We’ve experienced more grief as a nation this year than we ever imagined possible. Many have suffered heartbreaking personal losses which make the world’s darkness unbearable. We long for comfort. A breath of air above the merciless waves of pain. No matter what condolences our neighbors offer in an attempt to rescue us from sorrow, mourners cannot avoid the stormy surges of grief.
The well-loved twenty-third Psalm notes how we walk “through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4, NKJV). We cannot avoid, walk around, or skip over the grief. The Psalm goes on to assure us of God’s presence with us during times of darkness and sorrow. We know the Lord empathizes and understands our pain because Jesus expressed in Gethsemane how he felt “exceedingly sorrowful, even to death” (Matthew 26:38, NKJV).
The Lord supports and sustains us in our suffering, but the heartache does not vanish altogether. Though we cannot entirely skip the season of grief, there are a few tips that can help mourners survive the tempest.
Validate your grief. When loss shatters normalcy, feeling normal no longer applies. Many feel rage, numbness, difficulty concentrating, and sensing the deceased person’s presence. Grief tempts you to believe you’ve lost your mind, but your actual loss throbs in your heart.
Recognize others grieve differently. Each storm-stricken heart makes its own attempt to right the careening world. While one appears numb, another family member might be slapped with a rogue tide of anger. Permit different grieving. Allow space when needed. Avoid adding family conflict to the pain.
Postpone big decisions. Amid thrashing wind and waves, the mind cannot see clearly enough to plot a logical course. Wait for mental clarity and peacefulness, at least a few months.
Assign buffers and boundaries. Employ a system or friend to filter communications. Set clear boundaries about conversations, visitation, and needs. Supportive people will appreciate direction. Unsupportive folks are best kept at a distance.
Expect waves, not stages. After the initial shock, grief’s protesting and sorrowful waves can rotate in at any time. Even while recovering. Don’t pressure yourself to “get over” the stages by a certain date. Allow your heart the time it needs.
Permit emotional release, alone and with support. Give yourself personal time to weep and discharge anger. Find pillars and lean. Insightful friends and grief support groups can sustain you through rough waters.
Find a way to honor their memory. Attempts to bury memories deepen the pain and frustrate healing. You needn’t forget your beloved. Grant yourself permission to miss them. Honoring their memory sustains life in the wake of loss.
Allow yourself to look forward. Grief’s tempest won’t always threaten drowning. Bittersweet memories will return like salt-sprayed breezes flushing your senses. Loved ones etch blessings onto the walls of your heart—beauty deserving celebration. Mourn, as the waves come. Yet sail onward, noting the sparkle on the water’s choppy surface. Carry their legacy with you into a life of multiplying shared love and blessings.