Grief is a very complex experience for all human kind. The mystery of how it affects each human by emotional response, length of time to grieve and what to expect when grieving has been a ministry challenge for decades.
Often the book written by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross book is used to assist the survivors of a grief loss or event. However, that research was based on interviews with patience’s who were under hospice care and near death. The data and steps were not collected from the survivors of a grief event or loss. A fresh look at the biblical model to apply to losses of any type, can be found in the understanding of God’s Model of grieving His son, Jesus’ death found in the New Testament.
God grieved the death of his Son. He showed Often a surprise to even the most scholarly, a pattern is clearly described. Only when you know what grief feels like personally do you see how God laid out for us the pattern that we would experience.
Keeping in mind that God created the heavens and earth in 7 days, He grieved the death of his son in 3 days. But, the description used in the first four books of the New Testament are the same for us as they were described biblically.
IT GOT DARK
The darkness that covered the hill of Calvary, is the darkness that each of us experiences with a significant loss. We feel like a dark cloud is hovering over us; that we can’t really see the future because of this darkness and we are stumbling around without clear vision of what is ahead. We feel the darkness of sadness and sometimes even depression, as a result of a profound loss. Clearly God knew loss would manifest itself in a dark period of life.
THERE WAS AN EARTH QUAKE
We experience an earthquake in the form of a sudden mistrust of the things that we always expected to be unwavering in our life; the things that we expected and felt were unshakably reliable or the rock solid foundations that we could rely upon without question. Such as, unconditional love always and consistently in our life, financial security, a future that was bright with expectations of a happy and normal child, a spouse to grow old with, a parent who would always be healthy, our own body that would not suffer illness or injury. These are the shaken convictions that we trusted that are now the crumbling earth that creates vast chasms of loss; statement like, “I expected my child to outlive me”, “I just knew that I would always have a way to make a living” or “I did not expect to be the oldest member of my generation” now reflect the earthquakes of life.
As we see the vivid collapsing of homes and buildings that are the remains of people’s lives on the media. SO we find ourselves burrowed down into the ruble of our life. Will we begin to dig out? Free ourselves to look closely at what is valuable and what we need to shore up to become a new structure of life for ourselves. God calls us to start on a new journey to abundance. Leaving behind the crumbled ruble of what was our life and to rebuild according to His plan the life he has planned for us now.
THE FABRIC OF LIFE TORN APART
The scripture describes the curtain that hung in the Temple as four inches thick and over sixty feet tall. It was torn from top to bottom on the afternoon of Jesus’s death. The experience of loss is also described as the fabric of life has been torn apart. Sometimes it is a huge gaping hole torn in the tapestry that makes up our daily life. Sometimes it is the snipping of a very important thread (or the life of a dear one) that has consistently been woven into the daily pattern of life or a tear so significant that almost every aspect of life has been touched by the loss.
The only thing that is equal in life is time. We all have the same 24 hours, the same number of days that make up a week. All the other parts of life are variables. Our DNA, our birth circumstances, our education, work and environment experiences are all unique. No two – not even twins are the same. Our fabric has been woven over those 24 hours. A day in the tapestry of life is woven from the threads that cross horizontally through those minutes and hours. Those threads are people, circumstances, environment or events. When a grief event occurs, causing a hole, we have to take time to mend the hole to prevent the rest of the fabric from simply falling totally apart. When the tapestry of life is changed, we need to think like a seamstress. First thing is to stabilize the hole, then stitching around the edges to bind the broken threads into place to prevent unraveling. Often many “trips” around the hole are needed. The time to mend is critical. If the weaver fails to stabilize the hole – at some point in the future or perhaps from that point on, the fabric will be unstable.
So how does that work? We need to take the time to grieve. We need to recognize that this hole is not the centerpiece of our life. We have to continue to circle it with time and energy for stabilization of our life until the fabric of our life can begin to be rewoven. As we move on, the tear becomes a point of interest which makes the fabric of our life interesting and marks an event that changed the texture of life of us. Not an end point – but a turning point for a new pattern to emerge.
In the time of Jesus’ life as it is now. The Jewish Sabbath is a time of rest. No work in done. All meal preparation is completed before Sun down on Friday night. Worship and recovery are still observed today in Orthodox Jewish households. The centurions were sent out to be sure that Jesus was deal. They pieced his side. Fond him dead and then buried him before sunset. They could not touch a body on the Sabbath. So the slow process or recovery is laid out before us. We are to take the time to recovery and reconstruct the new normal of our life.
God’s pattern of darkness, earthquake and fabric of our life torn apart, uses the exact descriptors used in context for those that grieve. He gave us a model. When we understand the components of the model, we can process them, experience them and move through them to the final piece of God’s pattern.
RESURRECTION INTO A NEW LIFE
When Jesus rose from the dead he was changed. On the road to Emmaus, men who knew him, did not know him. He was a new being. He was the same, but different. Those that have experienced profound grief, become new beings too. They begin to have a new frame of reference in all of their activities. They make new friends, have new experiences – like attending a class on grief, or perhaps joining a widow’s group or perusing past times that are sources of enjoyment. The promise that God will walk with us to the new place in life where peace and contentment are abundant is clearly defined in the bible. New energy to do the work that God calls us to do is described in the events of the ascension of Jesus. We have to take the time to heal and recover and then to be obedient to respond to the new direction of life.
It is also important to know that the New Normal is exhausting. That feeling is normal as well. As we examine the emotional exhaustion, an interesting parallel of physical exhaustion comes to mind. If there was an injury – such as a broken ankle or wrist, the public would notice the gray boot or the brace and sling for the arm. It would be apparent to others that an injury had occurred and was now healing. Gentle assistance, like helping with doors, or even offers to drive to the Dr. offices for appointments would come from strangers and friends. After the initial treatment the patient would be told to “go home and rest”. That is because the body – without direct mental instruction, is using all of it’s energy to heal the broken or injured area; bones to be knit, blood vessels to reconnect, ligaments and other tissue to rebind to the appropriate location within the body. The naps and the resting periods are welcome because even though there may not be pain, the patient is tired somehow. Likewise the experience of a profound grief event is like an injury to the soul. A wound that may be long and deep or a small entry wound but with a deep puncture. Often the one significant wound may have accompanying smaller but painful wounds as well.