It was around 4pm on a Monday.
My friend sent me a text that a mutual acquaintance of ours had just passed on. From suicide, to be exact.
Is it even possible to grieve over someone you barely knew?
As I spent the next few days trying to process this, more bad news came my way.
This time it was 4pm, again, on Thursday, in that same week.
The sudden phone call was from my mum, which was strange, because she never called me at work unless it was an emergency.
“Your uncle just passed away. He’s gone.”
As her voice struggled to remain calm on the other end, my mind drew a blank.
I realised in that moment that grief is all the same. While it can manifest differently and take on different intensities, it is all still the same thing. Grief is … Grief.
The question that lingered over my head then was: Now how?
From a completely logical and human perspective, both of them had left way “before their time”. That friend was in her twenties, just like me and my peers. My uncle was months shy of walking his own daughter – my cousin – down the wedding aisle.
I spent that entire week going through a myriad of emotions. Initially I tried to coerce myself out of what I was feeling, to go on “business as usual”. But the more I tried to pack my emotions into the closet, the more out-of-control I found my emotions to be.
I was shocked. I was angry! I was shaken deep within me. I was in disbelief; I was confused. I was not okay. My heart was … Broken?
The first step to approaching any kind of grief – no matter how silly or severe it might appear to you – is to acknowledge it. There is no shame in grieving. For some people, it might look like a lot of weeping, for some it might be just silent solitude.
Acknowledging my grief was doing myself justice. I wasn’t going crazy; I wasn’t being a wreck for no reason. As I let myself experience the full measure of the sting of my grief, that was when the room for healing opened up.
TALK ABOUT IT
But that being said, our grief, when not handled with properly, can potentially be an agent that isolates us from community. People. Friends. Family. When not managed, it can even walk us into depths of darkness – alone.
Yes, talking about grief to others may be an extremely painful and difficult task, but the body of Christ is called to bear one another’s burdens. People may not fully comprehend the gravity of your situation, but it’s healthy to let community be the safe place for you to ventilate your spirits.
It was difficult for me to bring up my loss to the people around me. I didn’t know where to start, or how to even say it. But once I got it out, the people around me rallied together around me and watched out for me. That made things easier.
REST ON IT
In times of grieving and mourning, it can be really exhausting. Sometimes you think you’re over it, only to find it returning without warning. Sometimes it comes and goes like a wave, sometimes it looms over you like a persistent fog.
Throughout that emotionally difficult week I also found myself going through an extremely packed schedule – work events, ministry meetings, gatherings with friends whom I hadn’t met in months … And even a wedding.
Shuttling to and fro from one appointment to another while trying to keep my emotions under control in front of people took a real toll on me. Not only was I physically tired – my mind was all over the place too.
Eventually I realised that I needed some time of quiet and solitude at home and I did just that.
It is okay to disengage from the world around us and go to rest. Take time to nurse the pain, and find peace in disconnecting with the daily hubbub and connecting with God.
Personally, I’ve found that it is easiest to process my grief when I surrender it fully. It is in surrender that I find that I have no use for answers.
Surrendering my grief, in the midst of all the tears and confusion, means that I can trust God with it and all that other stuff that comes along with it. Surrender means exchanging my situation for God Himself. Surrender turns my what-ifs into even-ifs.
That even if it hurts, I will still choose Him. He is still good, He is still sovereign, and He will carry me through.
That is what we must do in the midst of our pain. And in the midst of the aching pain felt deep within me, that was what I did.