When I introduced the topic of handling grief, I had this idea of writing a scheduled, organized and logical series based on my ideas and experience. As I sat down to write the next post after the introduction, I came up with nothing! Most of my writings flow from what I am feeling. I am finding that the emotion of grief is illogical, disorganized and shows up unscheduled. So this series (if it ends up being a series) about grief may do the same :-).
I was unprepared to handle the grief that came to my family after Isaac unexpectedly died. I felt numb for the first many days, all the way through the funeral and memorial services. I cannot remember much about the first several weeks or even months following his death. Brenda and I both felt tremendous doubt, guilt, heartache and, at times, anger. We questioned ourselves as parents and as children of God. We struggled with reasoning why this happened and have fallen miles short of arriving at a certain answer. We can hypothesize many reasons, but the fact remains that we do not know specifically why Isaac died after only ten years on this earth. We do know that because we live in a sin-cursed world that death happens to all of us.
I feel unqualified to tell anyone how they should handle their grief. I lost my ten year-old firstborn son. I have never lost a parent, sibling, daughter, youngest child, an infant outside the womb, etc. Isaac was gone suddenly and unexpectedly. We did not have a chance to say goodbye to each other. We did not have an opportunity to prepare as one might with a prolonged illness. A child normally does not die before his parents or grandparents. We have certain family dynamics that may be similar to or different from other families. You see – our situation is unique. Nobody can say that their situation is exactly the same as someone else’s.
So, how do I suggest that we handle grief? We draw closer to God. We seek His comfort. We trust Him. We cling to His Word, such as Romans 8:28 (I recommend reading this post The Promise of Good). We believe in His mercy toward us as demonstrated on Calvary’s hill. We draw encouragement and strength from the Holy Spirit and from others. Living with grief in a vacuum can be dangerous because it can overwhelm you.
How do you comfort those who are grieving? Please allow me to share with you my suggestions based on our experience other the past four months. What means the most to us is when someone looks us in the eye with sincere compassion, gives us a touch or hug or says or writes something genuine from his or her heart. It is important to be genuine. If you cannot think of anything to say, that is fine! I think our human tendency is to want things back to normal ASAP because we feel uncomfortable. Therefore, we try to provide a wise explanation for the event or we say things hoping to produce behavior in others that will result in perceived normalcy. I cannot even tell my wife how she should grieve because we have different personalities. We allow each other the space to grieve in the other’s manner and try to be gentle with each other. Also, sometimes we perceive that someone may intentionally avoid us or discussions about Isaac. This is understandable, again, because it may cause someone to feel uncomfortable to be around us. While it is hurtful to be avoided, we are learning to extend grace and remember that we do and say hurtful things also. I do not write this to condemn anyone because I am guilty of the same! Even in uncomfortable or difficult relationship issues, I either try to avoid the situation or say something utterly ridiculous. So I am learning too through all of this. I guess the best advice is to be genuine, come along side those who are hurting and help carry them through.
Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. (Rom 12:15, emphasis added)
Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. (Joh 11:32-38a, emphasis added)
Finally, Love Them Like Jesus (click on the “X” in the ad to reveal the lyrics):
Next time I hope to share some resources that have been helpful to us through this journey.
Hoping that you experience the blessing of God’s grace and mercy,