The Pilgrimage of Grief

by James Rudy Gray

Grief is a universal experience that transcends every type of human barrier. The pain of loss is common to the human family, for any important loss triggers grief. We will grieve; the real issue is how we choose to grieve.

While the stages of grief may differ from person to person, a healthy grieving process will move through different phases. At the core of this process are our emotions, the changes we experience, bodily distress, and-if the death of a loved one is involved-a preoccupation with the image of the deceased.

After the initial loss, feelings of grief may strike someone unexpectedly. The pain or sadness that suddenly touches a person weeks or months later seems like a surprise that comes out of nowhere. James Rudy GrayThat is the nature of grief.

Norm Wright has an excellent book, Recovering From the Losses of Life, that can be very helpful for church groups. We have grief support/recovery groups at our church that has used this material effectively.

The pilgrimage of grief is an emotional journey that takes time to make. It involves pain but also growth. Grieving people need to feel safe. They need the acceptance, patience, understanding, and sensitivity of friends and supporters. They need encouragement to identify, face, and work through their feelings. Moving on is important but that does not mean that the feelings of grief are ever completely gone. Healthy grief means that a person is making new relationships, engaging in different activities, and developing inner resourcefulness as a person.

Above all, grieving in a healthy way means recognizing that God is real. Grief is a reality but so is the comfort and hope God sends to His believing child. The Bible is very clear that death is not the final chapter. Neither is grief. How we grieve is the key. First Thessalonians 4:13-14 says, "We do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus." A major force in moving on in the God-given experience of grief is to plant our faith firmly in the truth of God about death and loss. God loves His people. He will never desert them, especially in the time of sorrow and grief.

Perhaps the best counsel for healthy grief therapy is given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:58, " be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. " The reality of grief can be a growing time when we are aware of the truth and presence of the living Christ.