“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
— Matthew 5:4
HOPE IN GRIEF
Loss is a part of life, and sadly, the older we get, the more loss we must endure. Whether through the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or the loss of a job, the process of grieving and recovering is difficult and very personal. Psychologists have identified that mourning individuals experience grief in five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. A person must pass through each stage in his or her own time on the road to recovery.
These five stages should not be avoided. They will occur, and no amount of resistance will prevent them. Resistance will only bury the feelings that will someday arise again. There is no prescribed timing on how long each phase will last. There is no schedule of events. The only things that will help are listening and caring. This is a race that must be run with no prescribed time limit. Avoiding resolving our grief, only adds to the time we are in grief.
Jesus wants us to remember his promise that all who grieve will be comforted. Through both our physical and spiritual baptisms we become part of this blessing. He walks beside us in our grief and through his promise, he gives us reason to hope that we will recover.
In addition to loss due to death, many of us also feel a profound sense of loss when faced with disability or severe illness. An elderly woman in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may grieve the loss of her fading memory, and her spouse may later mourn the loss of the woman he married, even when she’s still physically present.
Loss can have far-reaching repercussions. Individuals facing illness, disability, or even the loss of a job may also suffer from intense anxiety and fear about whether they will continue to be able to provide for themselves and their families. Many who have lost a spouse may likewise struggle with how to provide for their families and parent their grieving children while they mourn. No matter the type of loss, the experience is intensely painful, complicated, and difficult to navigate.
I have counseled many individuals who have lost a job, and as I guide them through their loss, I can see the process of grief at work. During the journey to recovery, individuals work through anxiety and fear, as well as, feelings of inadequacy and defeat. My assurances that there is a light at the end of the tunnel are no more than a temporary salve. Each person simply must work through the emotional process of mourning. It cannot be hurried or prescribed—it is a very personal process. During therapy, those in mourning will come upon roads they have to walk down in order to continue their journeys. They will make discoveries and connections that are important and sometimes very surprising.
“The journey with grief can be incredibly difficult, and for those who are in grief, time grinds on slowly.”
As we engage with those who have endured loss or are dealing with the process of grief, it is important to be empathetic. We should avoid offering platitudes, such as “It will be okay,” or “Just keep a stiff upper lip,” or “Have more faith,” as these can feel dismissive and may not be correct. Acknowledging and validating the feelings of those in mourning and allowing them to share their thoughts and express their emotions, is our best way to help. They are traveling difficult and unfamiliar roads, and their emotions will fluctuate often throughout each day and week. As they proceed through the five stages, we can become their biggest allies simply by loving them and listening to them. The journey with grief can be incredibly difficult, and for those who are in grief, time grinds on slowly.
In Matthew 5:4, Jesus says that mourners will be comforted. The word “will” gives us hope for the future. Through our baptism, we belong to a faith that gives us the assurance that the valleys of life are temporary. While our losses will never be recovered, we never lose the love of God. The gift of God’s love does not just occur because of our physical baptism; it occurs through our spiritual acceptance of God’s promises. The promise in Matthew 5:4 encourages us to keep our faith, even during the darkest moments in our lives. Jesus promises us we will be comforted.
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman
Photo by ryan park