Our Grace Counselling grief counsellors put these resources together, as most of them have all walked this journey of grief, some due to tragic events.
Their heart is to inform you that you are not alone and there are people who understand and care.
There is care support available in a number of ways:
- GriefShare | They have support groups all around the country. You will be able to find resources there as well.
- Face to Face Counselling | There are a number of our volunteer lay counsellors who specialise in grief counselling. You can ring 031 003 1830 or mail firstname.lastname@example.org to start this process.
Scriptures around grieving
Psalm 34:18 The LORD is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
John 16:22 “Jesus said, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
Luke 6:21 “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”
Lamentations 3:32-33 “Though God brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.”
Psalm 30:2 “O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.”
Jeremiah 31:13 “I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.”
Psalm 30:5 “…weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
Psalm 147:3 “He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.”
Isaiah 66:13 “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you,” says the Lord.”
Genesis 28:15 “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."
Isaiah 42:16 “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”
Psalm 10:14 “But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.”
Psalm 9:9 “The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”
Psalm 72:12 “For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help.”
1 John 5:14 “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
Psalm 40:1-3 “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”
Psalm 116:5-6 “The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The LORD protects the simple-hearted; when I was in great need, he saved me.”
A Better Kind of Grieving
1 Thessalonians 4:13 - How to grieve God's way.
Big Idea: Society's approach to grieving brings despair.
God's approach brings peace and healing.
Introduction: Losses are inevitable.
Our reality is that loss and death is an inevitable part of life. We will ALL face loss along the journey of life. So the question is not will we face loss and grief, but do we deal with it?
1 Thessalonians 4:13 "Brother, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hopes."
The verse suggests there's more than one way to grieve losses. The text also suggests there are two ways to grieve losses: society's way, which lacks hope, and God's way, which is hope-filled.
The following is a summary of society's approach to grieving and then we will look at God's approach to grief management.
Society's approach to grieving leads to despair:
Step 1: We are to stop feeling badly and bury our feelings.
An example: The story of a boy named Johnny. When five-year-old Johnny's dog dies, Johnny is stunned, and he bursts out crying. His dog was his constant companion; it slept at the foot of his bed. Now the dog is gone, and little Johnny's a basket case.
Step 2: We are to replace our losses, and fix the pain quickly.
Johnny's dad stammers a bit and says, "Uh, don't feel bad, Johnny, we'll get you a new dog Saturday." In that one sentence, Johnny's dad is really offering the first two steps in society's grief management program: Bury your feelings; replace your losses. Once you have the new dog you won't even think about the old dog any more.
Later when Johnny falls in love with a high school freshman girl, the world never looked brighter, until she dumps him. Suddenly a curtain covers the sun. Johnny's heart is broken, and this time it's big time hurt. But mom comes to the rescue this time and says with great sensitivity, "Don't feel bad, John, there are other fish in the sea." Bury the pain, replace the loss. Johnny has steps one and two down pat now. He'll use them the rest of his life.
Step 3: We are to grieve alone.
Much later, John's grandfather dies--the one he fished with every summer and felt close to. A note was slipped to him in math class. He read the note and couldn't fight off the tears. He broke down sobbing on his desk. The teacher felt uncomfortable about it and sent him off to the school office to grieve alone.
When John's father brought him home from school, John saw his mother weeping in the living room, and he wanted to embrace her and cry with her. But his dad said, "Don't disturb her, John, she needs to be alone. She'll be all right in a little while. Then the two of you can talk."
The third piece in the grieving puzzle was now making sense to John: Grieve alone. So he went to his room to cry alone, and he felt a deep sense of loneliness.
Step 4: We are to give it time; time heals in and of itself.
Eventually he buried those feelings, and he replaced the sense of loss over his grandfather with a whole host of athletic involvements. He tried his best to function normally. But he found himself many months later constantly thinking about his grandpa: the fishing trips, the Christmas Eves, the birthdays.
His preoccupation went on for months until he finally told his dad about it. His dad said, "John, give it time." Translation: Time heals in and of itself. This became step four in John's understanding of grief management.
Have you been keeping track? Bury your feelings, replace your losses, grieve alone, and give it time because time heals. Well, John gave it time and more time, but somehow he felt trapped in a cell of sadness. What made matters worse was that as he relived his relationship with his grandfather, he realized that he had never really thanked his grandpa for the fishing trips, the sack lunches, and the late afternoon swims when the fish weren't biting.
Step 5: If there's unfinished business, we are to accept a life of regret; there's nothing that can be done.
He had left so many things unsaid--even the big one: "I love you, Grandpa." He didn't get to say it. John said to himself, what can I do about it now? I guess I'll just live with regret the rest of my life. That became the fifth piece in his philosophy toward grief management: If there's unfinished business, plan to live with regret; there's absolutely nothing you can do about it.
Step 6: We are to wall up and never trust again.
As you can imagine, with all the trauma, John does a little elementary relational math, and he reasons to himself, Close relationships expose me to the possibility of deep pain; therefore, the way to make sure that this kind of anguish is never experienced again is to keep an arm's distance from any close involvement. Translation of step six: Wall up and never trust again. Don't get so close to people that their absence could hurt you deeply. The sixth step makes the conventional grief management approach complete.
Let's review societies approach: Bury your feelings; replace your losses; grieve alone; let time heal; live with regret; never trust again. How does that sound? It sounds familiar. It's been society's approach for years.
Eighty-five percent of us have most of those pieces in place in our system. Is grief recovery happening, or might there be lots of people walking around with wounds on the inside, which distort the way they live their daily lives?
So many grief-laden people wind up in the ditches of alcoholism, workaholism, broken relationships, and compulsive eating and spending patterns--all seemingly driven by an inability to recover and rebuild their lives after incurring a devastating loss. The message to is loud and clear: If you grieve right, you can live right afterwards. If you grieve wrongly, all bets are off.
God's approach to grieving leads to healing:
Step 1: Feel your feelings and express them.
The words "Jesus wept" speak volumes about grief management.
Society's approach says, step one, bury your feelings. God's approach says exactly the opposite; he says, "Feel your feelings and express them. Don't stuff, bury, deny, discount, or put on a false image of bravery."
1 Thessalonians 4:13, our key verse, don't grieve inappropriately, but grieve. There is hope beyond grief if you work through grief.
One day Jesus hears that his close friend, Lazarus, had died. Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha, were special friends to Jesus. Jesus travels to the town where he meets the two sisters. The crowd is waiting, holding their breath, wondering what the Son of God is going to do when he stands outside the tomb of one of his closest friends. The Scripture says, "Jesus wept."
Those two words speak volumes about grief management. I think people all over the world and throughout history would be well-served by watching Jesus weep. It might give them permission to weep. Weeping is called the language of the soul. The cleansing river of emotional release.
People who feel their feelings and express them freely begin the journey toward hope. I wonder how many of you have felt free enough to grieve your losses-not just death, but lesser losses: childhood traumas, parts of your past, health losses, relational losses, financial losses. God says to you this morning, "Look how my son, Jesus Christ, responded to a searing loss. He wept. So go ahead, let the cleansing rivers flow."
Step 2: Don't just replace the loss, review the loss. To recover from pain, we have to face it.
Society's second step is to replace the loss as soon as you can. Fix it quick. Move on. Don't hang out in sad places because it'll ruin your karma. Scripture teaches exactly the opposite. God's approach, step two in the grieving process, says, "Don't just replace the loss, review the loss." Hang out in the sad place long enough to allow the full effect of the loss to settle into your soul.
It is important to reduce radically the pace of your lives. To review their loss, talk about it openly, think about it thoroughly, write about it reflectively, and pray through it.
People generally want to run from their pain. They want to replace pain with another feeling as soon as they can. To recover from pain, you have to face it. You must stand in it and process it before it will dissipate. That's God's way.
Step 3: God's approach is to grieve in community.
The third step in society's approach to grieving is to grieve alone. God's approach is exactly the opposite: "Grieve in community."
The Bible has hundreds of texts urging the broken-hearted to band together with family and friends in order to grieve in community. Once again Jesus, when his upcoming death was looming large in his mind, grabbed Peter, James, and John, and he said, "Come to a quiet place with me. A loss is coming, and I need some brothers around me. So pray with me, and hold me up."
Apparently Jesus' followers learned well to grieve in community, because after Jesus' crucifixion, Christ's followers were grieving together in community when the knock on the door came announcing the resurrection of the Saviour. Grieving in community can bring both healing and bonds people together.
Step 4: Only the Holy Spirit, called the Comforter, will heal.
Step four, society says, is that time will heal. Step four in God's approach is that only the Holy Spirit will heal. He's called the Comforter.
Fifty years ago industrialists thought they could just bury toxic waste and it would go away. We have since learned it doesn't just go away. It makes trouble. It leaks into the water table, contaminates crops, and kills animals. Buried grief does the same thing. Raw time doesn't heal a thing. Buried pain leaks into our emotional system and wreaks havoc there. It distorts our perceptions of life, and it taints our relationships. That contamination happens subconsciously.
Many times people don't know what's making their world so cloudy and why there's a river of sadness underneath it. They think it wouldn't go back to the loss in their childhood. Don't be so sure. Time itself doesn't heal a thing. God's approach says feel your feelings, stand in your pain, review your loss, grieve in community, and humbly ask the Holy Spirit to heal your broken heart in his time.
That doesn't mean you're not going to carry some scars. You won't ever be the same after a tragic loss. But you'll be able to move forward without the mysterious contamination that I just described. Your emotions can start working properly again. Your perceptions and relationships can get cleared up.
Finally, a remarkable thing happens. You notice that for short periods of time the hurt is not so great any more, and this signals the beginning of healing. That's what the Holy Spirit does.
Step 5: God's approach says we can still express our regrets.
Fifth, society's approach says if you have unfinished business with someone who dies, get used to living with regret because there's not a thing you can do about it. God's approach to grief management says, "Oh, yes, you can still express your regrets."
There's a theme running like a river under the whole story line of the Bible. The theme is reconciliation. Of course, the major motif of the Bible is for all people to be reconciled to God through Christ, his Son. But close on the heels of that major motif is the call for people to be reconciled to one another, to speak the truth in love, and soften their hearts toward one another so that they can be in relationship with each other.
The Bible offers an amazing provision for people who have unfinished business with someone who won't or can't reconcile because they're recalcitrant or because they've died. The provision is found in Romans 12:18, which says, "As far as it depends upon you, be at peace with all men." This verse teaches that you can finish your part of the unfinished business with anybody. Subsequently you can live without the nagging feeling that you won't ever be able to bring closure to that relationship.
There was a guy who had a tension-filled relationship with his father. In the middle of all the hostility, his dad died of a heart attack. The sadness over all that unfinished business just about overwhelmed him, nearly destroyed his life. Finally a wise Christian counsellor took him to Romans 12:18. Over the next six months, he and that counsellor discussed all the destructive dynamics of his relationship with his dad. They processed all the pain. That led the counsellor to challenge the young man to write a final letter to his dad in order to express the unexpressed and bring closure to the relationship.
He wrote a thirty-page letter, which he read word for word to his mom, and his brothers and sisters, in the presence of the counsellor. He said, "When that was over, a weight was lifted that I had carried for almost a decade." He made peace on his side of the equation.
God's approach says you don't have to carry a backpack of regret the rest of your natural life. You can still reconcile your side of the relationship. You can still say what you need to say before God and a few trusted friends. Some of you need to cut off that backpack. You need to grieve God's way.
Step 6: Christians are capable of recovering from any loss that comes their way.
If we make Christ our treasure and not something else, we will never have reason to fear, because he is invulnerable and will never leave us.
Finally, society's approach says, once burned, twice smart; once a loss cut you deeply, wall up and never let it happen to you again. Now, listen to me carefully. This last point makes perfect sense for anybody who doesn't have Christ at the centre of their lives. Let me explain.
For example a couple lost their house in a fire. Fortunately, they were able to snatch all the kids out just before the whole thing collapsed. They stood out on the sidewalk hugging and kissing and thanking God. Why? Because despite the fact that they had lost their shelter, they had not lost their treasure, which was their kids.
That loss was a knock down but not a knock out. The Bible teaches that when a sinner recognizes his sin before God and looks to God for forgiveness and grace, God will grant it on the basis of what Christ did on the cross. When that salvation transaction occurs, that man or woman suddenly realizes the centrality of Christ in their lives, He becomes their treasure. The Bible then promises, from cover to cover, that Jesus Christ, the treasure at the centre of your life, is not vulnerable to any destructive force or power in this world. Jesus said, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Translated, "You might lose your shelter or your fortune or your spouse or your kids or your health, but you will never lose me. Never, never, never. I am not vulnerable."
Because Christians never lose what is central to their being, they are capable of recovering from any loss that comes their way-not easily, not overnight, but eventually through the steps that I've outlined in God's approach to grief management.
Sometimes people outside the family of God do a very dangerous thing. They put something or someone in that central place of their heart, where only Christ should be. Some people outside the family of God put something or someone in the centre of their life and make it their treasure.
When that treasure gets ripped out of their lives, the anguish is unbelievable. Their lives cave in. The reason for living goes up in smoke or gets lowered into a six-foot hole. It only stands to reason if you lose the centre of your life, there's only one thing to do: Wall up and never put yourself in that position again. Once burned, twice smart.
God's approach to grieving says, "People, you matter to me whoever you are. I know how I made you. You're too fragile to have your treasure ripped out. So, do yourself a favour. Admit your need for God and for forgiveness. Make Christ your treasure. He will be secure and invulnerable."
That will change your whole perspective. If you take some hits and losses, you'll know that all is well in the centre of your soul. After a time of feeling your feelings and reviewing your losses and grieving in community and allowing the Holy Spirit to heal you up and reconciling all your regrets, because of the strength at the centre of your life, you will be able to engage in relationships again. Life can go on.
WHERE IS COMFORT TO BE FOUND IN DEATH?
Madz Deyzel, Counselling Director , Grace Counselling
The only comfort we get from death is that there is NO comfort!
This may seem a bizarre statement, but the Bible tells us in Genesis 2:17 that if anyone eats from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would die. This means that we originally were NOT created for death. Death was not an experience that God wanted for us; it was not His plan for us.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us what God did want for us! It states that God has planted ETERNITY in the human heart. This means that the desire for life and eternal life is normal, it is natural, it is the way God intended it and how He designed us. This is the very reason why we find no comfort in death. If death was something we could naturally accept, then it would mean we were not created for eternal life.
So, we can find comfort in confidently knowing that there is NO comfort in death, because we know with all confidence that we were created with eternity in mind, with ETERNITY IN OUR HEARTS, and therefore death is merely a doorway between this realm of fallen life, into the eternal life where we will be reunited with those we love.
- Dr Neil Anderson, “Finding Hope Again.”
- Paul Tournier, “Creative Suffering.”
- Norman H Wright, “Recovering from the Losses of Life.”
- Harry & Cheryl Salem, “From Grief to Glory – recovering life after loss.” (This couple share their journey of healing after the loss of their daughter.)
- Helena Olivier, “Stories of Real Hope.” (Short stories from people in our community who can give us hope.)
- Nola Shaw, “The Many Faces of Grief.”
- CS Lewis “A Grief Observed”
- Preston and Glenda Parrish, “Finding Hope in Times of Grief.”
- Melvin Tinker, “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?”
- John Wallace Stephenson, “Through Tears to Triumph.”
- Don Piper, “90 Minutes In Heaven.”
- Lynn Eib, “When God Meets Grief.”
- Randy Alcorn, “If God Is Good.”
- Mary Beth Chapman, “Choosing To See.”
- Philip Yancy, “Where is God When it Hurts.”
- Philip Yancy, “Disappointment with God.”
- Solly Ozrovech, “Rainbow through Tears.”
DVD & CD’s
- DVD by Rob Bell called “Matthew” – a story of how God sits ‘Shiva’ with us in times of grief.
- CD by Louie Giglio called “When life hurts most – The anchor of Hope.”