Grieving loss is hard and it hurts, even if you’re a Christian who believes you’ll be reunited with your loved ones in the new heaven and earth. Worse than grief, for me, is learning how to actually live without the person I loved and lost. The emptiness and loneliness feels more real and painful than the death itself. Death is surreal…it’s the day-to-day life after loss that’s the real struggle.
How do you hold on to your faith in God – and your relationship with Jesus – when you’re dying inside because you miss someone you love? How do you grieve the loss of a loved one with hope and faith?
Here’s what the apostle Paul says about grieving loss and death with Christian hope and faith: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope,” he says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 (CSB). Here’s the NIV version of the same verse: “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.”
A reader’s comment inspired me to write this article, and to ask how you grieve loss with Christian hope and faith. He lost his wife, and didn’t agree with a few things in an article I wrote about endless grief and being unable to reach out to God.
“I find the best way to describe the loss is to say that many (myself included) never get over grief but learn to live with it,” says Darryl on When the Grief Never Ends and You Can’t Reach Out to God. “Pain never passes, it may ease, but it never ends if you truly loved your spouse. It’s important to recognize that life will always be different. Then you can make the little changes as you seek to find some comfort and regain some normality. But I found I had to hide my inner feelings when among friends because they don’t know how to react to my grief. With my own children, I refrained from talking about my grief as it upset them as well. This is probably a bad thing to do as there is a need to release inner feelings. As far as God goes, my relationship has changed dramatically. I tell Him I don’t understand why His silence is so overwhelming.”
3 Ideas for Christians Grieving Loss
“Today is hard because it’s the third anniversary of my husband’s death,” says Diane on Help Starting Over in Your 60s – After Your Husband Dies. “My heart is still so overcome, my grief feels never ending. I don’t know that I will ever feel whole again. Family and friends seem to think I should be stronger with the passing of time, but the truth is just the opposite. I know other widows who have lost their husbands and they can’t reach out to God. Time has not healed our broken hearts.”
Diane adds that she feels like an outsider with friends and family, and can’t tell them how deeply she’s hurting.
“I don’t want them to think I am having a breakdown,” she says. “I try to act like I am happy and in control so they want to include me in activities and be around me. I do not want to make others sad. I have started working part-time outside the home and keeping busy, but the loneliness continues to have a grip. I’m trying so hard to find happiness and some sense of normalcy again.”
1. Allow yourself to take it moment by moment
I once thought that, yes, you should share your grief and talk about how sad and lonely you feel. “If you can’t be your authentic, true self with your friends and family…then who can you be ‘you’ with?” I wrote on articles like Dealing With Grief After a Massive Heart Attack. “Why are you pretending to be someone you’re not? The more you pretend to be happy, the heavier your grief will be. The more secretive you are about your pain, the worse you will feel.”
Now, I think there isn’t a firm “yes or no” answer. Grieving loss without losing faith or hope as a Christian means allowing the Holy Spirit to lead, one step at a time. One day at a time, one hour at a time. Sometimes it’s good to share honest, painful thoughts and feelings…and other times it’s more thoughtful and wise to hold them back until we’re alone.
2. Accept that you’ll never be the same
“Different women grieve their husbands’ deaths in different ways,” I wrote in an old article on grieving the end of a love relationship. “The grieving process is darker and longer for widows who built their lives around their marriages, who didn’t have a strong sense of their own lives and identities before their husbands died. Jobs, grieving support groups, friends and family, grief counselors — nothing will fill the hole in the heart of a widow whose life was built around her husband. So what will?”
The easy Christian answer is to grieve loss with hope and faith because of the future glorious resurrection God has planned. It may be an easy answer, but it’s not easy to do.
3. Let your relationship with God change
“I’m finding it difficult to reach out to God since my husband’s death,” says Diane. “I lost my connection to God, and have trouble staying focused to meditate and pray. I tend to cry in church. Then I feel embarrassed and have to leave. I don’t know how to get over this, and I feel like the grief will never end.”
I encouraged her to explore new ways to reach out to God until she finds what works for her. “Sit in church and cry when you need to,” I wrote. “Learn how God experienced grief, how Jesus suffered, and who else suffered in the long line of Christian believers. Our Biblical sisters suffered grief, often feeling like it would never end. Our Christian forerunners all felt like they couldn’t reach out to God at different times in their lives.”
And then I invited her to read How to Rebuild Your Relationship With God for ideas on how to grieve with hope and faith. Now, however, I don’t think it’s that easy. I don’t think Christians ever really learn how to grieve as one with hope and faith…at least not until the fresh pain of grief has healed and a scar is forming.
As a Christian, how do you grieve with hope and faith?
“There is a bright prospect of seeing departed believers again. When Jesus returns from heaven, He will bring deceased Christians with Him. At that time there will be a loud command, the archangel’s voice will be heard, and God’s trumpet will sound. Christians who have died will receive their resurrected bodies, and living Christians will be caught up to join them, to be with the Lord forever. Paul urged the Thessalonian believers to use what he wrote about the rapture to encourage one another.” – from the 1 Thessalonians 4:13 commentary on Bible Ref.
Do you feel better knowing that you will join your lost loved one in the new heaven and earth? Your big and little thoughts are welcome below. How do you put Paul’s words into practice?