Dealing with Grief & Loss
Tumaini Tidbits #8
DEALING WITH GRIEF AND LOSS
When there is a death in a family or a death of a close friend or fellow worker, there are healthy ways of dealing with grief so that one can get through the sadness and continue on with a meaningful and fulfilled life. Death is a great loss, but we forget that there are other losses in our lives like divorce, loss of a job, loss of a pet that are also difficult and complex, and they require a similar process of grief to go through.
Missionaries and their families probably deal with more losses than the average family because there are many changes, and change often means dealing with losses. Moving, home assignments, and reentry requires making new friends and adjusting to new living arrangements. In Africa, some missionaries and their national workers have faced horrific losses due to wars, political unrest, ethnic conflicts, poverty, and even genocide.
Grieving is defined as “intense emotional suffering caused by loss, disaster, misfortune, etc.; a deep sadness.” Mourning is an expression of grief. When people suffer loss, their identity changes; and they need to adjust to a new sense of who they are, a new way of life. Unfortunately, no one likes to talk about loss very much, and often as Christians we have a tendency to want to avoid the negative feelings like anger and sadness that go along with grief. I have often observed in churches when a loved one dies, the surviving spouse is described as “doing well.” This usually means that the person is not emotionally upset and is not making anyone feel uncomfortable. Sometimes Christians might think that since we have ultimate victory in Christ and other promises of God to provide comfort that it is unchristian to feel sad, hopeless, or to be angry. But, even Jesus expressed powerful emotion when he said on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” ( Matt. 27:46), and He wept openly when his good friend, Lazarus, died. (John 11:35).
Grief is not just an event, it is a process. Grief has three stages, although they are not necessarily experienced in order, nor does one stage have to be completed before the next one begins. The first stage is shock and denial. Intellectually the bereaved person may comprehend what has happened, but their emotions may not experience the pain yet, and they just feel numb. This can last from several days to several months. The second stage is when reality sets in, and the grieving person experiences deep emotions of guilt and/or anger. People feel disorganized and don’t know how to move on with life. The third stage is reorganizing life when the grieving person reconnects with those around them, and they begin to accept and live life again without the person who has died. This third stage usually takes up a year or longer.
Loss can make us bitter or better. How people respond to their losses and how they allow those losses to affect them can make a difference for the rest of their lives; and it can affect how they deal with other difficult situations in life. Jesus was a “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” The hard news is that the only road to true healing is through the grief process. The good news is that God travels that road with us.
At Tumaini there are counselors who can guide through the grieving process. We can be reached by calling 0728-606-911 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org