Joy in Bereavement
“The Joy of the LORD is my strength”:
Rebuilding our lives amidst loss…
Has death lost its sting?
Do we believe that joy in bereavement is possible?
Do we believe in scripture? Do we trust GOD in all things?
Do we accept as Paul wrote in Philippians, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain”?
Do we know we can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” and that “the joy of the LORD is my strength?”
Yes. Even so, how is joy in bereavement possible?
Attitude to death
Suffering unto death is painful. Today, look at the war-torn refugees: The Ukrainians are fleeing their homeland. Previously, it was Afghans, and before that, Syrians hoping to escape civil war. I wonder, are the Christians in these nations — and there are many — are they in fear?
Has death lost its sting? For me, it has…. Oh, yes, I am concerned for those whom I would leave behind. But going to be with Jesus…. for me, in death there is nothing to fear.
Why then, would I grieve irreparably for my lost husband who has proceeded me to eternity?
Yes, I have mourned, curled up from time to time, have missed and still do miss him. Yes, the process of bereavement is not an easy process for anyone. And yet, we who have lost someone who is in Christ can also have joy — joy to know the person we love has gone to a far away place but also it is a far better place. We miss them, but we can enjoy in their absence the knowing that:
- GOD has them in the palm of His hand
- We have had the joy of knowing them, of having them in our lives
- We have been entrusted to carry on and can be confident that GOD will equip us.
If these things are true, why carry on suffering? There is no need.
As many of you know, I lost my husband a year ago. He was not old, was healthy previously, and he left a 16 year old son, a daughter, and a grandson (with a second born just a month after he passed away).
BUT I KNOW that because I choose to trust GOD, to take Him at his Word (as have we all), we are all okay!! Praise the LORD. I choose not to be bitter, nor to be angry, not to blame, condemn or feel sorry for myself. I trust GOD is in all things and in all things we all can trust GOD.
COPING THE WORLD’s WAY:
There are 7 stages of grief, according to common psychological practice. Nothing wrong with analysing or making ourselves aware of what understanding is available in society today.
BUT we who are In Christ do not have to bind ourselves to these stages because we have supernatural healing and comfort. We who are In Christ need to recognise we are SET APART and through prayer and comfort of GOD almighty, we don’t have to go through any human secular pattern. We can — it isn’t wrong. But we don’t need to.
We can even have joy in bereavement.
Bittersweet: Do you know what “bittersweet” means? Memories of a lost loved one are both joyful and sad: joyful because it is as though they are still with us, for a moment, and sad because they are not. So memories are both bitter and sweet. That’s life too, isn’t it?… As the expression goes, we take the bitter with the sweet.
We take the bitter with the sweet, because we know that all things work together for our good. We who are free in Christ are not only saved from hell, but there’s so much more to our salvation. We can experience life & death with no big sting!
Death has lost its sting. We can walk in this. It’s even a good witness to bear the loss with His grace within and upon us.
This is not denial of our loss. Yes, it hurts. Yes, we miss the one who has gone. But we carry on, with peace and confidence in Him, our GOD.
GOD’s WAY FORWARD:
Have you got lots of prayer cover? Let’s never underestimate the power of prayer cover to comfort us and hold the enemy at bay.
We needn’t just survive but we can thrive even in grief.
The First Year
We have responsibilities to attend to which helps us through the first year.
For example…. there is the looking after others, taking care of financial aspects following death, arranging the funeral? Doing nothing in only the rarest of instances is advisable. Doing a lot isn’t advisable either as there is sort of a cloud over us that makes concentration difficult. Rather, pacing ourselves wisely is sensible and good. Idle hands don’t help; over-work isn’t ideal. Finding a balance between taking time for ourselves to process our loss, and yet gradually moving forward is so important.
All of this addresses our mental attitude. Let us allow GOD to renew our minds, taking us through our situation with the many changes, and leading us to deeper, wider understanding of Him and our relationship with Him.
What do I miss most?
Knowing what we miss, being aware, helps us to address it at some moments and allows us to work through how to cope without.
I suppose the thing I miss most is conversations with my husband. I have no-one to talk to about some matters now. So, I simply take my conversations to GOD and either He satisfies or He leads me to a human source as well.
SO, HOW DO WE GET THROUGH BEREAVEMENT GOD’S WAY?:
- Trust Him: I made a decision very early on to accept the situation and recognise GOD’s faith in me – as a person, as a mother (my primary concern of course), as a watchman. In my life GOD is sovereign so I know He didn’t make a mistake, and He didn’t forget about us as a family. He must have reckoned I could cope — and I told Him so. Further, He must have reckoned this for my son as well. This attitude — along with the prayers of many others (aka importance of fellowship)— this attitude of being able to overcome, enabled me to overcome.
- Know thyself: I walk in GOD’s grace. I rest when He leads me to rest
– or curl up
– or be prayerful
– or remember
– or be honest with Him or myself or others about what’s on my mind and heart.
– I rest upon scripture, for example, “He leads me beside still waters and He restores my soul” !!
3. Talk: As I mentioned earlier, I talk to GOD
– I talk to others
– I talk to family who have lost their brother, uncle, father. Remembering others have also lost Alan reduces self-centredness and shows compassion.
– thinking of others, doing for others keeps people near and gives little room for self-pity or self-absorption. I know and have proof in the doing:
– I am not helpless
– I am not worried
– I am productive
– I am occupied
4. Listen to the Spirit: GOD provides boundaries: Walking close to GOD, listening attentively for His Spirit, I allow the Spirit to lead me. The more I allow myself to be led, the more protection I experience. And allowing the Spirit to lead me keeps me within a spiritual structure that enables me to walk in His peace, His rest, and His wisdom.
5. Handle the practical responsibilities:
– friends : All these things occupy our attention when we most need to face the void of the loved one’s absence. This is a good thing (so long as it is kept in balance… avoiding pain or denying pain is not good, but working through the pain with other healthy distractions keeping us from moping or being pulled down).
6. So, where is the joy in bereavement?: Grief is like the ebb and flow of a river or a tide. It comes and goes. So too, surprisingly enough, comes joy. It may be only a glimmer at first. But there will be some laughter amidst the sorrow, especially if we allow others into our sphere.
Even in the most horrendous crisis movie, there are uplifting moments. Life is like this… we cannot despair 24/7.
If beyond the natural sadness of grief, a sense of hopelessness or “lostness” comes upon you, do tell a doctor, tell a pastor. Don’t let it stew. Don’t wallow or dwell there, because that can lead to depression. Instead, share it and know you can — and will — get through this time.
And know that breakthrough will come! There will come a time when the cloud lifts. You cannot lift it, but there will come a time… For me, it was eleven months after Alan had passed away, on a Saturday evening after a pleasant day, as I put my head on my pillow to go to sleep I realised, “Oh, I was happy today.”
The cloud has not returned.
7. Music not Food for Comfort and Uplifting: My son said to his father when in hospital, “Don’t underestimate how much music can help.” He was right!
8. Remember the lessons learned: When my husband was ill I learned two particular things:
1. to keep my eye on Jesus, not on the storm
2. How powerful is His grace: His amazing grace!
I have not forgotten these lessons, and I have grown in the ability to practise these truths.
9. Receive: I’ve never been so supported as while my husband was ill and I’ve never been as spoiled as in the year following. I didn’t basque in it but I did accept it and am very grateful for it.
Finally, and perhaps most important of all to overcoming a period of bereavement
10. Prayer: Do not underestimate the power of being in GOD’s word throughout this time, allowing Him to change you in these new circumstances. And pray, frequently and abundantly!
In all things GOD works for our good. This you can trust, this you can rely upon, and this you can walk in regardless of how you feel, until the cloud lifts and you can say, “Oh, I was happy today!”
Father, I thank you that all things do work together for our good, for those of us who love You and are called for Your purpose. I thank you that I am a living testament to this as are many other spouses, parents, children, and friends who have recently lost one dear to them. Father, I thank you that we can overcome any storm when we focus on Jesus. Thank you for this truth and for your wisdom to us. Help us to trust it, to apply it, and to share it with others so that they too, can overcome all circumstances.
In Jesus’ name, Amen