On August 30, 2023 we are encouraged to participate in the tenth annual National Grief Awareness Day. Angie Cartwright founded this movement in 2014 with the hope to foster open communication on loss and bereavement and better inform everyone on the facts about grief. This year’s focus is raising awareness of the countless ways individuals cope with loss. We can all get involved by remembering and supporting people we know who are grieving.
Putting a spotlight on grief may seem like a strange thing to some people. Grief is a fundamental human experience. The dictionary defines grief as keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret. Grief is a natural expression to loss in your life that creates a void. It is an outpouring of painful, sorrowful emotion at the loss or impending loss of someone with deep meaning and connection to you.
The Bible tells us a lot about grief. God created grief as one of our emotions. He created us with three parts—mind, body, and soul. Each part is unique and different, yet each part affects and influences the others. While mind, body, and soul each have different functions, because they are all part of what makes us whole, they each impact one another. Grief unleashes its force on our minds and souls. This can then impact our physical bodies. Grief must be recognized and cared about because its potential to bring harm is very real.
The main way I cope with loss is through my faith in God. This is both the driving force and the unshakable and safe foundation many people turn to when life unfolds the scariest and most heart shattering events that turn our lives upside down and inside out. Many people choose to counter the negative affects of grief and sorrow by giving it over to God. God will take the harm and use it for good. He will strengthen us, build our faith, and use the circumstances and lessons we learn to help bring healing and hope to others. He will use it to transform our hearts to be more compassionate and caring for others in pain.
As widows, we all know how on occasion, it’s hard to feel much of anything. Grief has a way of pressing in so hard on our hearts they barely have enough room to beat. We feel that weight on our chest and just breathing takes deliberate action. Sometimes we feel backed into a corner of apathy and despondency, and even if it is a natural response, we don’t want to be there anymore. The struggle is real. The ramifications of the death of someone we dearly love not only claims the life of that person… it can torment and torture the living heart of us.
THE WIDOW AT NAIN
When I was thinking about the widow at Nain from the Gospel of Luke, I took time to read the commentary. I learned the word “Nain” means pleasant. Our Lord Jesus was about to enter the gate of a city known as pleasant when a parade of people dealing with death came out. At this gate where life and death meet, because of the love and compassion of Jesus, life wins, and death is defeated. Here is the widow’s story.
Shortly afterward, Jesus left on a journey to the village of Nain, with a massive crowd of people following Him, and His disciples. As He approached the village, He met a multitude of people in a funeral procession, who were mourning as they carried the body of a young man to the cemetery. The boy was His mother’s only son, and she was a widow. When the Lord saw the grieving mother, His heart broke for her. With great tenderness He said to her, “Please don’t cry.” Then He stepped up to the coffin and touched it. When the pallbearers came to a halt, Jesus spoke directly to the corpse, “Young man, I say to you, arise and live!”
Immediately, the young man moved, sat up, and spoke to those nearby. Jesus presented the son to his mother, alive! A tremendous sense of holy mystery swept over the crowd. They shouted praises to God, saying, “God himself has blessed us by visiting His people! A great prophet has appeared among us!”
Luke 7:11-16 TPT
Can you imagine the grief and anguish this widow must have been feeling? Her husband was gone. All she had left was her only son. Then her son dies as well. It must have been devastating to find herself suddenly left all alone in the world with no means of support.
When Jesus saw the funeral procession, He was moved with compassion. The Greek word, splanchnizomai, means the deepest level of compassion. In fact, there is no greater word in the Greek language to describe the very depth of emotion Jesus felt for this widow. It describes such an intense response Jesus physically fully identified with her grief and carried her sorrow. The tenderness of His voice when He said, “Please don’t cry” must have touched every heart that heard Him.
Jesus only extended true compassion. He did not bring confusion or any condemnation. He modeled how we can respond and feel for those we encounter who are caught in the grip of grief. We can allow ourselves to identify with their pain and choose to bring hope and healing, support and understanding.
Celebrate with those who celebrate, and weep with those who grieve. Romans 12: 15
My faith is anchored in belief in a real living God. He created the world and every person living in it. He is bigger than any problem I might have, has answers to every question, and is ready, willing and simply waiting for me to bring my cares to Him. My trust in the person of who God is, what He can do, what He has done, and what He will do is what holds my soul secure. This mighty anchor does not break under pressure. It is not made by humans. Almighty God is not weak today and strong tomorrow. He is sure and steadfast. I can trust Him. Our God is a fortress of strength who has never been shaken, cannot be shaken, and will never be shaken.
Billy Graham on grief:
“The death of someone we love is still painful to us, even as Christians–not because we fear for them, but because of the empty place they leave behind in our hearts.
Suffering in the wake of deep loss is normal and expected. We can’t possibly understand the extent of its impact until we experience it. Jesus longs to be with us in our pain. His compassion is the same for us as it was for the widow in Nain. He is seated at the right hand of the Father right now. He sympathizes with us in our weakness and understands our pain. He is ready to breathe new life into our situation and help us find our way to a purpose filled future.
The Bible and having a personal relationship with Jesus gives us a rich foundational hope to stand firmly in the midst of all the dreadful currents of pain and suffering we face here on earth. This bedrock of truth creates a cushioned place where even our tears of overwhelming, breath-robbing, and life halting sorrow can safely land. God is greater than the most massive, gigantic, overwhelming, or life shattering wave engulfing us might be.
God holds our past, present, and our future in His all powerful and loving hands. His will is perfect. His goodness is complete. His wisdom is unsearchable. His strength is limitless and yet, His heart toward His suffering ones is inexhaustibly tender and kind. Even when we can’t see His grace through the fog of our greatest struggles, our most tragic losses, and our unexpected disappointments, He promised us He is right here with us. God’s deep compassion and grace carries the most disheveled, disheartened, and seemingly destroyed widow through every step to healing, even when our tears are mixed with hints of distrust and unbelief. He understands. He gives us new mercies every morning.
The important thing to remember is even when we are tasked to face seasons of disquieting grief and what feels like insurmountable struggles, we never have to walk alone. The brilliance of God’s glorious grace is always there, even through the darkest nights of our soul. Sometimes we have difficulty seeing it, but all we need to do is call on Him and He will answer.
The process of grief takes the survivor on a search to acquire new experiences to live a healthy and full life in the new world without the loved one’s physical presence. Grief helps a person to solve yet again how the world works, requiring adoption of new ways of being present in the world. They learn to reinvest in life moving forward to compensate and adapt for their loved one’s absence.
“Are you in pain, Frodo?’ said Gandalf quietly as he rode by Frodo’s side.
‘Well, yes I am,’ said Frodo. ‘It is my shoulder. The wound aches, and the memory of darkness is heavy on me. It was a year ago today.’
‘Alas! there are some wounds that cannot be wholly cured,’ said Gandalf.
‘I fear it may be so with mine,’ said Frodo. ‘There is no real going back. Though I may come to the Shire, it will not seem the same; for I shall not be the same. I am wounded with knife, sting, and tooth, and a long burden. Where shall I find rest?’
Gandalf did not answer.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
So why do we want to acknowledge National Grief Awareness Day? It’s quite simple. Some wounds never fully heal. Some events so change the trajectory of our lives, we need others to step in alongside us and help steer us to a safe place to reset the story of our future. We are made to be in relationship with others. We need each other to celebrate our joys and accomplishments. We need each other to support us in sorrow and grief.
Who around you needs a helping hand to navigate the madhouse of debilitating grief? Who can you call and tell you are thinking about them? Who could use a lunch out without strings attached? Who would benefit from a hug or a listening ear? Who needs reassurance they are still important in your life?
Please take this awareness and choose to be a warrior to bring help and make a difference. Spread the light of love and change lives today… and then keep this mission on your mind and make it part of your lifestyle. We can help bring healing and hope to our loved ones suffering with grief. We know it’s an ongoing mission. It gets easier after a while, but grief has a nasty habit of showing up at the most importune moments. Choose to be patient and supportive. We will all be better, and life will be brighter. God bless you.