Grief: Reactions to Grief


Peninsula Community Church 

Grief: Reactions to Grief

February 3, 2018 

Psalm 13:1-6 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

As we communicated last week grief is normal. When we love and lose a loved one, we will grieve. The truth of the matter is that grief and love go hand in hand. We also saw that everyone will deal with grief differently as no two people are alike and no two experiences are the same. The problem for most of us is that grief is a multifaceted bundle of emotions where we do not always know where one emotion begins and the other ends. Grief is messy. It is painful. To grieve is to take a journey that has no time limit or a preplanned path to take. For this week, I would like to look at some of the ways we tend to deal with grief and how to deal with grief in a healthy way.

The first way to deal with grief is to isolate ourselves. Because of the deep pain we have experienced it is a natural to want to isolate and hide. The truth is we do not want to deal with the grief. This is in part because we do not understand the grief nor we do we know how to deal with the grief we are facing. As a result we can shut ourselves off from the outside world, our friends, and even our family. We build walls so as not to let anyone in because we are afraid of being hurt in a deeper way. We can isolate ourselves to the point we will not allow anyone in, even those who are close to us. We shut everyone out. While this may seem protective, this can in fact prolong the pain and the healing process.

In the journey of grief, it is normal for us to want to run and hide. This is due in part to the emotions we are experiencing and the need to avoid contact with people because it can be too painful. For many of us, we find that we are retelling the story over and over again. We find that people want all of the gory details, while we just want to be silent and move on.

Isolating ourselves is a way to avoid the unfortunate things that people say and do in such times. I believe that most people mean well even when they say what they say and do what they do. As you know, I have grown to dislike the phrase “I know exactly what you are going through!” Or, “now you can move on and get on with your life.” Others will criticize those in grief that they cry too much, they are too sad, they are not getting their act together, they are not getting back to normal fast enough. This is by no means a complete list, but you get the idea of the things that people say and push us to do when we are not prepared to do so. 

During this time of grief we can feel depressed. We can be in a place where we do not feel like working. Fear can grip our hearts, it can blind us, and it can keep us from moving forward with life. We can also feel overwhelmed by our emotions and by all that we believe we have to do after the loss of a loved one. We can also face regret because there are things we wish we had done. We wish we had spent more time together. We wish we had been more loving. We wish we did not have a specific reaction to them. All of these can drive us to isolation, as we do not want to hurt anymore. We do not want to fail in another relationship. This can also be a situation where we do not want to hurt again so we do not expose ourselves to love, or what we think might bring us joy.

I should clarify here that isolation or solitude can be a beneficial resource when we are experiencing grief. Being alone allows us the opportunity to process our grief, deal with the pain we have experienced, and begin to regroup in a way that helps us focus on the new normal that is ahead of us. While being alone can be a positive response for grief, continued isolation and closing one’s self off can be detrimental to one’s health and can slow the healing we need. We cannot hide forever because there is still a world and a life to be lived. 

For those of us who may experience grief we must learn that we might not want to be with people and that is okey. We may not want to do holidays and that is okey. We may not want to go to church and that is okey. In time, you will. In time, you can do what you need to do again.

For those who have friends or family who are grieving. I suggest that we engage them. In today’s environment, we have the ability to text, email, facebook, phone call, and we can still send a card or letter. While we may not have a direct presence, we can communicate our love and support for our friends. Never allow a person go without some communication. When you communicate, do not judge their isolation, but simply let them know they are loved and you are there for them. Maybe take them a meal. Babysit their child. Stop in to help them with yard work or grocery shopping. Do not force them to grieve differently than they are in the moment, but allow them to take this journey in their time and they will. 

While some people isolate, others can busy themselves in order to avoid grief. The belief is that if we are busy enough then grief will go away and we will not have to deal with it. Doing so, however, often delays the inevitable. We will deal with our grief one way or another. It will come out in other ways and most often when you least expect it. Instead of running from grief, David and Nancy Guthrie, directors of GriefShare Ministries have stated that we must lean into our grief. We need to take it all in. Yes, you may cry in front of people. That is okey. You do not have to live like you have it all together. Do not allow your self to be deceived into thinking that you have to put up a front when you are hurting. It is never healthy to hold it in.

This also means that we cannot turn to unhealthy means to cope with our grief like excessive alcohol, drugs or medications, sex, and other addictions that do little to alleviate our grief. These things serve only to mask our grief and to delay the inevitable. But know this, the pain will not last. Once again we hear the heart of David when he makes this powerful statement in Psalms 30:5. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Here is the deal. We may not know how long our night might be, but I do know that joy comes in the morning. You will experience a new normal, and you will come to a day where you will live again. 

While we can isolate or busy ourselves, we can also focus on the unchangeable and unmovable love of God. In our grief, we can become closed off to God. Sometimes in our grief we can believe that God has left us and is not concerned about us. Sometimes our pain can be so deep that we cannot pray. We cannot read the Bible. We cannot listen to Christian music or any other kind of music for that matter. We are numb and feel lost in the darkness. 

But listen to David’s word. How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. , because he has dealt bountifully with me. Let me ask you have you ever proclaimed those words. Have you ever exclaimed how much more Lord do I have to take.

But also listen to David’s reply to his own question. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD. It is here that David is sharing the pain of his heart and suddenly he seems to take a turn. He is saying yes all of this is true, but I have realized that I can trust in God’s immovable and unchangeable love. His love for me is not contingent on how I feel or what I have experienced. His love never changes. He loved me before the grief. He loves me in the grief. He will love me as I establish a new normal in me life. 

It is for that reason that David wrote these words in Psalms 23:4. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. In the valley, the shadow of death encompasses us. It floods our hearts and effects our spirit. But, when we trust God even in death we do not have to fear, because He is with us. He is there for us and He is there to direct our steps through the valley. Notice that David did not say that when we stay in the valley of death, but rather He made it clear that we walk through the valley of death. There is hope, there is a new normal, and there is a new day ahead.

Finally, let me read one more passage from David’s writings in Psalm 34:17-20 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.

Not matter what you are experiencing God is with. He is our delivery. He is our healer. Our grief speaks to us one thing but God speaks another. We can be healed and reach a place where a new normal is realized. Watch this video with me and then we will pray. “I Say.” by Lauren Daigle. 

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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