Tragedy is not a respecter of time or convenience. It laughs off age and ability and snubs its nose at our carefully laid plans. It does not care whether we are “ready” or whether we’ve said all we want to say. It simply creates a path of destruction and leaves us with the task of picking up the pieces.
The grief that follows packs a one-two punch. We’re left reeling from a diagnosis or death. The word “normal” takes on different meaning as we navigate what it means to live with loss. When the grief hits closest to home, we may wonder how long we have until our family and friends expect us to move on. For those of us on the periphery, we may wonder whether we are doing “enough.”
Allowing space for grief and healing is painful and awkward. Doing the heavy lifting for one who’s been dealt a cruel blow is one of greatest acts of love. Yet I fear we miss out on the beauty of weeping with those who weep when we’re too concerned with saying or doing or wearing the right thing.
Grief takes on different context for each culture. However, the Bible does not shy away from grief, nor is it embarrassed about how people express it.
Job tore his robe and shaved his head.
Newly widowed Ruth clung to her mother-in-law.
Hannah prayed through her agony.
King David donned sackcloth and ashes.
It’s clear that grief is promised to all of us, and how we treat each other in the process matters.
Be there. Supporting others who mourn is about being in the same space with them. This could include visiting them in the hospital, showing up at the funeral, bringing a meal, sending a text, making a phone call, or stopping by to listen. It’s giving them a hug even when you’re not a hugger. “Being there” tells them what you will do for them rather than saying, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” Place the burden of “being there” on you. Do not add more weight to the ones your loved one is already carrying.
Be real. This is no time to worry about whether your mascara is running or whether your ugly cry is on full display. Being real shows the depth of our hearts and allows the person who grieves the most to let down their guard. Authenticity is a great comfort to those grappling with a new reality, and leads to healing more quickly and deeply than bottling up emotions in the name of “appropriate behavior”.
Be open. There’s a time to simply listen to someone pour out their heart, and a time for sharing from your experience. God will give you the wisdom of when to do either. Shared experiences have a way of lessening the load. Also, be open to what God wants to do in your heart and the life of the one who is mourning the most. His plans are larger than all of us, and He never leaves His work unfinished.
Be expectant. The Bible says that grief may last for the night, but joy is promised in the morning. There is a time for grief, but it will diminish someday. When someday comes, what will it look like? Do you expect God to deliver you from your pain, depression, or guilt? Are you waiting on Him to do a new work in your life? The Bible says God promises to be near the brokenhearted and carries all our tears in a bottle. You can trust God with your burdens, and He gives us people around us who can carry them, too.
God is good even if He doesn’t seem good right now. Joy not only comes in the morning after a long night of grief, but it also comes in the mourning when we let God and others walk with us. If you’ve been hit hard by tragedy, let God in. Allow others to walk alongside you. If you’re the person willing to lift heavy burdens for a friend or family member, be open and real in your interactions. This world is not our home, but let’s make it a little more bearable for others while we live here.