Most of us remember asking our parents these kinds of questions on long car rides: “When will we get there?” “How much longer?” “But you said…!” Our voice tone at the time was definitely in the Whine-o-rama Zone.
We like answers, don’t we. Sometimes there isn’t anyone who can give us the answers—not as specifically as we’d like, anyway.
The length of time
When a loved one dies, some people will ask this reasonable question; and most of us—at the very least—will wonder about it.
How long will this work of grieving take?
Professionals used to quote a general truism: About two years.
Building your house
My thoughts on that subject go like this. Think about The Season of Grieving like you would think about building your house from the ground up. When you begin a house-building project, you have no earthly idea about the exact date when your house will be finished. No clue whatsoever.
There are many different ways that a strong, stable, peaceful house can be built. Let’s think of it as a small, simple house… a very safe place.
You can build your new house yourself by hand. You can build it yourself using power tools. You can build it with the help of friends, neighbors and/or relatives who—most likely—have minimal experience. You can build it with the help of experts who’ve built houses before. You can hire a crew to do some of the work. But you must be involved substantially. It’s your house.
And you have to pay—for the land, for the materials and for the time involved—whether you’ll be doing the labor yourself or paying someone else to do some of the labor. There are two different ways you can pay for the materials. You can take the materials from the land—the wood from the trees, the stones from the landscape, etc. Or you can buy the materials from a hardware store or building supply.
You need to:
♦ pray for guidance from the Lord,
♦ choose and purchase the location for your house,
♦ choose the style of your house,
♦ design and draw up your house plans or choose and purchase the house plans,
♦ choose the materials for your house,
♦ oversee and verify the quality of the work being done,
♦ ensure that problems are fixed,
♦ wait patiently for your house to be built,
♦ move in and take ownership of the house, and
♦ ensure that your house becomes a home.
Your small, simple house will include electricity and indoor plumbing. Thankfully, my Brandon can do carpentry, plumbing and wiring, having grown up on a farm where he did a lot of work. Way too much work. That’s a subject for another day.
How does this house-building analogy relate to the work of grieving and how long it will take?
Your season of grieving
No one else can do the work of grieving for you. In this way, the building and tending of the small, simple house can represent the work of grieving in your life. When you’ve successfully completed this work, your house becomes a home—filled with peace.
Let’s think about the friends, neighbors and relatives who may help you build your house. Their lack of knowledge and experience may result in some of their work needing to be undone or redone. They mean well, but they aren’t house-builders. In other words, sometimes well-meaning people (or not-so-well-meaning people) will give you bad advice. Sometimes they’ll make remarks, thinking they’re helping you, and their words hurt you instead. This is only one of the many reasons why The Art of Forgiving is very closely tied to The Art of Grieving. We must learn about, practice and master both to live peacefully.
One thing you’ll notice really quickly during The Season of Grieving is that you’re much more susceptible to hurt feelings. Your emotions have been run over by a bus, so to speak, so things that you’d normally shrug off or roll your eyes about really bother you now. They hurt. A lot. It’s kind of like having a big, purple bruise on the outside of your upper arm. Every time somebody hugs you, leans into you or brushes up against you, it hurts. It’s very, very tender. So are you, while you’re doing the work of grieving.
Some things people say may totally bug you for months during this season. After you’ve finished the work of grieving and the work of forgiving, you’ll most likely view these encounters very differently (unless you’re dealing with sociopaths or people with other personality disorders; in which case, I recommend the last series on this blog).
I can’t believe…
Let’s take a quick detour down I Can’t Believe She Said That Lane. After our son Joshua died, a young woman at our church quoted (i.e., misquoted) part of a Bible verse to Brandon: “All things work for good.” Grieving parents hear that as “It was a good thing that your son died.” I know that’s not what she meant, but that’s how it felt at the time and for a long time afterwards. Then there was the “God needed another angel” email. Again—well-meaning, but not helpful. That one is received as “God took your son.” I don’t view it that way. Never did. God didn’t kill our son, thinking the little tyke would look cute on the front row of The Heavenly Choir Photo OPP. That’s beyond ridiculous.
Can you see me rolling my eyes? Now I’m shaking my head….
Lots of practice
You’ll have your own stories in this department. You may even think or say things like: “What an idiot.” Or worse. Anyway, this season of your life will give you lots of practice in The Forgiving Department—toward other people and toward yourself. Because your emotions are so raw and your sleep patterns are way-weird, your control over your tongue will sag at times. You’ll say and do things that you normally wouldn’t—things you later regret. Most people are very understanding about that.
Now it’s time for a heavy sigh—or a deep, cleansing breath—whatever you want to call it.
Where was I?
Ahhh, yes. Let’s get off I Can’t Believe She Said That Lane. I don’t like that street. It’s time to motor on back to our house-building analogy. We’re shifting gears now—from well-meaning relatives and friends who are light in the house-building-experience department—to the heavy lifters: the house-building professionals.
Like the experts and the work crew available for your house-building project, there are many helpful, high-quality resources that can contribute significantly to your successful work of grieving. I’ll be sharing a great one with you at the end of this post. These resources can certainly speed up The Season of Grieving, sometimes substantially. (When we cover Traumatic Grief in a future post, you’ll learn that partnering with a skilled professional counselor—depending on the nature of your loss—can be absolutely essential.)
Questions and answers
Take some time to think about these questions before you answer them. Will you use trusted, high-quality resources? Will you use them thoroughly? Will you use them thoughtfully? Will you give them your full attention? Will you ask for help/wise counsel when you need it?
Your answers to these types of questions will vastly impact the length of time that it takes you to do the work of grieving. Also, the nature of your loss will be a significant factor—The Levels of Grieving that I mentioned in the first post. We’ll cover that topic more in a future post.
The most important thing
And most importantly, your relationship with God will be—by far—the most significant factor of all. Consider these words, spoken by Pastor Edward Payson shortly before his death in 1827:
Christians might avoid much trouble and inconvenience, if they would only believe what they profess—that God is able to make them happy without anything else. They imagine that if such a dear friend were to die, or such and such blessings to be removed, they should be miserable; whereas God can make them a thousand times happier without them. To mention my own case—God has been depriving me of one blessing after another; but, as everyone was removed, He has come in and filled up its place; and now, when I am a cripple, and not able to move, I am happier than ever I was in my life before, or ever expected to be; and, if I had believed this twenty years ago, I might have been spared much anxiety.
Do you know God? Do you trust him? Do you love him? Do you pray to God throughout the day? Do you read his word (the Bible) daily? Do you spend time with other Christians who love him? Do you have supportive Christian friends? Do you have key Bible verses memorized to encourage you? Knowing God’s word will greatly impact your faith and your future.
Scriptures for this season
Here are some of my favorite Bible verses for The Season of Grieving.
Living with Compassion
Rejoice with those who rejoice.
Weep with those who weep.
Romans 12:15, New Heart English Bible
‘The LORD bless you, and keep you.
The LORD make his face to shine on you, and be gracious to you.
The LORD lift up his face toward you, and give you peace.’
Numbers 6:24-26, New Heart English Bible
Rest in Jesus
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30, New Heart English Bible
The 23rd Psalm
The LORD is my shepherd; I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over. Surely goodness and loving kindness shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the LORD’s house forever.
Psalm 23, New Heart English Bible
Part 1: If God is For Us
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how would he not also with him freely give us all things?
Part 2: Christ Intercedes for Us
Who could bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes rather, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
Part 3: Nothing Can Separate Us from the Love of Christ
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Could oppression, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Even as it is written, “For your sake we are killed all day long. We were regarded as sheep for the slaughter.” No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:31-39, New Heart English Bible
To read part of the scripture passage that includes the verse “Jesus wept,” click here.
For your small, simple house to be safe, strong and stable, it must be built on a solid foundation. It can’t be built on a marsh or on sand. There is only one strong foundation for your life, and that foundation is Jesus Christ, also known as The Rock. There is no substitute.
A book for those who are grieving the death of a loved one
Let’s end this post with a recommendation I received from a dear friend, Summer. As I interviewed Summer about her successful grieving after her husband David’s death, I asked about the three books that helped her the most. Through a Season of Grief by Bill Dunn and Kathy Leonard, a book of 381 daily devotions, was her #1 recommendation. This is the book Summer gives to people who are grieving—to help them on their healing journey.
I’m half-way through reading this book of daily devotions right now. It is exceptional. Each daily devotion is one page or less, and includes (1) someone’s personal story, experiences and/or advice about grief, (2) scripture, and (3) a short prayer. The devotions explore the many emotions involved in the work of grieving, along with many other crucial aspects of grieving.
I find Through a Season of Grief to be insightful, validating, encouraging and a source of biblical truths. I’ll be referencing this book periodically during this blog series. I strongly recommend that you buy it today. I think you’ll find it to be an invaluable and supportive resource during The Healing Journey—a book that you’ll share with others.
Coming next: In the next post, you’ll read about the difference between grieving and missing, and much more.
Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.
Truth from The Word: Matthew 7:24-29
Song for Healing: “Rock of Ages” by Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers