Apr 5, 2024

Grieving the Loss of a Loved One

4 Min Read

Nothing hurts as badly as the loss of a loved one. We were not created or designed to experience separation from those whom we hold dear. Death is a result of sin and is not a part of the original creation order (Rom. 5:12)—little wonder it causes so much pain when we lose someone we love. Our souls cry out to hear the voices of those we love, to feel their arms wrapped around us, to look into their eyes and get lost in their souls once again. The ache is vast, overwhelming, and often indescribable. It’s a raging storm of hurt, fear, sadness, and anger. And if we are not careful, it can overtake us. How can a believer make it through the loss of a loved one well?

First, you must recognize what you are likely to face. There have been many attempts to describe what the process of grieving is like, but I’ve found that the analogy of a storm seems especially helpful. It’s a biblical image—both literally (Jonah 2:3) and figuratively (Ps. 42:7; 88:7). When we naturally talk about being overwhelmed by grief, we often describe it as a feeling of “drowning.” Know, then, that going through the grief of a loved one is like going through a tumultuous sea. There are times when it appears that the breakers are too much, that we will never make it to that foreign shore of acceptance.

Yet this is where Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians is so helpful:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thess. 4:13–14).

Like an unsinkable lifeboat, no matter how tall the waves of grief—though they be like mountains—Christ will not let you drown. He has defeated death (1 Cor. 15:55). And while the ache of longing and loss may seem to stretch forever, Christ guarantees us by His own death that it remains only for a season, for there is coming a day when death and tears shall be no more (Rev. 21:4).

While each Christian’s path is unique, believers are never alone.

If it is true that death is temporary and that Christ has claimed victory, then why does it still hurt so badly? Why is the storm so violent and terrible? In short, it is contrary to the very nature of our souls to be separated in death from those we love. The grief we feel is our soul’s cry when a very part of it seems lost. Even Christ Himself wept when death had taken His friend Lazarus (John 11:35). If Christ, though He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus (John 11:23), wept at the sight of death befalling a loved one, how can we not also weep? How can our souls not also cry out in anguish over the fallen state of the world that we might be separated for a time from those we love?

Now, a storm may have similar features (rain, waves, wind, lightning, and thunder), yet when you push down into the details, each storm is unique. Similarly, how each person grieves will be unique to him and the person he is grieving. For example, how a person grieves a parent will be different from how he grieves a grandparent. And two siblings, no matter how similar, will also grieve those losses differently from each other. Each must traverse the stormy sea at his own pace. Yet the heading is the same: Christ is our compass. We navigate toward a stronger conviction of Christ’s competence, compassion, and comfort. The more one clings to the cross—even if only by the fingernails—the more hope that person will have when the storm finally passes. Paul reminds the Romans that suffering is the factory of hope (Rom. 5:3–5), and there is no suffering quite like the loss of a loved one.

Lastly, while each Christian’s path is unique, believers are never alone. God knows what it is like to have a loved one face death. All of nature seemed to cry out with the Father as Christ faced death on the cross. Luke reports that for three hours while Christ was being crucified, even the light of the sun seemed to fail (Luke 23:44–45). Though the time it takes to make it through the tempest may seem like an eternity, there is a steady hand at the till. A hand with nail marks will see you to the other side (John 20:27). In the interim, He promises never to leave you nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5)—even when you feel alone and forsaken. He is no stranger to the pain you feel. He too has been through this storm, and He knows how to navigate through it.

Grieving the loss of a loved one is a painful process that takes time. The hurt is unavoidable as the soul reckons with their absence. And the agony like a hurricane can seem so powerful that it will destroy us. Yet God’s Word tells us that when we are at our lowest, we call out to Him and His Word for strength (Ps. 119:28). That Word tells us that death is temporary, and Christ is victorious. In the meantime, we can cast ourselves upon Him, and He will lead us, guide us, and even give us rest (Matt. 11:28–30).