Every person faces grief in their life. Some are thrust into the deepest, darkest parts of the valley of the shadow of death as they deal with life-altering losses. Serenity McLean is one of those people. With a background in adult education, she wrote Honest Grief to support others in their own unique journey through the valley. She’s my guest blogger today.
Without going into a lot of detail, I’ve lived through three years of loss. No aspect of my life was left untouched by the devastation. I hardly caught my breath from one major loss when the next hit. After three or four, I found it more difficult to get back up and carry on. After eight or nine, my life was a shambles and I was ready to just stay crumpled in a fetal position.
I’ve heard a lot of advice from well-meaning people about what grief should look like. From my perspective of walking in the deepest parts of the valley of the shadow of death, loss and grief, I wonder if many have become caught up in the happy-at-all-costs craze. In today’s instant gratification society, people expect instant happiness. Just look at the popularity of the song Happy – you know the one, “clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.” Having dealt with a lot of grief, I can honestly say happiness is not the truth. Don’t be fooled into believing a person is failing at life because of an absence of happy while grieving.
The truth is, life is not sunshine and unicorns every day. Most of us will deal with a loss of some significance, and it takes time to come to terms with the pain, anguish, sorrow, regret, remorse, anger, hopelessness, helplessness, and a myriad of very honest and real emotions. In fact, there are more than three dozen challenging emotions common to someone grieving. None of these can be dealt with in three bereavement days. When they all come at once it’s going to take a lot of time and work to address what I call grief stew. There is a road through grief to peace. It just takes time to forge a path through the chaos and turmoil. It simply takes time to seal up the wounds of a broken heart.
So next time your friend experiences the death of their loved one, don’t expect them to find their way out of that valley of the shadow of death quickly. Be gentle with them in their sorrow, because they are being refined. Sorrow is one of the most difficult things we humans can deal with. Be patient with your friend. It takes a long time to complete the journey through that dark and lonely valley. Grief can require months, even years to work through. When your friend emerges from the valley, they will carry deep scars, but they will be exquisitely beautiful. They will be a person of fortitude. They will be someone worth knowing.
One of the best things (and hardest things) you can do for your grieving friend is to stay close. Now more than ever they need a steady true friend. When many disappear because they fear the unhappiness, you can accept this is their journey and remain their friend.
Serenity McLean, the author of five Christian fiction novels, just released Honest Grief, a not-so-ordinary guidebook to surviving the abyss.