9 Hard Things to Expect When You’re Grieving
9 Hard Things to Expect When You’re Grieving
Michelle Lazurek iBelieve Contributor
One of the hardest realities to face in our lives on earth is that at some point, every person goes through grief. And yet, even though it is a universal struggle, it’s often resisted, most likely because it’s a difficult emotion to manage - unpredictable in its intensity and duration. In fact, we don’t often talk about what we should expect when we grieve, leading to even more isolation and stigma for those walking through it.
Society looks down upon those who are grieving, often mislabeling people as depressed or mentally ill. In our on-the-go lifestyle, we don’t allow the time or space needed for grief. And grief doesn’t follow a predictable pattern. So what can someone expect when they are grieving? Here are nine expectations:
1. Grief is Normal
The debilitating emotions that accompany grief may make you think there is something wrong with you. However, grief is a normal part of life, and those emotions you experience, while intense, are normal. When you have loved someone deeply, it is natural to miss him or her and grieve the loss of never seeing him or her again on this earth.
Whatever feelings you are experiencing, let them flow freely. Don’t hide them or try to numb them with drugs or alcohol. It might be a temporary way to numb pain but in the end the pain will still be there—and in somecases get worse.
2. Grief is Cathartic
The tears that come with grief are like a shower for your insides. It may be uncomfortable at first, but the cathartic healing that comes from a good cry may be cleansing for your soul. God created tears to allow difficult emotions like anger or pain to come forth.
Stuffing those emotions is not only emotionally unhealthy, but physically unhealthy, too. Not dealing with emotions can lead to headaches, depression and stomach ailments, to name a few.
3. If Jesus Grieved (And He Did) So Should We
If Jesus grieved over the people He loved, why shouldn’t we? Love and loss are a part of life. Allowing tears to flow not only shows you are human, but also shows you loved someone. Let God use your tears to cleanse your soul.
4. Grief Is an Opportunity to Cling to God
God doesn’t waste pain. In the moments when the grief is unbearable it’s difficult to even breathe, cry out to God. God gave us the holy spirit to comfort us when life gets difficult. When we grieve, we may ask questions like, “why, God?” or “How does a good God let this happen?”
In this situation, we have two options—cry on God’s big shoulder, or run away from him in anger, allowing us to separate ourselves from him. God wants us to run to him, letting him comfort us in our grief. After all, Jesus himself grieved, and relied on his father to help him through it.
5. It Allows Your Family and Friends to Give You the Gift of Support
Exodus 17:12-14 says, “When Moses' arms grew tired, Aaron and Hur brought a stone for him to sit on, while they stood beside him and held up his arms, holding them steady until the sun went down. In this way Joshua totally defeated the Amalekites.” When neighbors, friends and family want to give you a meal, watch your children or give a donation to your favorite charity, let them. When you are grieving, people want to show their support to help you feel better during this difficult time.
By refusing people’s help, not only are you refusing people’s opportunity to share their gift of hospitality to you, but it also makes grief so much more difficult to manage effectively. Expect people will want to do what they can to comfort you in your grief. Let them, even if it feels awkward or embarrassing.
6. The Sharpness of Grief Will Eventually Dull
In the throes of grief, it may feel like you will never be happy again. But God promises that his mercies are new every morning. Grief is never easy or comfortable, but it is necessary to process our emotional pain to be healthy individuals.
You will feel happy again. You will move on with your life, even if life looks so much different than you expected. Yes, the sharp stab of grief will be intense at first. But eventually you will experience joy in life again.
7. Managing Grief Takes Work and Effort
When you are emotionally depressed and dealing with emotional pain, it’s tempting to want to not engage in regular, healthful activities. But getting back to work and engaging in church and your community will help move your grief process along.
As most know, grief occurs in five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. However, these do not happen in a linear timeline. You may begin with depression, then anger, then denial. You may feel acceptance for a while, only to be hit with depression all over again. You have to work to get through the process so take the necessary steps. Get counseling if necessary, but don’t stuff your emotions. Let them flow freely.
8. Grief Will Look Different for Each Person, So Don’t Compare
There is not deadline when it comes to grief. For those that grieve a spouse and have been married for a long time, it may take he/she longer to grieve then someone who is grieving a more distant relative. Take all the time you need.
Don’t listen to the hurtful (yet intentionally helpful) comments from others who think after six months, you should be done grieving. It doesn’t always resolve at a specific point. No need to rush it.
9. It’s True What They All Say: The First Year is the Hardest
Although you may never be the same as you were before your loss, the first year is always the most difficult. Holidays and anniversaries are especially difficult. Christmas and Thanksgiving may feel especially lonely when the focus is on being with family. Don’t pretend like that person didn’t exist. As painful as it may be, make a toast or say a prayer in his/her honor.
Take time to go around the table remembering the good times you had with that person. Focus on the fun times and address the awkward, hard feelings every guest is feeling. Then do your best to celebrate with family. After all, they are still alive, so cherish the time you have with them.
Grief is never easy. But understanding what to expect in terms of emotions and allowing yourself to grieve in your timeframe and not someone else’s, it will allow you to handle the difficult concept of grief in the best way possible. Don’t be afraid to grieve and rely on your loved ones to help you through your grief. Finally, cling to God, as He is the ultimate source of strength and healing when times get tough.
Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children's Book of the Year, the Enduring Light Silver Medal and the Maxwell Award, she is a member of the Christian Author's Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She is also an associate literary agent with Wordwise Media Services. For more information, please visit her website at michellelazurek.com.