“As one who’s been through loss, what can you tell me about how to grieve well? How does knowing Jesus change how you grieve?”
I was sitting with a young woman after her father’s funeral. “I can’t say I know how to grieve well,” I said. “But I’ll share some things I do know.”
Here is what I know. Jesus cleans up the worst part of grief.
Knowing Jesus means we don’t grieve alone (Ps. 56:8).
Knowing that our loved one knew Jesus brings cleansing hope.
The separation of death hurts deeply. But it is balanced with hope for those who know the Lord. We know our loved one is happy and a joyful reunion awaits us (1 Thes. 4:13-18).The separation of death hurts deeply. But it is balanced with hope for those who know the Lord. We know our loved one is happy and a joyful reunion awaits us. #grief #hope Click To Tweet .
At the graveside service, one of the pastors used a glove to demonstrate this truth. His hand in the glove represented our bodies when we are alive. The hand and glove move as one. When he removed his hand from the glove, the glove went limp.
He wiggled his fingers to show that his hand (soul) without the glove (body) was very much alive. The dead body, like the limp glove, is an empty shell that will return to dust (2 Cor. 5:8).
There is a difference between clean grief and dirty grief.
My friend’s father had been faithful to his family and to the Lord until his last breath. He died with no loose ends or regrets. His family grieves because they miss him, not because of what they missed receiving from him.
Those whose selfish life choices leave a wake of hurt behind affect how those left behind grieve. Some children wish they’d heard their loved one say, “I love you” or “I’m proud of you.” Others must sift through the anger and hurt their loved one’s betrayal caused them.
Clean grief, like a clean wound, hurts, but it will heal without the complication of infection. Happy memories provide a balm that soothes the tender spots.
Dirty grief, like an infected wound, forces family members to deal with hurt and disappointment as well as loss.
We grieve differently.
Some need to be still to process their emotions. Others work hard. Some show emotion. Others don’t. Some organize. Some memorialize. Others clean out. Because someone isn’t responding the way you do doesn’t mean they hurt less. Give everyone the grace to grieve in their own way (Matt. 5:4).
Dirty and clean grief come in cycles.
Christian psychologist Norm Wright pointed out that during the first year after a loss grief often hits hard in three-month intervals. I’ve found this to be true in my own life and in the lives of my clients. Mark your calendar and give yourself and your loved ones extra grace during those times. You may feel like you’re starting over in the grieving process. You aren’t. It’s part of the grief journey.
Grief is never easy. But it can be redemptive. It reminds the living that how we live impacts others long after we’re gone. If we’ve wronged someone, now is the time to make amends.
When I finished talking with my companion, a smile lit her face. She received her father’s final gift—the gift of clean grief.
It is better to spend your time at funerals than at festivals. For you are going to die, and it is a good thing to think about it while there is still time” (Eccles. 7:2 TLB).