"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear", C.S. Lewis once said.
One thing we can be absolutely sure about in life is that we will all experience grief. That’s why, at Mary Andrews College, we understand Pastoral Care is a deeply-needed ministry in our society today.
Sometimes the grief we experience will be in facing the death of a loved one. Someone was taken from us and we were powerless to stop it happening. Part of the intensity of the grief may be that we had so many years of loving that person and now that person is gone. Perhaps it was the tragedy of saying goodbye to someone when we had just begun to love them and now they are gone – as in the death of a child or a new relationship.
Sometimes the grief is layered with all sorts of other losses – the hopes and dreams of life with that person, the experiences we wanted to share, the role that particular relationship gave us in life e.g. as a spouse, parent or grandparent.
Sometimes the grief we experience is about the changes we have to face in our own life. Perhaps it is dealing with a body or mind that no longer functions as it is supposed to, the loss we feel when children grow up and leave home or when it comes time to retire from a job that we loved.
C.S. Lewis was right. Grief often feels like fear because it is frightening to lose experiences or people that we care about. It is frightening to face the unknown future. It is frightening to be confronted with our own death.
Many people try to handle this fear of grief with busyness, trying to distract themselves from the pain. Others want to medicate their pain through drugs, alcohol or inappropriate relationships. All of this is understandable, but none of it helps the problem – in fact it compounds it.
The Gospel of John (Chapter 11) tells us the account of Jesus going to the tomb of his friend Lazarus. He knew that he was going to raise him from the dead and demonstrate the ultimate power he has over death. As Jesus was with Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha, he shared their grief and pain. John tells us that ‘Jesus wept’ and then he brought Lazarus to life.
As Christians we have the promise that Jesus will eventually bring life out of death. He has proven it by conquering death himself. The day will come when there will be no more grief for those who follow Jesus. But in the meantime we experience profound grief and it feels a lot like fear.
Jesus feels our pain. He is there to comfort us and help us process our grief in a healthy way. One of the ways he lets us know he is with us is through sending people who care. People who share his love.
So what can you do if you are experiencing the pain of grief? Or how can you help someone who is going through grief?
We run units that help people understand the process of grief and how to help people who are grieving. We teach how to share the love of a God who weeps with them but also will one day take away the pain. Perhaps you would like to consider taking one of our units on grief or pastoral care to learn how to be equipped to come alongside those who are grieving.