Do you know what’s going to happen when you die? Since it is inevitable, we ought to consider whether or not we’re prepared to die. Death is probably the last thing we want to think about, yet it’s something everyone must face. Making funeral arrangements is important, but God is primarily concerned with our relationships with Him because they determine where we’ll spend eternity. The Bible tells us, “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,” (Heb. 9:27) so we must have a clear understanding of what happens to us after we die. Those who have not accepted Christ as Savior have good reason to fear death, but believers can have confidence knowing that it’s the means by which we are ushered into heaven. Whenever loved ones die, we grieve, but if they were believers, we also celebrate because they are with Jesus. One day, we’ll see them again in heaven.
One of the most painful times in my life occurred when Mom died. She and I were very close. After her stroke, I watched her die a little each day. It was as if a scab was being picked off a wound exposing it a bit at a time. It stung beyond anything I’d ever known or could have ever imagined. I dreaded losing her, and the thought of doing so at times would make me feel physically sick.
Although I was in my late forties when she died, I felt orphaned. I learned that’s a common feeling when any child—young or old—loses a parent. I was experiencing the first stage of grief which is shock or numbness. This type of feeling is one reason the hurting person cannot assimilate advice or much Scripture initially. The mind is dulled. The emotions are overloaded.
The emotional wound of my Mom no longer with me was deep and hurt for many months. When friends with good intentions would say things like “Aren’t you happy your mom is no longer suffering” I would become so angry on the inside. I understand they were only trying to comfort me and help lessen my grief. It was then I realized grief is a very necessary part of healing. I also recognized it as being tough, and because no two people grieve alike, no one or nothing can ever circumvent it.
We cannot be critical of how someone hurts. The intensity of pain is different for everyone, as are the variety of coping skills. A loss need not be a death, though some seem to be far worse than death. There are job losses; a move to a different city, which means loss of relationships and familiarity; an empty nest; loss of promotion at work; loss of a dream as your child becomes rebellious; loss of a child in miscarriage; loss of youth or good health; loss of a pet; and loss of a spouse in separation or divorce.
The process of working through the loss is the process of grief. It’s hard work but a necessary part of healing—and no one can do it for another, although we can be there to listen to someone who needs to talk. The process can be a lengthy one with the time varying from individual to individual. Then as the numbness wears off, the second stage begins. The person remarks to his or herself—and sometimes to others—”This can’t be happening.” This is denial. It seems significant the most often used response to bad news is, “Oh, no.” This is a verbal response to a soul saying: “No, this just can’t happen. It happens only to others.” Sometimes the denial gives way to bargaining, such as, “Lord, if You will ease the pain, I will . . .”
When bargaining with God doesn’t seem to work, anger becomes predominant. As the person enters the third stage. Many get angry with God since He could’ve prevented the hurt in the first place. Although a lot of the grief is irrational, it needs to be verbalized and not trivialized by those who hear it. Soon after the anger begins to turn to guilt. “If only” or “I should’ve” hits the wounded heart. This is common for someone losing a loved one in death and not being able to be with the person when he/she died. The grieving person feels he “should have” somehow known. There is no limit to guilt: Loss of health—“I should’ve eaten better, exercised more;” loss of a child to rebellion—“It’s all my fault. I should’ve been a better parent;” divorce—“I should’ve been a better partner;” loss of job or promotion— “I should’ve worked harder.” Even though some of these might have an element of truth, in grief, the guilt is totally out of proportion to reality.
Finally, the grieving person arrives at the resolution or acceptance when they acknowledge the loss did occur. One of the things I have discovered since my mom died is that grief hits at the most unexpected—and inconvenient—times. There are still times when I find myself visiting one of the areas of grief if only for a moment there are times when my sad, solemn, or empty reactions catch me off guard.