As I write this I’m on a plane headed home from Ohio after attending the memorial service of my twenty year old nephew Beau Williams. He died suddenly in a motorcycle accident.
Only two years ago I attended the memorial service of my father in the same church. I think I’ve had enough memorial services, thank you. But the truth is, the longer I live the more memorials I will attend. The final one I “attend” will be my own.
I’ve lost my parents, aunts, uncles, and many friends. Some have been young, and some old. For some death came suddenly and for some it was agonizingly long.
Furthermore, there are other losses I have had to deal with, as everyone does, such as the death of dreams, relationships, goals, health, youthfulness, finances and other losses.
How can we survive and even thrive in the midst of these difficult losses?
Frankly, I haven’t always been great at handling losses. But I have learned some valuable lessons that I would like to pass on in hopes that it might help others. Perhaps even you.
Here are my thoughts on how to face the death of a loved one and other major losses:
ONE: Allow Grief to Take Its Course, But Don’t Nurse It
Grief is normal and healthy. Even Jesus cried at the death of a loved one. “Jesus wept” (John 11:35) is the shortest verse in the Bible, but it carries a profound message: weeping and sorrow are normal and godly.
But Scripture also says that there is a time, “for crying and laughing, weeping and dancing” (Ecclesiastes 3:4 CEV).
Determine not to let sorrow consume you. As much as possible, and interspersed with crying and weeping, begin to laugh and dance.
TWO: Be Grateful for Everything You Can Think Of
Scripture says, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 KJV). Notice it doesn’t say “for” everything but “in” everything.
Why would God’s Word say this? I think it is because gratitude is so profoundly helpful to our mental health. When we nurture an attitude of gratitude it lifts us above our circumstances and puts our minds in a much better place.
Thanksgiving is a tranquilizer for our turmoil. It provides a “natural high” when life gets us down.
I like to write down what I am thankful for as I begin each day. Over the years my list has now grown to almost 20,000 items; some large and some small, some listed only once and some repeated. This exercise is immensely helpful in setting my heart in the right direction each day.
THREE: Accept That God is in Control
Healing comes with acceptance. Acceptance comes when we trust that things don’t happen merely as a result of chance, but of Providence.
When I called my brother Brian just hours after the death of his son Beau, he paraphrased Psalm 139:16 and said, “God knows the number of our days.” Why did this help him and his family so much? Because rather than feeling like the death of his beloved son was merely a horrific tragedy, Brian and his family were trusting in God’s larger purpose and good.
Scripture promises that “all things work together for good…” (Romans 8:28). That means that even things we cannot fathom as being good will work out for good.
It seems to me that not believing this means believing only in chance and therefore meaninglessness, hopelessness and futility.
I don’t believe this because it is helpful, but because it is God’s Word.
While this promise is extremely burden bearing, it is not for everyone. It concludes, “…to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” In other words, it is for God’s people—those who trust in Jesus Christ. Have you trusted Him? If not, please go here for help.
For more help, see my articles on:
- How NOT to Handle the Death of a Loved One
- Four Steps to Climb Out of a Pit of Depression
- How to Grow Through a Season of Loss
- How to Overcome the Agony of Discouragement and Find Hope Again
Question: What has helped you deal with major losses? Please leave a comment below.