When my first husband, Stacey, died I remember looking around at all the people driving to work, going out to eat, grocery shopping… living life. My world had come to a screeching halt and they were still carrying on as usual. And I was going to have to carry on too.
A few weeks later, I was standing in a long line at Walmart. Just the idea of getting groceries was draining. A friend of Stacey’s spotted me and came over to talk. He told me a funny story and I laughed. I laughed. Out loud. At that exact moment, a lady I hadn’t seen in a while was approaching me to offer her condolences. As I turned (with a big smile on my face) to see who was approaching me, she reached out with tears in her eyes to hug me and tell me how devastated she knew I must be. And my smile froze as I burst into tears. Tears of grief. Tears of guilt. Oh such overwhelming guilt. How dare I smile? And laugh even? Out loud. In public? I felt like such a terrible person. I felt like I had betrayed Stacey.
As I talk with grieving people, I find that this isn’t all that unusual. Guilt. Whether placed on us by others or self-imposed….there is so much guilt. When is it ok to laugh? To vacation? To enjoy life again? Is there a time limit? How long must we keep our mourning clothes on? 7 days? (Genesis 50:10) 30 days? (Deuteronomy 34:8) A lifetime? If I really loved them shouldn’t I be miserable forever? After all, that proves my love, right? Wrong!
Someone once told me, “Just because someone carries it well doesn’t mean it’s not heavy.” That is so true. People grieve differently. And that’s ok.
As I looked at my prayer list this morning, I was overwhelmed by the number of my friends that are grieving the loss of close loved ones. I have 6 friends who have lost a spouse or long-term boyfriend over the past few months. I have 7 friends who have lost a parent. Two of those lost both parents. Several others have lost siblings and close friends. People all around us are grieving.
If you are grieving right now, you need to know:
There are 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Sometimes we flow through these pretty quickly. Other times we bounce back and forth. Sometimes we get stuck in one for a while. And that’s ok.
– Sometimes the loss of a loved one can make you realize how precious time is and make you want to get out and live life to the fullest. Travel, visit friends/family…. And that’s ok.
– Sometimes you may just feel overwhelmed and want to be by yourself for a while. And that’s ok.
– Sometimes people say funny things and you smile or laugh. And that’s ok.
– Sometimes you just need to cry. And that’s ok.
– Sometimes people don’t understand your grief because you aren’t grieving the same way that they are. And that’s ok.
If you know someone who is grieving right now (and most of us do) just be there for them. Try not to impose your ideas of grieving on them. Let them grieve their way, in their timing. Just be there for them…. to listen, to help, to laugh, to cry. Just be there.
“Blessed are those who mourn: for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)