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Coping With Grief: Leaning on God in Times of Grief

Matthew is a Christian who loves God. He's been an online writer for 5 years. He loves to share his faith with people all over the world.

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Grief is a response you have when something or someone is taken away. The response may or may not be emotional. The more significant the loss, the more intense your grief might be. It can be small things in your life on a scale of severity from losing your phone, to losing a job, or as extreme as a death.

Bereavement – the death of a loved – is one of the many things that can cause grief. The death of a loved one is actually one of the greatest pain-causing event that can occur to the soul of a man. As painful as that is, the process of grieving that follows might not be so much painful if it were expected. Expectation seems to reduce the pain that comes with loss.

The death might be expected and perhaps, even come as a relief if the person died of a chronic illness and death was imagined to be imminent or if the person was very old and you knew it was time for the person to go. Hence, the greater the level of expectation towards a loss, the lesser the grief felt. As a matter of fact, if we can develop realistic levels of expectation, we would minimize our disappointments.

In the bible, we’re told to not grieve like the rest of the world because we have an expectation that God will bring with Jesus those whom we’ve lost to death: “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him” (1 Thess. 4:13-14).

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Don't Feel Guilty--It’s Not Wrong to Grieve

Emotions that have to do with loss are set off throughout our lives. Fighting these emotions is not necessarily the best way to handle the pain of bereavement. Even though you try to not feel the grief because you believe it’s wrong doesn’t mean you’re somehow okay with the death of your loved one, but it’s just this personal notion toward grief. Of course, there’s supposed to be some semblance of regularity after a while of grieving; however, it’s advisable to let the feeling come so it can allay at the appropriate time.

Hence, even though grief might be a painful experience, neither try to escape it or feel bad that you’re grieving. Give yourself time to experience your loss in your own way and don’t feel guilty for doing that.

George Will, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and author says, “The future has a way of arriving unannounced.” This statement goes to affirm that as much as there’s growth and development in our physical body, there’ll also be changes in the events that occur in our lives – duality is inevitable. Our lives are in constant state of transition. No matter who you are—regardless of your country, race, religion, or sex—you can’t escape the experience of duality.

It might seem like being negative but we have to be prepared for situations that don’t really look unpleasant because we can’t stop God’s universal plan. The truth is good times won’t continue forever. Most of life’s disappointment comes from trying to keep things the way they are or expecting thing to remain the same. Yet, that’s not God’s plan.

Let’s look at some biblical examples of people who had to cope with grief. As for Job, although he bore the grief of seven dead sons and three dead daughters. All of his wealth was gone is a moment. He had become repulsive to his wife, hateful to his brothers and even little children despised him as he lay on the ash heap outside of town. However, we’re able to learn from Job’s life that we should absolutely trust in God and be satisfied with his holy will and shouldn’t murmur. In Job 13:15, he said, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.”

David openly grieved the death of his son and he never lost faith in God even during his grief and sorrow. After the death of his sons he was greatly comforted. That’s an indication that God will comfort us if we draw closer to Him through the grieving process.

Since, Jesus grieved for the death of his brother, it shows that grief is not an enemy or a sign of weakness. It is a sign of being human. Since everyone has the capacity to love; everyone will consequently experience grief because it’s the price you pay for loving someone. When you miss them temporarily, it’s painful. But when you miss them permanently, it’s much more painful and it may even lead to tears. Jesus knew that he was going to resurrect Lazarus. Yet he gave way to tears, moved by his deep love and compassion for his friends.

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God Comforts You During Your Time of Grief

God, indeed comforts us when we grieve. If you’ll lean on him He’ll lead you safely through ‘’the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). But what does it mean to walk in the valley of the shadow of death? Entering a dark, death valley can be a dangerous and dreadful experience. This valley implies situations that might cause a lot of pain and emotional turmoil; i.e., grief. But God promises that we do not need to fear for his presence is with us and he will comfort us through it all.

We would surely miss our loved ones when they die. God recognized this and said clearly that those who mourn will not be abandoned. We are not bad or weak for missing our loved ones. The Lord recognizes our loss and will comfort us. Though grief is bitter, we must let sorrow run its natural course. Jesus weeping over the death of his brother Lazarus endorses letting your emotion loose when you feel the pain of loss.

In recent studies, at least 50% of psychiatrists interviewed supported the view that it is appropriate to inquire about their patients’ religious lives. Religious factors become more potent as life stress increase. From mental health perspective religion provides greatly needed guidelines, which can help individuals to devise a course for their lives.

The benefits of religion to metal health are consistent across age, race, gender, nationality and socioeconomic status. Religious grief coping mechanism is an advantageous tool in mental health recovery that’s free accessible and effective. A research published in 2006 found that there is a hugely positive relationship between religiosity and numerous measure of emotional well-being. According to the study: “Most studies have also found a positive association between religiosity and other factors associated with well-being such as optimism and hope, self-esteem, sense of meaning and purpose in life, internal locus of control, social support and being married or having marital satisfaction.”

God is certainly interested in your emotional well-being. Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” God is in the business of healing and mending broken hearts. Again Psalm 30:5 encourages, “His anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” There is an assurance that your grief and weeping will be turned to joy. However, when it comes, it won’t be a way of diminishing the preciousness of the one who was taken. You’d feel it come naturally.

Release The Pain Into God’s Hands

Grief can indeed be difficult to handle; especially when the loss is not something that can be purchased back. If it’s a death: the most painful thing is that you’re conscious of the fact that you’re never going to see them again. It quite hard to conceive the thought of never seeing their smile again, hearing their voice again, going to the shopping mall with them, hearing them chuckle, and those personal idiosyncrasies they possess that makes them unique.

It is so palpable that many people fail to become whole again because of inadequate coping mechanisms. Some even chose to deny the feeling of grief altogether. Others, become both anxious, angry and depressed. Many others, become controlling. Some others, become abusers. Many engage in compulsive spending, sexually acting out, drinking excessively, and so on.

These are just a few of the many different, inadequate ways that people attempt to cope with grief. These are methods that people choose to employ to release their soul from the pain of bereavement. With such methods as these, the grieving process isn’t complete and this might lead to a behavior that is self-destructing or self-harming.

The sense of emptiness and lack of refuge makes loss unbearable rather than being just painful. This inability to bear or tolerate the pain of bereavement is what leads to some of the behaviors described above. And all these are as a result of trying to fix what’s totally damaged; trying to bring back what’s totally gone by yourself, as opposed to laying everything over to God.

If we’d accept that loss is inevitable and everyone will experience grief at some point in their lives, we’d be at a more advantageous position mentally and emotionally in readiness of a moment of deprivation. Whether it’s a death loss or not, everyone will experience some sort of loss in their life time. The scriptures state that grief might not be God’s willful intention but it doesn’t rule it’s the fact that it’s inevitable. “For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone” (Lam. 3:31-33).

Turn everything over to God. In other words:

  • Release my worrying spirit: 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Imagine getting to know that the God of the universe actually cares about you. However, if you’re neither conscious if this nor act like there’s a God that cares about you, then you won’t fully experience the benefit of God’s influence of love and care.
  • Release my desire to try to fix it all: Jeremy Lallier comments, “In spite of our unquenchable optimism, the solution to our brokenness is out of reach. It’s going to take far more than elbow grease to fix the mess we’ve made.” Let go and let God be God by understanding that we can only do so much when it comes to controlling certain events. Certain situations in life are totally beyond our control and peace comes from understanding and accepting our boundaries as human beings.
  • Release my need to understand why, because it’s impossible to know God’s plan: Many people believe bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people, and they just can’t understand that. Even David stated in Psalm 73:3, “For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” There are many things that both fascinate and offend us, however, understanding the sovereignty of God help us release the need to know the ‘why’ behind everything.
  • Release my anger: Anger during grief can often be expressed in different, ambivalent ways. Sometimes, our anger might be directed towards our loved one who left us behind. We might be angry with God for taking our loved one from us. We could be mad at the doctor for not doing his possible best. The bottom line is, whatever anger you have wouldn’t help. It’s important that we release that so we can free our minds of unnecessary emotional turmoil.

Contrary to common assumptions about loss and trauma, George Bonanno, a Professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University says there are no stages to grief at all. What this means is that some can release and let go of grief without going through any stages of grief. Bonanno's research indicates that resilience is the most common pattern and that delayed reactions are rare. His literature indicates that it is perfectly normal to demonstrate an absence of mental trauma or grief. It even indicates that it is a healthy outcome. Furthermore, he explains that offering treatment to otherwise well people can cause harm, by producing the symptoms they hope to avoid.

Take Advantage of What You’ve Got—God

Looking at his life of the prodigal son in the Bible, he went from the son of a man who was stupendously wealthy to someone who was now isolated and could barely afford a single meal. It seems the animal that he fed ate better than he. He didn’t have anything left—money, friends, good prospects, etc., but he remembered that he had a relationship with his father that he’d broken. He knew it would be better to restore that relationship than resort to inadequate coping mechanism that’ll only exacerbate the already unpleasant situation. He was brought to a moment of enlightenment and humility where he realized he’s at the end of his hope. And the only way to end his misery was to go back to what he’d left—his relationship with his father. You could say he hit the rock bottom and there was no place to look but up.

Of course, God admonishes us to trust in him, but he didn’t emphasize that doing the opposite might lead to him forcing us to do so through suffering, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil” (Prov. 3:5-7).

Just like the prodigal son, too much enjoyment could sometimes make us make a mess of our relationship with our God. God doesn’t just want to have a relationship with us, he demands it. Also, God doesn’t just use pain and suffering to get our attention, he also uses it to teach us to depend on him. Sometimes, you don’t know that God is all you need until God is all you’ve got.

Another example of someone God had to use suffering to forcefully get his attention is Jonah. The book of Jonah demonstrates the sovereignty of the almighty as he employs his creation to accomplish his divine plan. God controlled the element of weather and he prepared a sea-creature to do his bidding. For Jonah, he intentionally drifted from God and chose to disobey him. Hence, God had to devise a way get his attention again.

God has many ways to get out attention. He literally flung a violent wind against the sheep Jonah was in (Jonah 1:4). This must have been because Jonah was fast asleep and it’ll take an indeed violent wind to get his attention. He exposed his disobedience (Jonah 1:7-8). He threw him into the belly of a fish. All of these was because God wanted Jonah back because he’d initially ran away from his presence (Jonah 1:10). Indeed, the safest place to be is in the presence of God. David says in Psalm 16:11 says, “You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasure at your right hand.”

Look at the words of Paul, he really understood this idea, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despair of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but o God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a great peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hopes that he will continue to deliver us” (2 Corinth. 1:8-10).

Come to think of it, it’s almost like if you never had a problem, you’d never know God could solve it. The truth is, some things we only learn through pain and depending on God is one of those things.

Jesus Christ gave us the story of the prodigal son to both admonish and encourage us that God has great love for his children and his arms are ever wide open to receive us back. He’s always waiting for the time when each of his children will realize the need for a lasting and rich relationship with him.

Energize Yourself With Joy

Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Laughter can indeed heal in a big way. You might have a problem with such reaction during a moment of grief but I assure you this type of reaction is perfectly normal; It might be difficult for many people to accept laughter as a healthy response but that doesn’t rule out the fact that it actually works.

Remember, healing requires a dynamic approach and just because someone relies on laughter at times doesn’t mean they don’t also spend a good amount of time with other emotions. There’s time to cry, time to be spent in serious reflection, and time to laugh – all are healing. You sure don’t need to be happy before you laugh. Your laughter is a purely self-evoked and dynamic approach taken toward healing from pain.

Laughter does a couple of things; some of them are:

1. It shows freedom and maturity.

2. It relaxes your nerves.

3. It palliates the feeling of depression and anxiety.

4. It heals your hurting soul.

5. It puts others at ease to see your improved condition.

6. It makes it easier for people to communicate with you.

If you want more humor and laughter in your life try the following:

• Rent a funny movie.

• Check out a local comedy club.

• Watch stand-up from your favorite comedian online

• Watch funny YouTube videos.

• Get a recommendation for a funny book.

• Ask a humorous friend to meet you for lunch.

Other activities that can both energise you and help you cope with loss include:

• Exercise and yoga: Exercise and yoga can certainly help someone who is giving. Yoga and exercise clears your mind to find connection with your lost loved one. In other words, it helps you forget. It declutters your mind from all the toxic thoughts of worry and anxiety. It can also help you be at peace spiritually, bringing calmness into our mind and soul.

• Adventure outing: Going on vacation while grieving might not be the most common idea when it comes to dealing with grief but it actually works. It doesn’t matter what emotional state you’re in, taking up a trip always provides an insightful vantage point into your life. It helps you get distracted from the lonely and quiet world of grief to a whole world out there that’s full of life, fun and a fresh breath of hope.

• Learning a new skill: Grief is a normal response to a loss. Learning a new skill is a healthy way to help your mind focus on a new thing. The fun and satisfaction that comes from learning something you never knew before can actually help relief yourself from grief.

• Writing: It’ll be advisable to keep a journal where you can scribble your thoughts, feelings and emotions. This is a powerful way to heal your soul. Pouring out your mind can give you a new energy.

Lean on Family

Proverbs 18:24 states clearly that a friend can stick closer than a relative could. Just because someone isn’t a blood relative doesn’t mean you can’t get emotional support from them.

This is why the Bible encourages us to have brotherly love toward one another; this implies that whether or not we are related by blood, we ought to see each other as family. This perspective helps us to relate to each other as a family, thus helping one another in the little way we can. Since grief is both an individual and a family experience, it might be difficult for 2 family members to succor each other adequately. Hence, developing relationship with people other than relatives that we can call family could be of great help to us in times of grief.

Although, during the grieving experience, it’ll be helpful if there’s openness of communication and high level of cohesion among family members. However, there’s nothing like receiving external support from friends and care-givers.

The most important thing you can have is family close by when you’re grieving. Their presence means a lot in theses time of hardship. As Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote, “Be near me when my light is low; when the blood creeps, and the nerves prick; and the heart is sick; and all the wheels of being slow.”

Though there’s a certain feeling of loneliness that accompanies the loss of a loved one, the presence of family can help reduce the degree of this feeling of loneliness. Family helps us to remember that loneliness is a temporary state. They help fan to flames again the dead embers of love that we used to receive from our loved ones.

Paul understood this idea. While he prayed it was observed that he saw us all as family and God as our father. Ephesians 3:14-15 enunciates, “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” If God is in truth our father, and that is true, then it means we’re all his children and that makes us family.

The term ‘brotherly love’ in biblical context is from the Greek word Philadelphia. This connotes love of brothers. It’s expressed variously as loyalty to friends, family and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity. With brotherly love, we can share one another’s joy and sadness because they won’t any sense or feeling of seclusion.

And we’ll be able to carry out the scriptural instruction that says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” There’s this sense of relief that comes with having someone close by that can share your pain and grief with you. It’s a whole lot more relieving than when we’re left forlorn all by ourselves. Someone has rightly said: “Family is where life begins and love never ends.”

However, here’s a caveat, perhaps you have a friend or relative that grieving and you want to succor them. It’s important you note that they might need a bit of time to sufficiently grieve their loss. Don’t tell someone to be grateful for what they have left until they’ve had a chance to mourn what they’ve lost. Sometimes, it might take longer than you’d think is appropriate but that’s okay. Don’t be in a rush. Don’t pressure them too quickly to be the old friend they’ve always been. What the bible instructs, in Rom. 12:15 is to “mourn with those who mourn.” That’s what sympathy is – sharing the feelings of others.

Conclusion

Having listed out coping strategies for dealing with grief, yet there might still be cases that will require more help. Approximately 10 to 20% of bereaved persons have severe enough, incessant reactions to loss that result in a complicated grieving process that may require treatment that includes prescription medication and counselling. Complicated grief occurs more often in females and who older age. This occurs mainly when grief is delayed or incomplete adaptation to our loss.

There are some factors that may increase the risk of developing complicated grief include:

• Death of a child.

• A sudden, unexpected or violent death of a loved one.

• Close relationship to the deceased person, etc.

Signs that you need a professional to help you include:

• Feel like life isn’t worth living: This is one of those feelings that lead to suicidal thoughts, which then leads to suicidal actions. I don’t mean to sound rude, but the death of anyone has never stopped the sun from rising. It has never stopped the earth from revolve round the sun. Everything in the earth still functions properly. That means life hasn’t ended. And if there’s life, there’s still hope for a great future. Hence, life is certainly worth living no matter what feeling you have.

• Wish you had died with your loved one: This is another of those feelings that lead to suicidal thoughts, which then leads to suicidal actions. This kind of thought could be evoked if you were quite close to the person in question. One of such events is the death of a child. Such an event is just against the natural order of things.

• Blame yourself for the loss or for failing to prevent it: Many people feel guilty after loss of a loved one. You remember things you said or did that could have been hurtful. People can have irrational thoughts that make them feel had a hand in the death of their loved ones. “Perhaps, they died because I snapped at them” might be a thought of someone who is grieving and need professional help. When this happens try talking to a trusted friend or spiritual advisor. Choosing rather to ignore or bottle up this feeling of guilt only adds to its intensity.

• Feel numb and disconnected from others for more than a few weeks: Avoiding emotions or being numb and disconnected from others is another sign that you need to see a counselor. Feeling numb is a disorienting experience. Feeling nothing may be described as anhedonia. It is common to experience such emotional numbing, especially in the days to weeks following the death. It is an awful experience.

• Are having difficulty trusting others since your loss: You have irrational fears that everyone is not worthy of being trusted. This paranoia is absolutely founded upon baseless grounds and shouldn’t be upheld. You don’t believe anyone can help you. You don’t believe anyone can support you. You just feel afraid of trusting anyone. That’s a sign you really need counselling.

• Are unable to perform your normal daily activities: The things you used to enjoy now seem unimportant or empty. More so, engaging in those activities feels like a betrayal or as though you’re “letting go.” And such feeling makes you feel really devastated because you believe they won’t be happy to see you’re no more grieved by their absence.

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