One may ask, “Why write a book about grief?” The truth is, sooner or later all people find themselves in the unfortunate position of being confronted with grief in one form or another. Grief is no respecter of persons and has no preference for age, gender, colour, or social status.
A time for everything
Grief is absolutely normal, actually, grief is the beginning of the three-step process to total healing and recovery after the loss of a loved one. Biblically, we learn from the book of Ecclesiastes that there is a time for everything: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the Heavens - a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.” Ecc 3:1-10.
Solomon, in all his wisdom, understood that during the course of every human’s life on earth there is a time for good and (unfortunately) a time for bad. We cannot escape the inevitable. Life happens, but what we do with life when it comes hard at us will make all the difference in the world, not only in our lives but in the lives of those we love who still remain. I am sure that we are all familiar with the worldly saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” As cliché as it may sound, there is a lot of truth to this statement.
Is grief Biblical?
It’s important to understand that God has equipped us with emotions, with the ability to think, feel and reason. Even Jesus wept, laughed and got angry. Emotions are a normal and necessary part of daily human life.
As believers, while embracing the need for emotions, we must not allow them to control us. In time, as we learn to trust God and take Him at His Word, we also learn to respond to situations in our lives with godly wisdom instead of reacting with worldly sorrow.
Tools for overcoming grief
From the prophetic passage in Isaiah 61, Christ declared that God had sent Him to heal the broken-hearted and set the captives free (Luke 4:17-19), turning mourning into dancing. As I walked through my own journey of grief, I discovered tools to help me overcome grief:
1 Fellowship and worship
Make a decision to go to the house of the Lord and worship with God’s people, regardless of how you are feeling. Soon after Ruby, my wife, died, my family and I attended church and found great comfort and support among God’s people. As a result, I found genuine healing starting to take place as I remained committed to God’s call on my life. Take a stand, determined to worship the Lord like David after the loss of his son (2 Samuel 12: 16-20).
2 Meet helpful encouragers
Isolation is an incubator for depression and oppression, which are tools of the enemy, who seek to keep us bound and chained as grief’s slave. In order to meet helpful encouragers, we must first make an effort to leave our homes. A good friend of mine often says, “A people touched by God touch people with God.” This means we should allow others who have been touched by the Lord to administer the love of the Father to us in our greatest times of need.
It’s comforting to celebrate the happy life of our loved ones. Meditating and journaling on the good things is another tool to overcoming grief. This aligns with Paul’s advice in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.”
God is interested in how you are feeling. He will strengthen us as we learn to trust in Him when in the process of overcoming grief. Prayer allows us to draw near to Him.
5 Meditate on Scriptures of comfort
Many individuals in the Bible experienced loss and great grief, and we can learn from their lives. Also, in the Bible God makes many promises to us that we can hold onto with steadfast hope, even when our lives seem to be falling apart.
6 A great cloud of witnesses
Hebrews 12:1 speaks of the great cloud of witnesses, believers in Jesus who have passed from this life to the next, those who have gone on before us. Ruby is now among those who make up this great cloud. Believers have the amazing opportunity to learn from the lives of those who now sleep in Christ, awaiting the resurrection.
7 Minimised personal effects
Removing personal items of the one we have lost is a good tool to help overcome grief. By sorting through their possessions and donating many items, we can bless others. This process helped in my healing process and accelerated my ability to overcome grief.
8 Hope focussed on Christ
We have the hope of seeing our loved ones again in eternity [If they were believers]. The knowledge that our loved ones are alive in eternity with Christ, and we will be reunited with them, can free us from continuing to grieve.
9 The comfort of the Holy Spirit
Friends and family can come into your home and bring comfort, but they do not remain in our home forever. The Holy Spirit is our constant Comforter, who abides with us forever (John 14:16).
10 Healthy eating habits
Grieving is exhausting and will deplete every ounce of energy from our bodies. The enemy of our souls wants to use fatigue to increase the grief in our lives. Build your strength and stamina by eating food that can provide the proper nutrients. Changing your diet and drinking water can give you energy to fight off and overcome grief.
11 Return to work
By giving more focus to work and other activities, we will find ourselves breaking free from meditating on the loss of our loved ones. Choose activities that are calming and bring joy and fulfilment in achievement. An idle mind will wander, causing us to become more depressed.
Rest is important to rejuvenate the mind and body. Getting sufficient rest can positively decrease our stress level.
Live a life free from grief
In order to live a life free from grief, we must “guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” Phil 4:6-7. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can live in the middle of a storm but free from the anxiety, worry, depression, oppression, doubt and fear.
In the presence of God, meditating on what is holy and righteous, we find peace. In His hope and peace, the Lord has provided a way out of our pain.
DR. RALEIGH PERUMAL is an ordained minister and the founder of Harvest Family Church in Durban. His book ‘Overcoming Grief’ was written after his wife of 41 years went to be with the Lord in March 2014. For more info or to order his book: www.overcominggrief.co.za