Grief can be one of the most dysfunctional agents anyone encounters. It possesses powers to devastate individuals and those in their environments. Left unchecked, grief will destroy a person and infect family and friends. Fortunately one can overcome grief and solutions are available.
Regrettably we all encounter grief in our lives on this earth. Grief manifests itself in many forms as it shadows tragic events such as death of a loved one. Grief also follows many other life occurrences, including illness of one’s self or a loved one, divorce, loss of a job, loss of a home, separation, failure at a major life event, or even embarrassment. This list is not all-inclusive because we each value things differently. A loss may be trivial for one person, but tragic for another. Embarrassment in front of her peers may devastate a teenager while loss of a job for a middle-aged man may seem insurmountable. No matter the loss an emptiness is left and only pain seems to fill the void.
Left unchecked grief develops a partner in the form of depression. As depression sets in, the individual falls deeper and darker into despair. A sense of hopelessness can overcome one’s soul. Those unaware cannot realize the difficulty involved in escaping this loneliness. An endless cycle of sorrow, loneliness, and depression consumes your life. Even when you find brief periods of happiness the cycle of pain in isolation always seem present to grip your soul. Friends and family begin to avoid you, fearing your darkness is contagious. One’s behavior is infectious and people realize this. No one enjoys atmosphere of doom and gloom. People want to surround themselves with those that are up-beat and make them feel happy. That is where our solutions begin.
The company we keep, for the most part, determines our personality, our outlook on life, and much of the success we achieve in life. Surrounding ourselves with negative personalities reinforces our own negativity and makes us further believe there is no hope. The same applies to people who continue to provide sympathy and empathy beyond a proper length of mourning. Their good intentions only enable the sorrowful to remain in their depressed state. We also live in a time in a country in which we over hype and dramatize everything. A combination of instant communication, much more free time, poor examples of how to deal with life events, or the absence of extended family dynamics may contribute to a more dramatic society.
One of the most traumatic events in one’s life is the death of a loved one. Over the ages in our society we have developed a process for dealing with this loss. A period of mourning ensues in which the extended family comes together to grieve and comfort. Neighbors and close friends often visit in the next few days to console and support. The visitation is scheduled in which extended friends and acquaintances may also come support the family in their time of grief. A funeral is then held, in large part, for loved ones to exercise their grief. Loved ones will continue to remember the passing of an individual, and they will still experience sorrow from time to time, but they should not exist in a state of grief. God does not want us in a sorrowful state. It is not what he intended for us and actually demonstrates an absence of spiritual faith. Jesus tells the apostle in John 16, in great detail, that we should not even grieve his death because he goes to a better place and brings great joy. God more specifically tells us in I Thessalonians 4 we are not to spend our lives grieving those that have died and gone on before us. We are to spend our lives encouraging others by living a life of joy for our future and as an example to the world. If we show doom and gloom, we demonstrate an absence of faith. We also demonstrate a selfishness not concerned for the effect we have on others living in this world or deceased.
How do we overcome grief? One day at a time with the help of God and fellow Christians. God also tells us in I Thessalonians 4 to immerse ourselves in doing good works for others, and thus demonstrating our love for others. Living in grief is not what our loved ones, deceased or living, want us to do. Extricating ourselves from grief, as difficult as it may seem, is a necessary part of life. Loved ones do not want to see us suffering and useless. We cannot do anything about the past or the deceased. We can use our lives serving the Lord in a way that honors the deceased or forgives our past. We also must note, many are suffering from sorrow and have not suffered death of a loved one or a reason to need forgiveness. These individuals have experienced a life-changing loss just the same. It may have been through illness, accident, divorce, etc., yet the cure is much the same.
Those in need seek counsel from others, but they seek counsel from those that can heal. Some may need professional counseling and may require medication. Everyone will require counseling from the Lord both by prayer and reading his Word. Spiritual assistance must be sought and provided by fellow Christians, including their Elders and preachers.
a Diana resident and former New Diana ISD superintendent, is an occasional contributor to the Longview Journal Saturday Forum. These articles are his submissions.