“I have this friend who is still grieving her husband. It’s been a year. Do you think you could see her?”
“I have a friend who is still grieving her child. Can you meet with her and tell her how it will get better?”
Words I often hear from well-meaning friends wanting me to counsel people who are grieving. However, those words “still grieving” always strikes a chord in my heart.
There is this faulty assumption that after a year or maybe even two – we should no longer be grieving someone who has passed away.
When we lose people, we never get over that.
In scripture we are taught:
“So, God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him.” (Genesis 1:27, ESV)
In God’s image you were designed for eternal relationships.
Take comfort in knowing that you were designed to grieve well. To adjust, heal and grow.
But you were not designed to get over losing a person – that is impossible! It goes against the very nature of God to get over people.
Grief never ends. But it can and should change in time.
As we approach the 13th anniversary of our son’s passing, I think about how differently my grief looks now compared to then.
After Jamie’s death, I went years without sleeping through the night. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw images that no mother should ever see. I thought I’d never get them out of my head. Now, I sleep very well. If my sleep is bothered these days, it has nothing to do with those images.
I didn’t think I would ever be able to “function” like a normal person after his death. Going to the grocery store, going to church, working, being around people was such a challenge. The crowds triggered memories of the days surrounding his death and funeral. Everywhere I turned there was a memory that would completely devastate me and bring back the rawness of that day.
Most people meant well, but often the things they said would trigger me. Being at home was even harder because I was surrounded by the silence that his death had brought. It took me nine years before I felt fully comfortable in my skin again. I have no problem being around people or crowds now. As my husband says, “I’m back to being to the social butterfly I was before.”
I was a walking database of knowledge prior to Jamie’s death. I kept up with everything in my head. Very seldom did I need to write down reminders because my mind was able to organize it and retain it. I could read something one time and my brain retained it. After Jamie’s death, my concentration was gone. I would read and re-read things and a few minutes later still couldn’t remember what I just read. I would find myself on the road driving some days and literally forget where I was going. I was also a person who paid attention to the “details”. If I showed up for whatever the event was, that was the only detail I could retain.
I remember feeling like I couldn’t allow myself to learn anything new because it might push out his memories. I was scared I would forget Jamie. Thirteen years later and I know that will never happen. I’m not scared of forgetting him – it’s impossible. I have allowed myself to grieve him. The more I allowed myself to grieve and not run from the grief, the more my ability to heal and grow has developed.
My attention for detail and ability to concentrate has returned fully. The trauma of his death combined with the aging process has affected some of my memory, I have to write things down now to remember them these days. But God has allowed me to learn and grow in ways I never thought possible after his death.
If you know someone whose grieving or if you’re grieving yourself – please know that you were not designed to get over that person. Instead of focusing on the fact that you’re “still grieving” – take inventory. A healthier question to ask would be, how has your grief changed?
Are you still isolating from others? Are you able to talk about your loss?
On May 3, 2021 it will be thirteen years since our son Jamie died. I still grieve his absence. I will until the day I see him again in Heaven. His death has brought numerous other losses (secondary losses) that I also grieve – their story is yet to be told.
But my grief looks so different than it did 13 years ago.
I’ve read dozens of books on grief over the years. I agree with very few of them.
When I spend time with people grieving, I don’t focus on faulty concepts (like stages and getting over it). Instead I focus on helping them find healthy ways to grieve, to tell their story and engage in life again. That is possible.
My Hope Endures,
Director, Ephraim Ministries