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Coping With Grief

Millions of times each day, humans are faced with grief from the loss of someone very close. For many, the experience begins with a walk from a hospital room, where the death of a loved one had just been witnessed, to a near-empty parking lot late at night. It's perhaps the loneliest walk that one can ever make, until returning home and walking into an empty house, where so much life, and so many memories, happened. Suddenly, it's a very different place, just a house rather than a home, and it will never be the same again.

A Peaceful Sleep The fact that grief is a very natural, and healthy response (it would seem that there would be something wrong with someone who did not experience grief at the loss of a loved one) doesn't make it any easier. It's a raw emotion that only time can, and will, heal. Until then, the support and companionship of family and friends helps tremendously, as can some of the support groups, composed of people who have "been there," that are now available in many communities (some are even on the Internet for those who don't have one locally).

Grief is a very personal experience, one that is not shared with the one being grieved for, since they are now peacefully asleep, absolutely free of all worry and pain. An important point to keep in mind for the survivor is that while the deceased person would certainly expect the survivor to grieve (they would probably be very disappointed in the survivor if they didn't), they wouldn't want the survivor to be completely devastated by grief either. Life must go on, and no one would be more emphatic about making that point to a grieving person, if they could, than someone who has died. Death happens, but it must not be allowed to win.

No one is immune from grief. The followers of Jesus Christ experienced it when He was killed, and Jesus Himself experienced it frequently during His own lifetime, including when John The Baptist was beheaded, and when Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, died:

"Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead ... Then Mary, when she came where Jesus was and saw Him, fell at His feet, saying to Him, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; and He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to Him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus wept. So the Jews said, "See how He loved him!" (John 11:14,32-36 RSV)

"Jesus knew that they wanted to ask Him; so He said to them, "Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, 'A little while, and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me'? Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. (John 16:19-20 RSV)

As difficult as it is, grief is a much easier experience for those who believe in God than it is for atheists who have nothing. With God, there is the sure knowledge that the dead will rise again, and, based on the decision that they have made for themselves, they will have the opportunity for eternal life - their ultimate fate is in their own hands. The first death isn't the end, it's just the intermission.

"They came to life, and reigned with Christ a thousand years ... This is the first resurrection." (Revelation 20:4-5 RSV)

"The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended." (Revelation 20:5 RSV)

"Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it; from His presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; and if any one's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:11-15 RSV)

Fact Finder: What happens to the dead?
See What Happens When You Die?


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