Transformation through the Grieving Process
I met a woman who lost her husband over 20 years ago. She talks freely about his life and death, her struggle to heal and how she still has “grief bursts”–those unexpected moments when the grief springs up like a late summer thunderstorm.
She now leads grief groups where she counsels the newly bereaved and helps them to know they are not alone.
She does not waste her pain. She takes her grief and uses it to help others.
Another woman, flashing a perfect smile on her Instagram feed, seems to have it all. But her words reveal an unfathomable heartache: she lost a baby to a congenital heart defect. After her son died, she created an online community where others could voice their grief.
She does not waste her pain. She uses it as a healing salve for the wounded soul.
When we live broken, we live transformed, but only if we allow the worst things in life to change us.
So how do we allow our brokenness to change us so that we do not waste our pain? How do we become transformed by tragedy?
First we recognize some of the ways people respond to pain. Here are three common responses:
The Hurried Griever
These are the people who say, “Just get through it and move on.” Those who rush through their pain miss the benefits of allowing it time to steep. Like tea that is not brewed long enough, rushed grief leaves your life less rich.
When grief and the lessons learned from it steep over time, we begin to understand the depth of our love and loss in more complex ways. We have time to reflect on life, eternity and how we are changed by the struggle.
Sometimes hurried grievers struggle with unresolved feelings later in life—ones that were not dealt with in the early years of grief. But good news: hurried grievers can learn these lost lessons by taking the time to deal with their grief–even if it’s years later.
The Angry Griever
Although anger is part of the grieving process, some people hang on to their feelings, letting it breed blame or bitterness.
The Old Testament character Naomi is an example of this. After losing two sons and her husband, she renames herself “Mara,” meaning bitter.
What Naomi doesn’t realize is that God is rewriting her story through her daughter-in-law Ruth. When Ruth eventually marries Boaz, Naomi is given a secure future. What Naomi counts as loss, God uses to restore her life. Her bitterness turns to joy. Her life is not ruined, but is redeemed.
The Transformed Griever
Though everyone struggles through grief, some people allow it to transform their hearts so that they can experience greater understanding and more compassion.
They work through the hard emotions of anger, bitterness, guilt, and regret until it turns to forgiveness, acceptance, grace, and compassion.
They slog through the mud of deep sorrow. They continually lay their grief before the Lord, knowing he can make something beautiful come out of dust and ashes. It’s a season of lament, of crying out to the Lord and trusting that afterwards, their cries will end in praise.
It may seem obvious what choice of the three is best, but here’s the rub: The first two are the “easy” choices.
The last one—the transformed griever–is the most difficult because you have to sit in your pain, face it head on and then fall into the Father’s arms because you can not bear it alone.
He is mighty to save when you cannot save yourself.
Your Spiritual Transformation
To suffer means to “bear under.” In order to bear under the weight of grief, it means we must hold the grief—letting it crush us and make us into something new. When we are crushed, two things transform us.
1. Christ changes us as we learn to fully depend on Him.
In our brokenness, we let Him take the weight of the grief.
We lean on his mercy and grace.
We turn in desperation to the only one who can crush death and suffering and we hold tight to the hope of eternity.
2. Pain and suffering make us more like Him.
This transformation resembles the process that an olive goes through in order to become oil. Crushed by a massively heavy stone so that the oil is pressed out of the olive, the crushing weight of our grief changes us into a different person.
We are transformed by the weight of suffering–we learn to have hope in the dark night, joy when life is bleak, and perseverance when we want to give up.
We learn to love Christ more deeply because in the end, Christ is all we have. In this crushing, we become more like Him.
The price of this transformation is great—often costing us the things that are precious and dear to us.
But in the process, we gain a deeper love for Christ and his Kingdom. Out of great brokenness, we are made new.
We begin to see:
Our pain is not wasted.