Wilderness: What Are the Things You Need to Grieve?

Death is a word I am all too familiar with. I hate it for all the times it has visited my door and changed my world. In the past 16 years of my 33 years of living, I have lost eleven close relatives. That includes my mother and first born son whom I carried around inside of me for five months.

As a result of these devastating personal experiences, and observing the grief of others, I have come to the conclusion that the church generally (at least in practice) has a poor theology of grief. When mom died, I gave the good Sunday school answer (not because it was what I was supposed to say, but because I believed it). I rejoiced that she was now in Heaven basking in God’s glory with no more pain and suffering. Somehow the attitude of Christians and people around me was, “Everything will be okay.” After suffering a recent loss of her own, Redbud, Trillia Newbell, honestly acknowledged that “Death is not okay.”

After my mother’s death, I went back to life as “normal,” only without her. The reality is, for me, at least for a long time, there was no “normal” without her. What is a young woman to do with the void in her life where a loving mother used to be? We loved each other, confided in each other, trusted each other, and cheered each other on. I felt like I needed her with me, but she was gone never to return and that’s a major loss. I needed to take time to grief, to fully experience the loss and hurt, to go to God for comfort and rest.

It wasn’t until fairly recently that I realized that I needed to go back and grieve the other moments of lost concerning her death. Thanks for this truth, @CarynRivadeneir! I needed to grieve that mom wasn’t there to see me graduate from the Naval Academy…that she wasn’t there to dress me on my wedding day…that she wasn’t in the room when we delivered a beautiful, healthy baby girl…and that I miss her as I experience some of the simple elements of life.

In her book, Grumble Hallelujah: Learning to Love Your Life When It Lets You Down, Caryn reminded me that God grieved that he made humans in the first place (Gen. 6:5-6), and he also grieved over making Saul King (1 Sam. 15:10-11). Certainly, he grieves over our sin, and I’m sure he grieved the death of his son on the cross. Caryn writes, “Not only does God do it [grieve], but God uses it to clear out our heads and make room for him. Grieving can bring other things—like peace, mercy, and joy—back to life.” If God allows himself to grieve, so can I. There are all kinds of things we need to grieve in life.

But why do it? Why grieve? Caryn submits, “We need to acknowledge—cry out to God!—when life disappoints, when something important gets lost, and when we hurt because of it. And we need to give ourselves (and others) permission to grieve the lost of dreams, of the life we thought we’d have, of roles we longed for, of relationships we thought would always exist, or whatever we desired but haven’t gotten (5-6). [We need to grieve the lost of the] “not supposed to be’s” of my life. Could I grieve the loss of security—emotional and financial—within my own marriage?” The answer is “Yes.”

Grieving well brings peace, mercy, and joy back into our lives (although, we may have to acknowledge and press through anger and bitterness to get there—that’s what the Bible refers to as lamenting and being honest with God in this way is also allowed). Grieving well also restores our hope. Will you acknowledge and allow God to comfort all of the areas where you need to grieve today?

© Natasha S. Robinson 2012

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