It Is Okay

During my personal and professional life, I have experienced a fair amount of loss. Most individuals can make the same statement. There has been the death of family and friends. Loss of relationships have occurred. The death of cherished pets has happened. Changes in employment and locations where I have lived are parts of my life. Age and the process of growing older has brought about loss of abilities (and hair). Professionally I have had the honor of walking alongside others as they have experienced these types of loss and ones which are not mentioned. In each of these situations, one aspect has been similar and yet so different, grief has been present.

Grief is a part of life which is an unwieldy beast. The challenge in our experience with grief is that it is never the same in each situation and refuses to abide by a predictable time frame or predictable expressions. Grief is something which denies us the ability to be in control. However, well-meaning individuals and professionals have attempted to control grief and our responses to grief. The attempts are weak and often futile.

Since grief is an emotion, it is triggered by a variety of life encounters and situations. At times, we can experience grief but not even be consciously aware of what we are experiencing. This emotion manifests itself in so many ways, including physically and psychologically. Grief is also personal in nature like other emotions. At times, we may be able to see similarities in the manner in which we experience grief just as do others. Other times, our grief may be beyond comparison. In some situations, grief may become noticeable to us in small starts and stops. Or grief may come in waves with varied duration of time both in how long we sense it and how long there are breaks between waves.

In my experiences of grief in my life, as well as walking along with others during their times of grief, I have these observations:

  • There is no right way or wrong way to grieve. Do not allow someone to tell you what you should be doing with your grief or judge how you live through grief.
  • Grief is not limited to times of death. Any time we have loss of any type in our lives, grief can be present.
  • Each person and each instance is different.
  • While there may appear to be various stages, these do not always exist in a neat order or repeat themselves. What does exist is the manner in which people deal with grief may have some similarities but also can be extremely different.
  • Do NOT put a time frame on your grief nor let anyone else attempt to do so.
  • There are no magic words or actions which can remove grief from your life or the life of anyone else. Grief is an emotion which takes its own course.
  • It is okay to grieve. It is okay to respond to grief as you feel is best for you. Every person and every situation is different. Grief operates outside of rules so do not put rules on how you respond to it.
  • Having a trusted friend or professional who you are able to honestly share your grief experience with helps but it does not magically remove the grief. Instead, it allows someone to walk alongside you through your grief and to remind you that whatever you are experiencing is okay.

I want to leave you with this one thought whether you are currently experiencing grief in your life or you can hopefully remember when you do experience grief — However you respond to grief and however grief enters your life, IT IS OKAY

Is This It?

Seems that not a day goes by anymore which does not contain some message about death. Recently I have heard about the deaths of individuals who I attended worship alongside. There have been deaths of celebrities. Tragic deaths such as the ones occurring in California at a garlic festival and those of hikers in Canada have made the national news. Locally, living in a large metroplex, death from accidents and violent acts of humans are daily mentioned on the television or in the newspaper. At times, it seems that death surrounds us all the time. Actually, that is more accurate than we may wish to acknowledge.

I have been thinking about how we respond to death. These thoughts have included both our societal responses and the responses we have as individuals, specifically in regard to our faith. I worry occasionally that as a society we have become so accustomed to death that we hardly even notice it anymore. Yet, I also am aware that some of our apathy towards death stems not solely from the frequency of encounter but also from our unwillingness to look at it honestly. We do not wish to affirm the reality of death because in doing so we have to face our own mortality.

Facing our mortality requires us to think about what we concern regarding the afterlife. Since there is no solid proof about the afterlife, we are afraid. For a large number of people, this fear leads us to ignore or push thoughts of death out of our thinking. We adopt an attitude of if we do not confront death, we do not have to think about death. Death seems too unknown to us and the fear is overwhelming, so we attempt to push it aside.

As a society and as individuals, we often want to hide death. One example is in how we talk about death when a person is deceased. We use phrases such as, “He has passed on,” or “She has parted.” Our avoidance of using the word death is a way to lessen the reality. By reducing the finality of death, we can evade dealing with it.

I have a much different view towards death. My view of death is very dependent upon my understanding of my faith. Through my reading of the Scriptures, the development of my beliefs, and my own experiences, I see death as a transition. There is no finality in death for me. Instead, there exists a belief that at death a person transitions from an earthly existence into a spiritual realm. Since I believe in a bodily resurrection, this does not mean that a person only exists as a spirit in this spiritual realm but that the same joining of the body and spirit which occurred during our earthly birth happens within the spiritual realm. I also believe that in this spiritual realm a person experiences the fullness of God.

Due to my understandings and beliefs in regard to death, death is not something I fear either for myself or those whom I love. Just because I do not fear death does not mean that I do not grieve when a person dies. I grieve though not because I fear what happens at the point of death and after, I grieve because I know that for a period of time I will be separated from that person. Once fear has been removed, the grief is a little easier to bear. Once fear is removed, you can talk honestly about death and the afterlife.