Five Things the Lord Taught Me About Grief
As a trained biblical counselor, you might think that I know a lot about grieving. I know many things, but learned things come into greater clarity when you experience them personally. So I thought I would share a few new things the Lord has lovingly taught me these last six months since my mom passed away. I hope you will find them helpful.
1. A good listener is a wonderful gift.
Shortly after my mom’s death, I had two sweet, godly friends ask me to lunch. When I had lunch with the first friend, she let me share all the details of what happened the month preceding mom’s death. She just listened. I felt loved and cared for.
The second friend tried to be helpful and every so often in my telling the details, she would compare my experience to her painful experience when one of her parents died. I am quite certain her responses came from a loving heart. However, the comparisons were not helpful. What I found when leaving lunch with the second friend is that I not only felt the burdens of my own pain, but I also felt hers. As a result, I left feeling more sadness and grief.
To serve someone well in their grief, be a good listener. You can start the conversation simply by asking, What happened? As a follow-up question, you might ask, What was the hardest part? A final question might be, What could I do that would be helpful?
2. Some friends may not understand; don’t be hurt by this.
I have many wonderful young friends. Because they are so young, many of them have not yet experienced the loss of a parent. This makes it difficult for them to understand the grief I felt. Additionally, I was so blessed to have had a godly mother. She was my best girlfriend and we spent a lot of time together hanging out. I miss her every day. The Lord showed me that another impediment to a friend understanding the grief I experienced could be the fact that they have a very different relationship with their mom/dad. It may be strained, superficial, or even non-existent. In cases like this, there may even be some jealousy.
The Lord was gracious to help me realize no one could truly know how I was feeling. It may have been because of a lack of experience of grief or due to very different relationships. Either way, I had to recognize these truths and choose not to have my feelings hurt but rather to extend grace. In some situations, I found myself taking advantage of a teachable moment to help friends understand ways they could serve a grieving brother or sister.
3. Anger – it may surprise you.
If you’ve ever studied grief, then you probably know that anger is often cited as one of the “stages” of grief. I knew this. However, I assumed it meant you were mad at the person responsible for the death, the person who died, or maybe even God. I found that I was angry, but not at anyone in particular. I found I had a very short fuse and became angry at the most ridiculous things – like the bank teller being too slow. Knowing this aspect of anger during grief can help one understand the actions of the grieved and react with grace and care.
4. Be honest about your feelings.
I think a natural tendency for most people is to hide their feelings. How many times have you been having an awful day and yet you respond with, “I’m fine” when asked? I found it helpful to simply say, “I’m not doing too well today, but thank you so much for asking,” or “I’m really struggling with sadness today, would you pray for me?” This does two things. First, it helps you to tell someone when you are hurting, not to elicit some response or action from them, but to simply acknowledge out loud how you feel inside. Second, friends really do care, and telling the truth about your feelings gives them insight as to how they can pray for you and be a better friend.
5. Meal delivery gift cards are a remarkable gift.
I grew up in the South and was taught the “right” way to minister to someone who is grieving is through food. While I do love a tasty casserole, I experienced the beauty of calling for a meal when I needed it the most, such as when I felt immobilized in my grief and could not get off the couch. Not every day is the same when you are grieving; some days are just harder than others. The meal delivery gift cards were incredibly helpful on those days.
Grief will come to all and for a variety of reasons. I hope this article has been helpful for you both personally and as you serve your brothers and sisters.
Denise has served as the Director of Women’s Life and Assistant Professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where she taught graduate courses in ministry to women. Prior to serving at Southeastern, Denise was a student there and earned both her MA in Biblical Counseling and Doctor of Education. Currently, she serves as Director of Counseling Development. Denise and her husband Rod have been married 46 years and have two married daughters and six grandchildren.