Guest Post: The Waves of Grief
I first met Naomi Cheriro (@NCheriro) on Twitter. She has since become a friend especially because we have similar Christian beliefs and multiple mutual friends. Naomi shares with us her grief journey having lost her brother earlier on in the year through a tragic road accident.
“He did not make it.” These are the last words that I recall from that “meeting” at home on the afternoon of 16th February 2020. Something about that Sunday and having many people over had not felt right, and it had suddenly become crushingly clear why. Unbeknownst to us, up until much later in the day, was the death of my elder brother in a road accident that morning. Four days after his 28th birthday!
Shock, denial, and intense pain were emotions that descended upon me then, and in much greater degrees in the days that followed. Was there something we could have done to stop that? Will we ever be okay? Will the sadness ever go away? Many questions went through my mind, especially on the days leading up to my brother’s funeral.
Soon after, the pressure to return to ‘normalcy’ set in. But was everything normal? Certainly not. Was there a timeline to my not being okay? Was my “not being okay” going to be casting doubts on God’s sovereignty and the fact that “He makes all things work together for the good of those who love him and he has called according to His purpose?”
Fears and concerns
One of the fears that I have actively had to fight my whole life is losing loved ones. It is no wonder that this has become more intense on some days since the loss. This fear has often given me sleepless and teary nights sometimes. I feel as if I cannot take another death of a loved one. Knowing that I am not in control has been a scary thought most times. Yet, I’m sure that it should be a hope-giving one. It’s scary because I know that I can’t shield the very people I love from the kiss of death. No amount of “keeping them near” or frequently calling them will protect them from it.
Most people who have lost their loved one(s) and have grieved accordingly realize that dealing with grief is a rollercoaster.
The waves of grief
It is somewhat peculiar how drastically different consecutive days can be from one another. The waves of grief are anew every morn—one day, you wake up to joy, optimism, and a clear sense that things will be okay despite the cloud of grief that surrounds. Whereas the next day, in comes a trail of memories of departed loved ones, a dim look into a bleak future without them, an overflow of grief, and an ensuing outburst of tears! These drastically stark emotions have been my experience over the past four months, and I’m sure they are a familiar wave to many.
Grief is a universal human experience. However, interacting with other people who’ve undergone it, I’m assured that it is not as simple as ABC. There isn’t one way about it. Whether through the loss of a loved one, a rejection, untimely loss of a job, and many other heartbreaking experiences, most of us have had to face the old enemy, grief.
Wading through grief
Dealing with grief is difficult for anyone. There is cruelty about the “finality” of death that breaks our hearts into pieces. This finality often threatens to shatter our world. My article will not make any attempt to talk about the “how” of wading through grief. I neither have all the answers nor does anyone.
Has this journey then been a hopeless one? Certainly not. As a Christian, some encouragements have been an anchor for my soul, which has kept me going. I know that there is a lot we can draw from God’s word, but this isn’t an attempt to exhaust all that. Instead, it’s a snippet of what my journey has been so far.
1. I’m not alone
First, I have learned to believe that I am not alone, even when I feel so. John 11 records the story of the death of Lazarus, Jesus’ beloved friend. Upon receiving the news of his death, Jesus, who knows everything and is sovereign over everything, we are told weeps for the loss of his friend.
It is something to behold that the Lord Jesus Christ himself wept. Dear afflicted one, your grief, is certainly neither misplaced nor uncalled for. On the contrary, it is an appropriate response, evidence of life and love as we see even from our Lord Himself. The Bible certainly records more accounts of the same.
English philosopher and theologian, C.S Lewis, famously remarked,
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken…”
2. Grief is a part of our lives
A friend and I have been having a conversation about this very thing over the past week. We have shared on our losses, even the seemingly trivial ones like our pets dying and the brokenness this brings. It is undoubtedly clear that as long as we love people, we risk losing them and having our hearts broken. Therefore, grief, as in times past, will continue being a reality in this world.
From the surface, this might not sound encouraging, but it has been. Knowing that my grieving is an appropriate response and that many others have walked this road, I have embraced my grief. I talk about it when I can and need to, and pray about it without feeling ashamed.
There should be no fear in expressing grief.
The Psalms are replete with a wide range of emotions, evidencing a great comfort that our suffering does not agitate God, and we can be honest with ourselves, with people around us, and open with Him.
3. God draws near to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit.
Thirdly, God draws near to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). I have quoted this verse many times before. However, it has taken on a new and personal meaning to me in this season. Why did God allow the death of my brother? I don’t know and likely never will, this side of eternity. But I do know that He has promised to draw near to me in my brokenness. He has promised to bind up every wound. In the months since my brother’s death, I have learned to take everything to Him in prayer and trusting Him for calm and comfort. God promises to give strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow whenever pain, fear, uncertainty, sadness, and anger paralyze me.
“For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us whenever we call upon Him?”
More than anything else, this is a promise. God wants us to draw near, to call on Him, and he indeed is faithful to draw near to us. God will certainly give us the salvation balm that our hearts so desperately need. Oh, what better truth is there than knowing the very God who invites us to call on Him in our grieving, is, in fact, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort? Able and ready to give the reassurance that we need at the moment.
It is through close friendships that God has greatly encouraged and given me comfort. Friends who are frequently present and a church community so loving and committed to our spiritual and physical well-being. What a means this has been of experiencing God’s love and comfort. I’m am doubly grateful for it all.
3. God is in control: Living in light of eternity
I know that God is the One in control. I should be at rest and know that He deals with every one of us rightly and in ways that He knows best. He holds our days in His hands. I know that I should not live in fear despite knowing that the possibility of losing the people we dearly love isn’t a far-fetched thought. Has this fear been real for you? Has your experience with loss and grief been more severe than mine and led to more worries than those I have had? Or is this a fear you’ve just had to fight? May we remember this
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
We can trust God with our fears, trust that he would continually teach our hearts to be at rest, and run to him when fear seems to overtake us.
It was theologian Jonathan Edwards who famously wrote, ‘Lord, stamp eternity in my eyeballs.’ Losing people close to us certainly brings eternity into sharp focus. It brings home the brevity of life too. What better moment is there for us to cry out “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!” (Psalm 39:4) and “teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12)? Living in light of eternity has become a priority for me in this season, and I consider this an invaluable reminder. And what greater hope have we than knowing that one day God will make all things right? To know that one day, death will be no more and that God will wipe away all our tears? That rest will come. Oh! What an invaluable promise!
“…He 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.”
Christ will hold us fast
So we look forward to that day, trusting that His comfort and grace will abound. We will have an unshakable hope even during the most challenging days when the pangs of sorrow and grief seem unbearable, and those very “truths” that we know seem insufficient to take us through the moment. Beloved, Christ will hold us fast.