By Jennifer Smith
Going through the grief process can be a tricky thing. At some time in all of our lives we will be faced with a death that requires us to do “grief work”; and “work” is the operative word. It is work that has several components. First, it is work that cannot be avoided, but work we do not want to do because it is painful and sad. Second, it requires us to face the pain, feel it, and understand it. Third, if we do not do the work, we end up with more complicated issues, attitudes and actions that can determine the course of our lives in a negative way.
Unfortunately, the only way through grief is through. it can’t go around it, we can’t go under it, we can’t go over it. We have to go through it. I am comforted by the words in Psalm 23 that say, “Ye, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” We are pain avoidant people. We do all we can not to feel pain, but in grief work we have to allow ourselves to feel the pain in the profound and deep places where the loss has touched us. If we do not, we have the potential to get stuck in the anger stage of loss and become bitter and resentful.
I once heard an amazing analogy of the work of grief. It is like a boulder that one pushes through their days. Early in grief, it does not feel like the boulder is moving. In time, there is light in the corners. Eventually the boulder gets easier to push and one day it becomes a pebble that one can put in their pocket. There are times we may put out hand in our pocket and the pebble is sharp and cuts us. But it is manageable.
The pushing is the work of grief. We push through, we cry, we hurt, we feel the void and the loss. We talk about our loved ones, we laugh about silly things they said. We come to resolution about ways the relationship was broken. But we move. We do not stay stagnant. We love those around us a bit better, because we have a new understanding about the sacredness of life. We honor our loss by being better, not bitter. Life is short. We are mortal. Disease is real and bodies become broken.
Our hope is in God, who will give us strength for the work. Even death cannot separate us from God’s love. God will give us a “peace that passes understanding” at times that will help us through the grief. Doing grief work has a tremendous benefit to those around us and for our future, and for our faith. We honor those who die by grieving well, by growing our love for those who remain, and by trusting our God who will never let us go.