I am now familiar with grief.
My dad passed away 2 months ago from a battle with leukemia. But, the grief journey started some time before and most assuredly intensified within the last month.
There were many grief pangs along the way. We felt the grief pang when my dad was diagnosed with leukemia 3 years ago. We felt another grief pang when he had experience his first relapse after 1 1/2 years of remission and underwent his second round of treatment. And then, after his short 2 month remission was over, he began the last round of treatment.
Then in June, we had the most gut-punching news: his leukemia was not responding to this round of treatment. And within one office visit, our days with him were numbered. There was nothing else they could do.
So, I rushed to Oklahoma to be a part of the ebb and flow of the last days of his life. I wanted to be there as much as I could. And, it was so sweet. Time I will treasure for the rest of my life.
Along this terrible road of losing a loved one to cancer, there are some things I’m learning along the way- often through gritted teeth, clinched fists, and a tear-stained face.
I share them with you. I share them in hopes to encourage you if you are walking, limping, crawling along this grief road too.
I’m so sorry. It stinks.
1. You don’t need to manage each other’s grief.
It’s so easy to think that your way of dealing with loss and sadness is how everyone does or should. But, that’s not true. We need to allow each other space to grieve how we need to. We are not responsible for each other’s emotional status.
One may cry, even wail. Another may be quiet and closed off. Another may be in denial. It’s not for you to manage.
And even though it’s so hard to do, we have to allow the pain to hit those we love. We each have to walk through the pain in order to come out on the other side.
2. You don’t need to offer anything to help each other look on the bright side.
In those first days, week, months of loss, there may just not be anything lovely to see.
It hurts. It unbelievable. It’s just plain awful. Excruciating was a word that I’ve used. Pain that hurts so deep you can’t breathe. Pain that you can’t believe anyone else has felt.
So instead of bumbling around awkwardly because you just don’t know what to say or searching for encouraging words, simply empathize and say “I am so sorry.”
Pray for them and with them. Give lots of hugs. And… food. And… chocolate. And… Krispy Kremes.
3. Cling to the truth of who God is and what He does.
It’s all about God. His story for their life. His story for your life. It’s about His love and grace and redemption. Don’t stiff arm the Creator of life. Don’t hold a grudge.
God is love. As His children, we have eternal hope. This world is not our home. He has a better place for us.
As I was driving away from my hometown the day after my dad’s funeral, we drove into this beautiful sunrise. I held God’s word desperately in my hands. I knew I needed the truth to permeate my grief-gripped heart. So I thumbed through the pages of His truth… looking at my notes and underlinings. Things the Lord spoke to my heart years ago. And of things He spoke to me at the beginning of this year. It was like water for my soul.
“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.” Malachi 4:2, TLB
4. Do the honest grief work.
Enter into those hard and painful places. Don’t push it aside and cover it with a smile.
When people ask how you are, don’t cover it up to avoid conversation with “I’m fine.” Be honest and say something like, “Ugh, it’s hard. My heart hurts.” Or “I’m hanging in there.”
5. Learn about the natural pattern of grief and allow yourself to move through the stages.
Give yourself the space and grace to grieve. Here are 4 books that have been so encouraging and are teaching me along the way:
Good Grief by Granger E. Westburg
- This is a really short book (easy read) that suggests 10 stages you may move through in your grief journey. It was so helpful for me to understand by setting accurate expectations and loads of grace for myself.
Grieving the Loss of Someone You Love by Raymond R. Mitsch and Lynn Brookside
- This one is just like sitting down with a friend who knows a lot about grief. Lots of encouragements, expected behaviors, and again tons of grace.
Why? Trusting God When You Don’t Understand by Anne Graham Lotz
- A more in-depth biblical look at grief as it dives into the story of Lazarus.
Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller
- Such a deep and rich book on the ins and outs of the grief journey and the truth to cling to when it hurts so much.
I ache with you as we struggle with loss. As we walk together towards the natural end that will come to all of us. I want to live with my eye on heaven.
What would we do without Jesus?