When Death Takes Someone You Love

If you are walking through a time of grief, you know the agony of what it’s like to have a broken heart and to feel waves of despair wash over you. Grieving the loss of a loved one is a journey that each person must walk through individually, but God has promised to walk with you one step at a time.

Cycle of Healing

Grief and bereavement often come in waves of sorrow that recede only as the cycles of healing are allowed to occur. The following are all natural elements of the grieving and healing process.

  • Initial shock of death: that intense emotional impact which sometimes leaves a feeling of emotional paralysis.
  • Emotional release: a time often characterised by weeping.
  • Loneliness and depression: a sense of loss, often related to the degree of dependence on the person who died.
  • Guilt: a feeling characterised by second-guessing—“I could have done more” or “I should have done something differently.”
  • Anger, hostility: asking “Why did God let him die?” “Why didn’t God answer my prayer?” or even, “Why didn’t she choose to live?”
  • Depression: an overwhelming sense of apathy and a reluctance to pursue life’s activities. “I can’t get on with life” or “I don’t want to.”
  • Discovering and processing the loss: realising the many roles the person had in your life that may become evident only over time.
  • Thankfulness: appreciating the good memories, the good gift that his or her life was.
  • Gradual return to hope: a sense that life will go on. “I will be able to cope.” “God is helping me.” “I am not alone.” “She is better off now.”
  • Return to normalcy: choosing to live the next chapter of life. This is not forgetting, but accepting.

A Universal Experience

It is healthy to mourn and grieve. God wants to bear our heartaches and losses with us and give us His comfort, hope, and encouragement.

If you know Jesus Christ and are trusting Him with your life, you can know that He will carry you through your grief. Trusting in Him means:

  • We will live eternally though we die physically (John 11:25–26).
  • We have everlasting life (John 3:16).
  • We have a place assured in Heaven (John 14:1–6).
  • We will take part in the bodily resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:51–52). And there will be a glorious reunion someday between us and other believers whom we hold dear.

Moving Forward for One Who Is Grieving

  • If you have never explored what it means to find the deep satisfaction and purpose in a relationship with Jesus, do so now. If you have already turned your life over to Jesus Christ, make your relationship with Him primary in your life.
  • Allow yourself to experience the grief and the cycle of healing.
  • Recognise Christ as your constant companion. Look to Him for true comfort and peace in your life.
  • Be honest about how you feel. You may express feelings of guilt, anger, confusion, or despair.
  • Have a thankful heart for the years of love shared during the life of your loved one. Believe in the promise of eternal life to come.
  • Reach out to help others who are hurting. This can be great therapy and will help you learn to live fully again.

Helping Grieving People

Many times well-meaning Christians feel the need to be a “cheerleader” to a grieving person or to say something spiritually profound. Instead of needing to have an answer for everything, we need to admit that we do not fully understand God and His ways.

If the person grieving seems overwhelmed with loss, help him or her to develop a support system. One’s energy levels and ability to plan ahead will often be sporadic. Re-establishing old contacts or hobbies, involvement in a church that lifts up Jesus and His Word, and participation in a grief support group can do a great deal to fill the empty places in a person’s life. In addition, encourage the grieving person to read the Bible daily.

If grieving people express guilt over some aspect of the loss, encourage them to not second-guess their situation. They need to take their regrets to the Lord. Remind them of God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9). They should confess anything they feel necessary to confess to God, and then let it go.

Moving Forward to Help Someone Grieving

  • Pray for him or her. Ask to do this when you are together. Do it privately as well.
  • Encourage the grieving person to seek God. If this is a new concept for him or her, begin a routine together through Bible study and prayer.
  • Encourage the person to maintain or develop a support system in a Christian community.
  • Listen and be present in the person’s daily life.
  • Do not avoid saying the name of the person who died, do not avoid bringing up memories, and do not be afraid of tears.
  • If there are practical things that need to be done, such as writing a résumé or selling a home, help him or her to get started working toward that goal.
  • Note the date of death. For the next several months, on that day of the month, let the person know you remember.
  • Prepare a list of Scriptures that pertain to the person’s situation. (Consider Psalms 23, 25, 27, 71, and 91.)

Encouraging Scripture

  • “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die’” (John 11:25–26).
  • “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. … I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:21, 23).
  • “He [God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4, ESV).