Editor's note: Grief that comes with loss is overwhelming. Emotions are so heavy, we can stagger beneath the weight. Scripture becomes even more precious during bereavement. Lean in with this excerpt from Through a Season of Grief.
Your emotions can be intense, draining, and hard to hold back; they run deep and are tangled up inside you.
Everyone goes through some unexpected emotions, and it helps for you to identify and sort out the emotions that apply to you. This is part of the healing process.
Which emotions have you experienced during the grieving process?
- lack of control
Jesus can identify with your sorrows.
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. — Isaiah 53:3
Lord Jesus, You alone know my suffering and pain. Please sort through these emotions with me. Amen.
SUDDEN AND UNPREDICTABLE
Emotions during grief do not occur in an orderly fashion. You cannot follow a checklist and mark off the emotions you are finished with and then move on to the next. They come suddenly and unpredictably.
“People ask me, ‘How are you doing?’ And I say, ‘Wonderful.’ One moment I’m sobbing uncontrollably — I carry Kleenex around in my pocket — and the next moment I’m so exhilarated with joy with all that God is doing in my life,” says Dr. Jim Conway.
Circumstances will change. People will change. Surroundings will change. But the Bible leads you to the one sure thing:
I the Lord do not change. — Malachi 3:6
Almighty, unchanging God, I grasp on to Your hand as my emotions confuse and overwhelm me. You alone cannot be moved, and I am confident that as long as I remain in You, I, too, will not be moved. Amen.
OUT OF CONTROL
Not only are your emotions unpredictable, but they may also seem uncontrollable. This changing nature combined with the intensity of the emotions can cause you to feel disoriented, forgetful, and over-powered.
“There was this overwhelming feeling of being out of control... overwhelmed and watching life pass by,” says Cindy following her daughter’s death.
Your response to these uncontrollable emotions can be confusing to you as well as to others; for instance, sometimes you may want people with you, and sometimes you do not. You may also act in ways you later regret.
Job expressed this sentiment:
If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales! It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas—no wonder my words have been impetuous. — Job 6:2–3
Precious Lord, You know the desires of my heart. In my confusion give me peace to know that You are in control of all life and You do not make mistakes. Amen.
THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING
Although your mind knows the facts, your heart is often reluctant to accept the death of someone you know and love.
“You may have a tendency to deny,” says Dr. H. Norman Wright. “Denial covers over the sharpness of the pain.”
Denial is a process that occurs during grieving to minimize the struggle. This is a natural and transitional part of your healing journey. Randy shares how he experienced denial after his sister died, but over time, he found that denial was impossible: “After the funeral I was basically in denial. I tried to dive into my work and forget about it. It’s taken a long time. Little things will remind me: things that she did, places she went to. Things like that will all of a sudden bring this very empty, hollow feeling inside me, where I can’t breathe. I feel like the air is just sucked out of me. It’s been five years, but trying to deny it or to ignore it is not possible.”
You may be tempted to “dive into” your work and fill your mind with anything but the truth of the situation. But the book of Proverbs tells us to be open to the truth and to pursue it:
Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding. — Proverbs 23:23
Jesus, give me the courage to face the truth. With Your help I know I can do it. Amen.
Sometimes you just want everyone to leave you alone. So you build a protective wall around yourself, not only to keep other people out, but also to guard against unwanted emotions. You may think you are playing it safe, but instead you are blocking out the healing.
“There are people who love you and want to pray for you and want to talk with you,” says Dr. Tim Clinton. “If you allow that to happen,
- God puts great salve on deep wounds.”
Doesn’t that sound wonderful—a great salve on deep wounds? Jeremiah cried out to God for just such a thing and found Him to be faithful and true.
Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people? — Jeremiah 8:22
‘But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LorD, ‘because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares’. — Jeremiah 30:17
Faithful God, bring me out of my self-imposed isolation that I may be healed by the Balm of Gilead—Jesus Christ. Amen.
SUPPRESSION CAN LEAD TO EXPLOSION
Are you quelling your emotions within you and consciously keeping them at bay? Think about the amount of force and energy this involves. Your emotions may be packed in so tightly that the pressure could build up to the point of possible explosion.
“You can delay the grieving process by denying it or just not allowing yourself to cry or to face it,” says Dr. H. Norman Wright. “It’s like you put a lid on your life and on your emotions. It is a form of repression, and whenever you repress any of your feelings, you bury them alive. Someday there will be a resurrection, but you will not be in charge of it. It could come through depression. It could come out through explosiveness.”
In the midst of overwhelming emotional suffering and pressure, Jesus looked to God with determination.
And being in anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. — Luke 22:44
Holy God, may my resolve to release my emotional pressure and to seek You be as earnest as Jesus’ prayer. Amen.
ANGER: YOUR STRONGEST EMOTION
The Bible instructs you to be angry!
Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger. — Ephesians 4:26 NASB
Anger by itself is not a sin, and it is one of the most common emotions associated with grief.
“I went through that shock and denial period for about three months,” says Dora after the death of her daughter. “Then suddenly, as the shock wore off and the reality set in—anger. Intense anger. Just wanting to wail, to scream from the depths. There’s no way I could express as much anger as I was feeling.”
You need to release your anger in a way that is productive for healing and not harmful to others around you. To release your anger does not mean to lash out, to throw a fit, or to lose control of it; releasing your anger involves the open and honest expression of your emotions in a way that is physically, mentally, and emotionally freeing. You can do this by expressing your anger to God in prayer (don’t hold back!). You can release your anger in the presence of a person who will listen quietly and neither judge nor offer advice. Another healthy way to release anger is to write down every angry thought that comes to mind until you cannot think of another angry sentence to write. Some people find that expressing their anger out loud—and loudly—in a private place is helpful.
The fact that you should “not let the sun go down on your anger” means you should deal with it when it is present. Don’t go to sleep and forget it, only to have it come back in greater strength later.
Holy Spirit, grant me the freedom and opportunity to release my anger in a way that helps, not hurts. Amen.
Excerpted with permission from Through a Season of Grief by Bill Dunn and Kathy Leonard, copyright The Church Initiative, Inc.
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One thing we can't avoid is grief. We'll all experience loss and the death of loved ones so the Lord gave us comfort in His Word and outlets of prayer and the community of faithful believers. Whatever state you're in today, ask the Holy Spirit for His consolation and guidance. He loves you! ~ Devotionals Daily