4 Crucial Sources of Comfort During the Grieving Process
Dear Selfless Esteem,
I’ve been grieving the death of a loved one for years. I feel comforted at church because of my belief that we will be together in Heaven, but other than that, I don’t feel much better. I understand the grieving process lasts a lifetime, but I thought I would have healed a little bit by now. When will the pain decrease?
Stuck in Bereavement
Dear Stuck in Bereavement,
I’m so sorry for your loss. As you mentioned, there is the hope of Heaven (John 14:2), but in the meantime, the grieving process is so painful. 💔
Before I answer your question, I’d like to address safety. Sometimes people experiencing bereavement have suicidal thoughts. If you are having suicidal thoughts, call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. There’s also a chat feature at Lifeline Chat : Lifeline (suicidepreventionlifeline.org) Of course in imminent danger, call 911. For other countries, please see this list of suicide crisis lines.
The Length of the Grieving Process
You asked when the pain of the grieving process will decrease. The answer to that is as numerous as there are individuals in the world because each person is unique, and every circumstance is different. Furthermore, there is a neurological reaction to grief as described in the next section.
The Physiological Reaction to Grief
Neuroscientist and psychologist Mary-Frances O’Connor, PhD, explains how grief affects the brain in her book, The Grieving Brain. Check out this “Open Mind Event” hosted by the UCLA Friends of Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, in which Dr. O’Connor discusses with Brenda Bursch, PhD, what happens to the brain during the grieving process.
The 4 Tasks of Grief
Another factor in the grieving process is that there are 4 tasks to accomplish during the grieving process, according to J.W. Worden, author of Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy: A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner. These tasks are not necessarily completed in sequential order.
- Accept the loss.
- Process the pain.
- Adjust to life without the deceased.
- Find a place for the deceased in the survivor’s emotional life.
During these four tasks, you may experience complicated grief. For example, maybe you feel stuck in one emotion, such as fear, anger, or helplessness, for a long period of time. Or maybe you blame yourself for not preventing the death. (See Defeat Self-Criticism for general tips on how to decrease self-criticism.)
Therefore, complicated grief and the natural neurological reaction to the death of a loved one make the grieving process even more difficult. Read on for four suggestions to help you cope with it.
4 Sources of Comfort During the Grieving Process
Find a competent therapist, who specializes in grief counseling. (See the posts, “What is Wise Counsel and Good Therapy?” and “Why You Need a Therapist ASAP.”) I also recommend that you join a support group, such as one offered by GriefShare.
2. A Strong Support System
You indicated that you attend church. Would spending time with members of the church be a source of comfort? Regardless, your therapist can help you identify a support system for companionship and comfort.
Take care of yourself during the grieving process by having a physical exam and taking adequate breaks. See 6 Effective Ways to Manage Stress for more tips on self-care. And if you’re having trouble sleeping, consult your physician and then see the post, “The Best Ways To Fall Back Asleep.”
Special occasions and the anniversary of the death can be especially difficult. More than ever, you may compare your grieving process to others’ or to your own expectations. Instead, keep in mind there’s no specific or correct way to grieve. See the post, “The Ultimate Guide to Beating the Holiday Blues.” If there are children involved, see the post, “Coping with the Death of a Loved One.” You may also be interested in the post, “Mending a Broken Heart: 8 Methods to Ease Your Pain.”
4. God’s Comforting Love
Deuteronomy 32:10 NCV says, “He found them in a desert, a windy, empty land. He surrounded them and brought them up, guarding them as those He loved very much.” You may feel as if you’re in a proverbial desert, but God is surrounding you with His love. To read more about His love, see the post, “Why Selfless Esteem Is Better Than Self-Esteem” and “The Real Truth About God.”
Additionally, God shares your pain. For example, Jesus wept with the mourners when Lazarus died, even though He already knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. (See John 11:33-36.) Thus, may the presence of your compassionate and loving Heavenly Father bring you comfort and peace.
I close with a poem by Bishop Charles Henry Brent.
What is dying? A ship sails and I stand watching till she fades on the horizon, and someone at my side says, "She is gone." Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all; she is just as large as when I saw her... the diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not in her, and just at the moment when someone at my side says "she is gone," there are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up the glad shout "there she comes!"...and that is dying
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New King James Version®. Copyright © 1984 by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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