesn’t eliminate the fear. Faith simply gives us the courage to move beyond the fear, working through feelings of vulnerability. Remember that courage is not something with which we are born, which is why the exercising of faith is often uncomfortable.
IN OUR ANGER – BUT NOT ALONE
Anger is one of the interlocking emotions on the grief journey. Most of us don’t want to deal with anger, so we tend to build an emotional wall. We “isolate to insolate”. Perhaps you’ve noticed what a cat or dog does when it is sick or wounded? Instinctively, it will find to a secluded, virtually unreachable place to rest, because it knows it is vulnerable to predators. We can find ourselves on that emotionally secluded three-foot square island, where protection from emotional predators is accompanied by aloneness. 2 Kings 20:5 says, “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears…I will heal you.” God is saying we are alone, but not alone.
ALONE IN OUR SORROW – BUT NOT ALONE
Jesus grieved. He was described the “Man of Sorrows”. Sorrow like anger, is one of the interwoven processes of grief. On the night before Jesus was crucified, he was alone and praying in a garden. What we see in Jesus solitary conversation with his Father was intense sorrow. Any parent who has ever sobbed over the decisions of their child understands this agonizing concept. But, just as surely as God the Father was with Jesus in his aloneness, He is with you and me in our sorrows!
There is also a difference between sorrow and sadness. Sadness and happiness are temporary emotions. Sorrow is that protracted state of being that blocks any ray of happiness or hope. Unrelenting, chronic sorrow is a sure sign of depression. Depression illness can last a sorrowful life time. Yet, even in our depression we are not alone.
ALONE IN OUR PAIN – BUT NOT ALONE
Emotional pain and depression cause physical pain. Alone in the garden, Jesus grappled with that kind of pain. Jesus cried out in his heart to his Father; a muffled scream from his very soul that only he and his Father God could hear. And God sent an angel to strengthen him…alone, but not alone. And what about those awful times when you shook your fist and your heart screamed, “God, where ARE you in all of this?” By the way, it’s O.K.to be angry at God.He is a big God who understands and hurts with us. Now, just why is it that in our deepest need – our darkest hour we find we are alone but not alone? Because God NEVER wastes our pain! Just as surely as Jesus suffering and death was not wasted, neither is ours! And God wants to use our suffering for a greater purpose than we could ever imagine. This is the surest sign of healing.
So, this “Holy Week”, if grief washes over you like a sudden wave you were not prepared to handle; in your fear, anger, sorrow and pain, remember that God is always near. You may feel alone, but you are not alone.
Director of Aftercare & Community Care