Navigating Grief & Loss
“For in grief nothing ‘stays put.’ One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it? How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, ‘I never realized my loss till this moment’?”
When the pain of loss makes its way into our lives, it leaves no part of life untouched. Loss can come in many forms, some more permanent than others. Maybe your loved one died, or maybe you came to the end of a friendship or relationship you thought would be in your life forever. Maybe that dream that you’ve been holding onto for so long finally slipped through your hands.
Whatever the case, these moments can rip our entire story off the page and shake the foundation of who we believe we are and what we believe our purpose is. Suddenly you find yourself wondering whether you’re doing the right thing, living the right way, being the person you’re supposed to be.
When my dad passed away three years ago, it changed my attitude and the trajectory of my life. Suddenly this pillar of strength and security in my life was gone, and nothing else seemed important. I went through the motions of the day-to-day, but I kept asking myself, “What am I really doing here? Is this what I even want at all?”
The loss of my dad was followed by the loss of some big dreams. The things I thought were in store for my future were no longer a reality. I became frustrated, and I couldn’t understand why God seemed to be slamming doors closed. My grief slowly became fear–fear of failure, fear of never moving forward, fear of losing again. Most of all it became a fear that God does not listen and does not care.
Maybe you’ve felt this way. Maybe you’ve lost a lot and you seem stuck in a cycle of grief and fear. You can’t seem to move forward, and you can’t seem to let go. Maybe you don’t even believe or trust in God anymore. Your grief became a fear that there is no God or, worse, that the God that exists does not care. Your grand story seems to have come to an end.
But that is never where God’s story stops. In those moments, we have two choices: We can continue to cycle through the grief and pain, never really moving forward and letting fear rule our lives; or we can continue to step forward in faith, believing that God is good even through the pain and trusting that His plan is bigger and greater than our own.
I know which one of those is easier. It’s never easy to take the step in faith. What if we fail? What if it’s wrong? What if we continue to experience loss?
Or what if, through the grief, we trust and seek God? What if we believe that He loves us and wants us to have fullness of life in Him? What if we take that step of faith knowing that He will guide us each step of the way–that even if we make a mistake, He will use it to move us closer to Him and His purpose for our lives?
C.S. Lewis writes in A Grief Observed, “The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just that time when God can’t give it: you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.” We aren’t promised a life free of pain or suffering. We aren’t promised that we won’t experience loss. But what we are promised is help in times of need, if we listen, and if we are willing to surrender to our own selves and to fully trust that God is good and loves us more deeply than we’ll ever understand. Only then, will we continue to live out His story through our lives.
Author: Allie Reefer
Allie is a writer, musician, and advocate working with refugees & immigrants in Pittsburgh, PA. She plays bass and sings on her local church worship team and is involved in several social justice efforts around the city. She loves coffee, travel, naps, inside jokes with her sister, and personality tests (ENFJ/Enneagram Type 4, FYI), and she’s passionate about living out the Micah 6:8 life–act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.