For 16 years, part of my work was helping people grieve. And, honestly, it was helping people learn how to grieve. It was not one of my favorite roles, because it always stemmed from the reasons why they needed to grieve. It meant someone was hurt. It represented brokenness. There was pain, disappointment, even anger associated. That never felt good.
Yet the fact remains, part of living in a fallen world is living among the thorns. We must learn to grieve, because there will always be reasons to do so.
As much as we need to know how to grieve, however, I continually meet people who either don’t know how or refuse to allow themselves to grieve. I’ve even met well-meaning believer who believe they shouldn’t. The Scripture is clear. We do grieve. We simply don’t grieve like the rest of the world.
Here are 10 suggestions for healthy grieving:
Don’t deny the pain. It hurts. Admit it. Be honest with yourself with others and especially with God. If anger is your current emotion, admit it. If it’s profound sadness – be honest about it. You’ve got to grieve at some point to move forward, and you’ll grieve sooner and better if you’re honest about the need.
Learn to pray. Grieving can draw you close to the heart of God. See that as one blessing in the midst of pain. The Scripture is clear. We are to draw close to God and He will draw close to us. He is close to the broken hearted. Use this difficult time to build a bond with God that you’ll never regret having.
Remain active. You may not feel like being around people, but if you’re normally a very social person, discipline yourself in this area. Granted, some people were never very social, even before their grief. We shouldn’t expect much more from them in grief, but even for them, community matters. Don’t shelter yourself from others.
Stay healthy. Eat well and exercise. Sleep as regularly as you can. Stick to a schedule. You’ll need the strength to carry you through this time.
Help others. There is a special blessing that comes from serving others that can help you recover from your own pain. Serve at a soup kitchen. Deliver toys to needy children. Find a way to give back and you’ll invest in the health of your own heart.
Journal your thoughts and feelings. This is huge and many people miss it. One day you’ll be glad you wrote things down, because you’ll see the process God has taken you through and the healing He has allowed you to experience. You’ll need these reminders again some day.
Give it time. Grieving doesn’t complete itself in a day – or a week – or even a year. The depth of the pain always is relative to the time of a sense of recovery. And, some pain never leaves us. We simply learn to adapt to it. We learn to find contentment and even joy in the midst of sorrow and loss.
Share your story. You help others when you allow others to see you share and understand their pain. When you hide your story, you deny others of the privilege of healing through your experience.
Get help when needed. Don’t suffer alone. There are times all of us can use professional help. Don’t be ashamed to seek it.
Remember hope. If you are a follower of God, then the best days of your life are still to come. Even in your darkest days, remember, one day – every tear shall one day be wiped from your eyes, by God himself. Even today, you are in good hands.
You can get up, recover and move forward again even stronger than you were before, but please don’t fail to grieve. It’s necessary, vital, healthy and even Biblical. (1 Thessalonians 4)
Praying for you who need to grieve.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4)
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I want to give an update for anyone that may have found this website and read my story. I'm almost 11 months now after my husband's passing. Most of the pain has passed. At the time I wrote my previous entry, I was dealing with fear of never getting out of the place I was in. I felt locked in to the pain and grief. One idea that really helped me through the process is the concept of a wound healing. Just as the natural body was created to heal itself eventually, so the inward man is built the same way. It is inevitable that you will heal up inside….but you can't speed up. I kept wanting to do something to make the pain go away, but you just have to hold steady and take it a day at a time.
I feel a lot more stable now, my life is recovering some of the order it once had, and I'm just beginning to feel as if I can move forward. I will be coming up on the anniversary of my husband's passing in about a month and a half. I'm dreading that time period, but I know the worst is passed.
If anyone is reading this post and just starting on the path of recovery, please know that there is hope and there is light at the end of the tunnel. Normalcy will come. God bless!
This is a great help Connie. Thank you. And, praying for you in the month to come.
It's OK. All the websites echo the same advice. If I were giving advice to myself right now I would say:
1. Sleep when you can. Don't feel guilty if you are sleeping all day and up all night. Just get sleep when you can. A crazy sleep schedule may make you feel a little drugged. Don't worry about it. It's just not a deal in the scheme of things.
2. Don't stress about what you eat. It's just great that you are eating anything. Stick something green in, if you can. Orange juice can work for a fruit. Drinking tea can be soothing. I've been drinking tons of tea!
3. Watch old movies, but nothing intense. They will help you laugh a little and keep you attached to some kind of normalcy.
4. If you can, get out in the sunshine. There is something about the sun that is curative. You don't have to go anywhere. Just stand out somewhere and take it in. A nice warm bath is comforting, too.
5. Don't worry if you find you can't focus to read. You can talk to the Lord and keep a relationship going without feeling guilty that you can't read the Bible right now.
6. Don't worry about your appearance. You've kind of let yourself go and look terrible in the mirror. It's a little scary. That's not the real you, though. The real you is inside of your body carrying out a great battle, which you will win!
7. When you can, think about how you can use what you are going through to help another soul down the road. That act will give some meaning to what you are going through. You know, by now, what things people have said and done that were not helpful and what things did help.
8. In between all the crying and sadness, give some thanks for the things you still have. Don't feel guilty that the ratio will probably be disparate. Anything positive coming out of your heart or mouth is good.
9. You may find yourself repeating the same things over to the same people and not realize it. When you do realize it, explain to them or just to yourself that you aren't your normal self. Most people will empathize.
10. You feel stuck in a quicksand of sadness. It's hard to move. You feel like you will be there forever. But think about your life. To everything there is a season, and no season has ever gone on forever. You will get through this.
The ship of your life broke up in your husband's death. Just grab any piece of wood floating from that wreckage and use it to get to land, a place of stability. Cut yourself a lot of slack, for now.
On another note, since I entered this post yesterday, my email box has been spammed continually with crazy stuff. This site is the only place that I've given my "real" email. I usually give an alternate address.
One other thing, I think the suggestions in the article are good, but probably more useful at the end stages of grief where you are moving on. I have always been a very disciplined and organized person, and I am experiencing chaos. The article suggestions of schedule and orderliness could lead to condemnation in a person like me. If that makes sense.
Makes great sense. Thank you.
Married 45 years.
I am so very sorry Connie. Certainly wasn't trying to injure you more in your pain. I have heard from some who found it helpful. I am also sorry you didn't feel or aren't feeling the support of the church. You are in a most difficult and lonely period with a sense of hopelessness right now. In months to come I pray you sense some relief. I'm praying for you now.
I've written my response below. Have you ever lost a spouse? I ask because you sound condescending. (Forgive me, I'm still working through the bitterness thing)
The list of 'commands' in this article sound very unattainable to me right now.
It's been almost 3 months since I lost my husband. I just didn't find this list very helpful.
1. There is no way I'm going to be volunteering for anything. Maybe a year from now…
2. "Get help when needed." I tried to get help from my church, but the pastor was very pushy and overbearing. I don't have the energy to read the yellow pages to find or make calls to counselors or services.
3. "Eat well and exercise. Sleep as regularly as you can. Stick to a schedule." You know, issuing commands doesn't produce results. I eat whatever appeals to me and makes me feel better. Many foods make me feel nauseous right now. I'm not getting enough sleep. Exercise takes a lot more energy than it used to. I feel as if I am wearing lead armor. I'm moving in slow motion.
4. "Share your story " I find right now that I do better with acquaintances or strangers who don't ask me how I am doing or other personal questions.
5. "Remain active" I don't even enjoy shopping. Remain active doing what?
I feel as if I am living in a parallel universe. One thing that I have not found in any article on grieving: How to deal with the sense of bitterness that everyone else is enjoying life, while you are stuck in grief. I had a terrible time at Christmas.
Actually healthy grieving is not so easy task. But whatever information you did here makes me knowable and I hope that here provided allocation will surely be handy for everyone to make a healthy grieving. Keep the well information. 🙂
This line was great: "part of living in a fallen world…is living among the thorns". I'm curious, what advice would you give a 14 year old boy who just lost his Dad? If he were in your community, what might you do to make sure he was ok, later in life?
Find someone willing to intentionally mentor him. He may withdraw so youay have to be intentional. Do things with him he wants to do. Teach him to drive. Etc.
I am a part of a faith based grief program, Walking the Mourner's Path. We believe that grief is a natural part of living and invite God into the pain to discover healing. The heart of the ministry is eight weekly workshops led by trained facilitators and a member of the clergy. These workshops are offered in churches around the country. Together program participants "walk the mourner's path", sharing their stories and transform their "grief into joyful living". It has been a privelege to see those in the darkness of grief find the light of Christ and the healing they are seeking.
Thanks for sharing this resource and for your ministry.
Awesome suggestions. I do have to say that as I went through the loss of my daughter that it was different than when I went through other losses. That loss brought me to a much deeper low than anything else ever has. It has taken so much longer to get to what I call the other side. I can now truly say that I have been to the Valley of the Shadow of death. Some of what you said I can relate to. Friends have helped me in a way that I never thought possible. I tend to with draw naturally so it was hard to talk to someone else. I as well found that I didn't want anything to do with God. I know that I have told you a little about that. I never found that in any of the others deaths that I have ever experienced have I felt this way (not wanting anything to do with God). I have as I have gone through this that others have been interested in learning what I have gone through. We have a Facebook page that I have shared some of what we have gone through and will continue to do so. I as well have seen that my husband and I have gone through this loss in a much different way. Our personalities and the length of our time that we have been Christians has made a big difference. Thank you for sharing this.