My Struggle with Grief and Hope for Joy
I had many ideas for my next blog post. Some simple, others more complex. They will all still come, but I felt that something else needed to be written first. I hummed and I hawed, and ultimately kept procrastinating. You see, what I felt called to write, what I felt I should write, isn’t really a pleasant topic. It’s more of raw emotional honesty, revealing feelings that are still only being processed. It’s difficult to write on those topics and in the world of social media, a world riddled with pseudo perfection, it’s easy to question whether anyone would read about those bad days, want to hear about struggle and grief. Perhaps though, that’s exactly why it’s important to share these feelings. To show that it’s okay to have bad days when dealing with fresh grief, to show that there is more to coping than self-help books and face masks. That at times all we can do is cry silently and plead with God for help, to feel so emotionally drained that even getting up is daunting task. To show that despite all this ugliness, there is joy, there is still truth, and there is still hope. But to show that hope, I need to be honest.
Be Honest with Yourself
I have been having a hard time since losing my Dad. I have been having a hard time in other areas, but have learned to grasp those things and hand them over to God (on those I will save for another time, there more wrapped into my testimony and past, than they are to the present moment). I know I need to hand over grief to God as well, but in a different way. These emotions need to be felt, but felt in the context of a Saviour first. So let’s start from the beginning.
When facing the terminal illness of a loved one, you become familiar with grief long before the loss occurs. There’s grief over the future you saw and had dreamed about and grief over the person you once knew slowly disappearing. There’s anger, confusion, and frustration, which leaves you questioning why God would ever allow for such a thing. I didn’t blame God for my Dad’s cancer, but I questioned why He didn’t heal him.
My Dad and I were much the same, I think we both had hope beyond hope that he’d get better, even if deep down we knew the opposite was true. I always considered myself a pessimist, but I guess I inherited my Dad’s optimism after all. However, I no longer feel cheated or burned by false hope. There was a time I did, a brief lapse, a flawed human mind grasping at straws in contrast to the infinite mind of a divine God and His omniscient vision.
I can see that this shared optimism and hope, made the final visits with my Dad, though tinged with hidden sorrow, more sweet. We still joked around like we always did, poking flaws and making jabs. There was still talks of the future, talks of the past, and a pure joy in the present for the time we had together. I think that if one or both of us had given into the sorrow that laced our innermost thoughts, these visits would have been a lot harder. I know that he had bad days too, just as I had my own. I’ve heard that from him and from others, but for the most part, people remember his hope.
A Hard, but Needed Truth
There is also an important thing that needs to be spoken, it’s a hard truth that many probably don’t want to hear, but it needs to be said nonetheless:
“13 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7: 13-14).
That not everyone will be saved. I think that a lot of churches and a lot of people have gotten it into their heads that there is no Hell and that we don’t actually have to change our sinful ways to get into Heaven. No where in the Bible does it say that thinking yourself a good person or assuming that God’s mercy means continuing on in our sins without repentance or remorse. The only way we can actually receive salvation is by asking Christ into our lives, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6); and repenting of our old ways, dying to the old self and putting on the new,
“22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4: 22-24).
This is where joy can come into grief, because my Dad did give his life to Christ and there were changes in his life, though he was limited at the time, that were noticed by others, of which I am still hearing about today. I have a joyful peace in my heart, knowing that one day I will see him again.
Be Honest with Others
Yes, I feel like a piece of my heart is missing, but the hope of seeing my Dad again in Paradise, the hope and trust in a mutual Saviour, holds my heart together, despite that missing piece. Yes, I am having a hard time. I stay home more often than not, making excuses to avoid social engagements, and eat licorice for dinner instead of balanced macros. Yes, there are mornings where I wake up with my eyes blinded by dried tears; there are nights I beg to have my Dad back; and days where the memories are too much to bare. Yet, with all of these ugly and broken moments, all I can do is respond in prayer, and reach out and stop lying when people ask ‘how are you doing?’.
You see, it’s easy to say that I am alright, rather than confess that my heart simply hurts, and then later question why no one is helping. It was my husband who pointed out this flawed way of thinking, ‘how can you expect anyone to help, if you tell them that you’re okay when they ask?’ He didn’t mean to go out and pity party my way across town, but to simply be honest to those I trust and know care about me. To reach out and go out when I feel the weight of grief too much to bare. To pray to be carried and to ask for prayer when my words fail and I can only sit with God in silence.
Yet, despite these hard days, there are many good days. Days where the memories of my Dad crack laughter in a quiet room or a smile at the thought. My Dad and the person he raised me to be will always be in my heart, and though it hurts now, this isn’t the end, this isn’t even the beginning. It’s life and only a prequel to the eternity God has prepared for us.
It’s Important to Write About Grief
Some of you reading may wonder why bother to write this, when I am clearly still processing his death. But, I think that’s exactly why it needs to be shared. You can read about the stages of grief or the writings of those who have endured and are now surviving through the loss; functioning, yet changed. But, these writings, though good in their own time, can’t really speak to you when grief is fresh and raw, a gaping wound, that no human made creation can ever hope to heal. This is why we need God, we need a relationship with His Son, and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, to pick up our hurting hearts and offer it to Him as is, simply asking Him to hold us in our pain. Jesus knows what it is like to suffer, to ask if there is another way, and to trust God that His way is best, and to walk in humble obedience towards whatever God calls us to do. For me, that’s continuing to Him, even when I don’t understand why I had to lose my Dad or why he had to suffer the way he did. To have faith and hope in the promise of eternal life. To feel peace, knowing that my Dad is now living in perfect love with our Lord, and really, isn’t that what really matters? Not the pain or the sorrow, not even the loss, but a pure relationship with the one who gave us life.
There will be more hard days, but there will also be good ones. There will be times where I can’t even say the words that can explain the depth of my hurting, but the Lord knows my heart and will carry me through. I cannot bare this walk alone, none of us ever can. Our friends and family can help, but they can never shoulder our grief in their humanity, nor is it our right to ask them to carry a burden they were never meant to bare, a burden they would ultimately fail to carry. Only God can do that, only Jesus can save us and His gift of salvation and support are freely given, we need only ask.
The Hope for Joy
Eventually I will likely write about the stages of grief I experienced, coping methods that helped, gratitude for those who tried to take some of my load, and never ending glory to the Lord for getting me through. There will be a time, when life won’t feel quite so hard, there will still be an emptiness where my Dad once stood, but life will still go on, that emptiness will be felt and endured, and there will be joy in it. This is the hope we are meant to have, that despite the heartbreak in this world, there is eternal life waiting for us to commit to and accept. There is a God who loves us more than we can ever know, just waiting for us to call His name. I’m not saying any of this is easy, but the rewards of this hard walk are vastly greater than we can ever imagine. And isn’t that hope filled joy and joyful peace worth it? I think it is and likely deep down, you do too.
Reach out to God, “Father, I know that I have sinned and fallen short of your glory, but please forgive me. Jesus come into my life, fill me with your Holy Spirit. Help me to cast away my old self and be made new, living only for you, hoping only in you. Grant me that peace beyond all understanding and bless me with the joy that transcends all circumstances. I am unsure of where to start and how to go about this walk, but give me the wisdom I need to walk it, the aid of those best sent to help, and your Spirit to ever guide me. In Jesus’s name, Amen.”
He doesn’t want us to give up or cast ourselves away. He simply wants us to have faith and obey. To live for Him, preparing our hearts every day for His return. For there is nothing in this world greater than our Saviour, so let Him be your hope and live the life He always called you to live.
If struggling with grief, reach out to those who care. Be it a friend or family member, a mentor or a therapist. Human life was meant to be lived in communion and we are meant to help others through difficult times, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). There are many services out there meant to help us process grief and trauma, we were never meant to go it alone. Most importantly, never forget to pray, God will help us through and will send someone to help. I have experienced this myself, when friends from my church reach out just as I feel myself self-isolating. God knows my bad habits and weaknesses, but thankfully won’t let me get away with it. He also gave me a supportive and caring husband, who is blessed with the gift of sincere honesty; even if honest words are hard to hear at times, but it is those hard words that can bring us back to reality. So reach out, count your blessings, and choose life, choose God’s truth, and live freely in the joy that you were meant to live in.