Working Through Grief
Grief is a strange and uncomfortable thing to go through, no matter how familiar it may be. I liken it to a boat in a storm. No matter how seasoned a sailor you are, there’s always a big wave that can rock the boat. We never expect it. No one can. When it hits, it’s all consuming.
Jesus grieved many things while on this earth. He grieved the misunderstandings, ignorance, and defiance of people’s hearts. He grieved the sin that had ruined so much of His perfect creation. He grieved the loss of friend’s lives. He grieved His own death.
Though grief is extremely difficult to endure, we can have the assurance that the Lord knows grief well and is with us through it. He knows that it is part of living in a sin-filled world. Death is inevitable for all of creation.
Grief crept up on us a week ago Friday. It was a beautiful day. It was relaxing and filled with wonderful memories. Most of it was just Declan (our furry baby) and I hanging out. I took him on a nice drive, treated him to some Timbits (his favourite), and ran some errands for a surprise birthday lunch Michael and I planned for his mom. We met his parents at the park and enjoyed some time together.
Michael had to work late that night. Declan and I had come back from a walk to check the something in the oven. I thought I’d take him for another five-minute walk since I had to cut it shorter than normal. We went back outside and he laid on the front lawn and wouldn’t move. I found it odd. He normally did that when he had something stuck in his paw or fur. But I didn’t see evidence of either. So, I took his leash off and headed back to the door. He finally got up and came with me.
I was in the kitchen. Declan was lying on the floor and then headed downstairs. The next thing I heard was him retching. I ran downstairs. He was heavily panting, but hadn’t actually been sick. I thought he might be overheated or was choking. Michael came home a few minutes later and we called the emergency vet since it was after hours. Unfortunately, the only one available was twenty-five minutes away.
We got Declan in the back of the van. He came up and sat down in the passenger seat and turned to look at me. Michael ran to grab the address of the clinic then hopped in the back seat, in case Declan needed him.
I started driving, but couldn’t help the tears and sobs from coming. I made it a couple blocks away when Michael asked me to pull over. I quickly turned into a parking lot and stopped the car. Michael flew out of the back seat and opened the passenger door and put his arms around Declan. I just put the car in park and reached over as our sweet boy fell into our arms and was gone.
Within a half hour, my perfect day was now consumed with death. I’ve been to funerals and faced death with people and animals countless times. But I had never been present when something has taken its last breath. The quickness of everything left us shocked and traumatized.
We drove to the vet anyways, hoping that he was unconscious, though we both knew he was already gone. We found out that he had either an ulcer, tumour, or vessel that had ruptured. The vet reassured us that there’s typically no signs beforehand and it happens quick. There would’ve been nothing they could do anyways.
When the shock of everything wore off, we saw the Lord’s care and provision through it all. Declan lived a great life. He was so loved. Declan passed with Michael and I both there, holding him in our arms, and in the comfort of knowing how loved he was.
I know for people who don’t have animals, our grief and reactions will be hard for you to understand, and that’s okay. It is difficult to show compassion for something that you haven’t experienced before. We even said that after Declan died. We’ve had friends and family lose pets before. We felt bad for them and offered our condolences, but didn’t really understand. Now we look back and we feel deeply for them. I get that human loss is far greater, but grief is still grief regardless.
In a way, our grief is not for ourselves. It is providing an understanding to help others who are grieving or will suffer also. It is a way to bring community closer together.
The Israelites did this well. Even if they didn’t know the person closely, a whole community would come together. They would sit and weep with the one who had lost someone. They even had people who were considered professional wailers. They would be hired to come and lament the loss of someone’s family so that person wasn’t alone.
In the book of John, chapter 11, Martha and Mary’s brother Lazarus died. Martha ran out to meet Jesus when she heard He was coming. After talking with Him, she ran back and told her sister Mary that He had come.
“As soon as she heard this, she got up quickly and went to Him. Jesus had not yet come into the village but was still in the place where Martha had met Him. The Jews who were with her in the house consoling her saw that Mary got up quickly and went out. So they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to cry there.” (John 11:29-31).
A whole community was sitting in Mary and Martha’s house consoling and weeping with them.
The book of Job is known for catastrophic grief. Though his friends weren’t exactly helpful and supportive, they did spend the first seven days sitting in silence and grieving with Job.
“When they looked from a distance, they could barely recognize him. They wept aloud, and each man tore his robe and threw dust into the air and on his head. Then they sat on the ground with him seven days and nights, but no one spoke a word to him because they saw that his suffering was very intense.” (Job 2:12-13)
Though the symptoms and patterns of grief are typical, we all grieve in different ways. Some are silent. Some weep loudly. Some prefer to fill their days looking at pictures and videos. Others want to clean everything up and remove all visible remembrance. None of those are wrong. We all need to do what helps us move past the initial shock and pain.
One thing I have learned though, is the importance to sit in the grief for a time. As I studied through the book of Genesis, I realized that Abraham’s family sat in their grief before they moved on.
When Jacob/Israel died, “the Egyptians mourned for him 70 days” (Genesis 50:3). After Jacob was embalmed, Joseph and his brothers’ families carried his body back to Canaan to bury him with his fathers. The family “lamented and wept loudly, and Joseph mourned seven days for his father.” (Genesis 50:10)
I believe we need to actually take time to embrace the grief and allow ourselves to feel the sorrow of our loss. Then we can move forward in a healthier way. We don’t carry as much of the pain with us through life. We will always miss the person that has passed and feel a measure of sadness, but it won’t consume or cripple us. Depending on how close the person was to you will depend on how much time it takes to properly grieve.
The Lord wants us to live our lives on purpose and with a Kingdom bound perspective. Our eyes, souls, and spirits are to look to Him in all circumstances. If we can focus on the hope and joy of what’s to come, then we can find peace and purpose in the midst of our sorrow.
Allow Jesus to be the healing balm to your broken heart. Look for His fingerprints in your grief and the ways that He is ministering to you. He always does.
I appreciate the time you gave me this past week to grieve our “furry” baby boy. Without having children, he became like a child to us. We took some needed time to sit in the grief and memories of Declan. Now we are able to focus on our lives again and move forward. Our hearts are still missing him. As I write this, I notice how quiet the house is and I how much I miss his company. But I know that we are okay and the Lord will continue to love on and direct us to our next steps for Him.
Thank you for your prayers and support. We have felt them and appreciate the blessing of the amazing community we have around us. It’s good to be back.