Grief is more than the loss OF life, it is about the losses IN life. Maybe you grieve the loss of a missed opportunity, or a relationship, the loss of a job, the loss of your health, or the ability to do what you used to do, we all know grief. And COVID brought with it tremendous loss. We all lost the world we knew. Some of you feel like you lost a year of your life, our kids lost a year of school and sports, our country lost a workforce, and supply chain, some of you lost your livelihood, you lost progress that you had been making in your mental health, lost financial stability. And some of you lost someone who died recently.
One thing is for sure… we all experience loss and the grief that comes from it. Many people don’t even know that what they’re experiencing is actually grief. The real question is, are you handling it well? Grief is actually an opportunity for self transformation and drawing closer to God to receive his peace and healing.
In this post, we’ll share with you 3 biblical ways to deal with grief in a healthy way and better manage the shock and denial that often comes from it.
3 biblical ways to deal with grief if you’re experiencing shock or denial.
1. Survive the Initial Wave (Job 1-3)
We see Job for the first few chapters doing what he needs to do to survive. He mourns, he grieves, he worships, he breaks a piece of pottery to scratch the sores on his body, he argues, he’s quiet, he receives friends, he prays. He’s doing whatever he can to get through the initial wave.
And having seen grief up close for many years, I want to get really basic with some of you. Starting with just be safe. Don’t compound what has happened by being reckless yourself. If you are driving and crying too hard to see straight pull over. And if you don’t care whether you live or die in that moment – let me remind you that your life is still a precious gift from God. And even if you can’t go on for yourself, do it for the others in your life. Drink water – crying causes dehydration. Move, get outside, take a shower, eat. All the things that you probably don’t want to do, but they are baby steps in just caring for yourself and surviving the initial wave. Another simple thing to do is tend to something. Weed the garden, water your plants, brush your pet, bake someone a cake, do something good for someone. Bring a little order to the chaos in tangible ways. Survive that initial wave.
2. Be honest with yourself, others and most importantly, God (Job 10:1-8)
Henry Cloud said, “Grief is a process of acknowledging the reality of what’s happened, acknowledging how you feel about that reality, and ultimately fitting it into a new understanding of life with that loss.”
Recognize, name, and feel your emotions. Don’t rush past them. It’s just as important to express your sadness as it is to express your joy. If you don’t find an expression for this – it will get stuffed down and eventually it will come back out in very unhealthy ways.
We go back to Job as our example. He worships God beautifully when it doesn’t even seem possible. He famously said, “the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) What incredible faith and worship in the midst of extreme trauma.
But we also see his honesty as Job processes through is grief and loss. Listen to this raw passage in Job 10:1-8; “I loathe my life; I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. 2 I will say to God, Do not condemn me; let me know why you contend against me. 3 Does it seem good to you to oppress, to despise the work of your hands and favor the designs of the wicked? … 8 Your hands fashioned and made me, and now you have destroyed me altogether.
There often is a lot of confusion about how a person of faith should respond to the shock of loss. Here’s what not to do. The Bible does not say anywhere to just pretend that it doesn’t hurt. A lot of people grew up being taught that you ought to just have a stiff upper lip and act like it doesn’t hurt and that this is a sign of strength. Guys really struggle with this. In churches, people sometimes even get credit for being extra spiritual if something catastrophic happens and they take it in stride and keep moving as if it doesn’t bother them. There can be a pressure almost NOT to grieve and pretend it’s faith. That’s not what Job does here. He’s brutally honest with God. And guess what? God is big enough to handle all your emotions, all your questions, all your doubts. Take them straight to him and to your trusted friends. And if you don’t have language for it, borrow the language of the Bible.
Do you know what the most common kind of psalm is? It’s called the psalm of lament. The most frequent cries are: Why God? God, how long? God, where are you? and Why have you hidden your face from me, God? During times of grief, you should really befriend the Psalms. The Psalms were the first prayer book of the church. Our most ancient Christian brothers and sisters practiced prayer primarily as the daily memorization and recitation of the Psalms. Tish Harrison Warren said, “Praying the Psalms doesn’t simply teach us to express our emotions to God; the practice also shapes our emotions.”
There is another book in the Bible actually called Lamentations. It’s a cheery little Old Testament book. As its name suggests, it’s full of laments. The God of the Bible is a very big God who is not threatened in the least by people expressing their anger and grief over hurt. Some of you have been playing the quiet game far too long, you have losses you have never mourned and tears you have never cried. It’s ok to face the sadness.
Listen to these invitations from God. In Psalm 50:15 God says, “call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Lamentations 2:19 says, “Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord!” Do you know why he’s crying out in the night? Because in grief he’s probably not sleeping very much. What do you do when you’re up all night and can’t sleep? Cry out to God and express all your emotions to him. So in the early stages of shock and denial – the sooner you can get to honesty the better.
3. Don’t lose sight of hope (Job 13:15)
Yes, hope will feel like a long way away. But just keep it in your faintest sight right out there on the horizon line. Like when you’re in a boat with no navigation. You just have to keep that shore in your sights. Even if it’s just the faint glow of some buildings off in the distance. That is your focal point to make sure that eventually you can still find your way back home. In Job 13 during one of his long monologues, Job says this beautiful phrase, you can almost hear the pain oozing out of it – but you know there’s still a distant shoreline. It’s in 13:15, “though he slay me, yet I will hope in him.”
Pray this: God, I don’t know what you’re up to. It feels devastating. It actually feels like you’re actively opposing me, beating me down, slaying me. And yet. I won’t lose sight of hope. I’ll keep it in my distant sights.
Grief Specialist Shares the Best Ways to Deal with Grief in Today’s World
Now that you know the 3 key biblical ways to help manage your grief in the earlier stages, we have some other great free resources to fully equip you to deal with loss and grief.
We sat down with licensed grief specialist Pam Presler to hear more about the most common questions and myths about dealing with grief and loss. You can download the full length interview and training for free here.