Fall is such a wondrous season when the world becomes filled with a tapestry of colors. It is almost as if God has touched the earth with his paintbrush and with each stroke vividly shown a vast array of hues that permeate the landscape on a clear autumn day. As a part of all of the beauty is the wind-spun dancing of the leaves as they fall from their branches and the hilarious joy that children have in jumping on those colorful mountains of leaves. There is also the never-ending task of raking and bagging the leaves as they have descended to the ground. The leaves change color in the process of dying and cascading off of the trees, as fall is readying itself for winter. The process of life, we could say.
Even the radiant beauty of fall, cannot make it my favorite season. Too much has happened in the months of October and November to make it so. Too much pain. Too many losses. Both of my parents died in October. Kip’s father and my grandson died in November. So, when these months approach, I just want them to hurry on by. Can you relate?
Many of you have gone through losses. Perhaps it was the loss of a loved one through death. Possibly it was the loss of a child through miscarriage. Maybe it was a loss of a marriage through divorce. Possibly it was the loss of a relationship through a break-up. Maybe it was the loss of a beloved pet. Perhaps it was the loss of a best friend through a betrayal. Possibly it was the loss of wanting to have children and not being able to have them.
No matter what the loss was, grief can be all-consuming. Parents and children alike can have grief. Parents need to be aware that children often grieve differently than their parents, and that parents need to help their kids through their grief as they are dealing with their own. Children experience grief differently determined by their age. T. Suzanne Eller states that:
- 0-3 year olds– Children under age 3 do not understand death, but they do understand the concept of “here” and “not here”. Children at this age need to know that they will be cared for and safe.
- 4-7 years olds– Children this age often become verbal asking where the person went and why. They may believe death is temporary and that the person will return. Children this age may become clingy, throw tantrums. Kids need time to figure out how to express their grief in a positive manner. Give them an opportunity to express their grief creatively by making a book of photos where they can write words and talk about the person.
- 8-12 year olds– Children this age often personalize the death of a loved one. It is important to let the child know that the loved one didn’t die because of the child’s lack of attention or that it was the child’s fault. Parents can help the child celebrate the life of the loved one by planting a flower or a tree in their yard in memory of the person.
- Teens–When a teen loses someone he loves, he often assumes the adult role. Explain that it’s o.k. to not know the right words, to feel lots of different emotions and to mourn his changing world. Make sure he knows that you are available when he is ready to talk. The first few days and holidays are difficult for teens. Give teens a video camera to video tape people’s favorite memory of the loved one. Start a new tradition during the holidays that honors the loved one.
Going through the stages of grief can be a tricky thing. People move through these stages in their own time and when they are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually ready. No one can prompt them and rush them through one stage to the next. There is so much about grief that we do not understand. We many times don’t know what to say or do when someone has had a loss, because we know that we can’t fix it or change the circumstances. So often we say nothing and act like nothing happened. Sometimes we talk about our own grief, or we try to talk and say that things will get better. Well, none of the above comments work. By saying nothing, the person experiencing loss feels that we don’t care. When we talk about our grief, that has nothing to do with the other person’s own sorrow. By saying you will soon feel better, the grieving person can’t imagine that for a minute in the melancholy state that they are in.
The best response is: “I am so sorry for your loss.” or “I love you.” or “Let me call you later to see if there is anything that I can do to help you.” Lots of times at the funeral the grieving person is in the stage of shock. The person is just trying to make it through the services and she can’t take in much at that time. Calling or going by later when she is in a different state of mind is helpful. Then she is able to think more clearly and can more accurately tell you what she may need. Some people do close down for a period of time after a death. That is natural. What is needed is for friends to keep in touch with them.
There are so many different kinds of loss that affect us in our lives. I will mention a few of them:
- loss of a loved one
- loss of a marriage
- loss of a relationship
- loss of a friendship
- loss of a job
- loss of a child when he or she leaves the home- “empty-nest”
- loss of a child when he or she gets married
- loss of parents
- loss of parents to dementia and altzheimers- where you lose them before they have passed away
- loss of health
- loss of abilities- can’t do what you once were able to do
- loss of control and power in your life
- loss of roles that you have had in your life
- loss of a dream that you had
- loss of expectations you had for your life, or in a relationship, or in your family, or in a job
I could continue on and on. The losses could pile up like suitcases stacked high upon your backs, until you were so weighted down, that you collapsed in a heap, weeping on the ground. Losses do that to us, don’t they? They literally suck the life and energy out of us, until we feel that there is nothing left; until we are an empty shell of a person, bereft of emotion and feeling as if we are the “walking dead”.
When we are at this point we ask all of the wrong questions, such as the “Why” questions, which never have answers that we will receive on this earth. We often look to the past for answers, and many times end up piling guilt and shame upon grief, which is not a pretty picture at all.
In the Bible in Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 God tells us that “There us a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die…..a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Just like the seasons change and the fall turns into winter and then new life emerges in the spring; so do our lives flow. Unfortunately for us, we do not get to choose the time that we are born or the time that we die. That time is in God’s hands. He is the only one who knows the time and day that we each will depart from this world.
You know in His original plan when God first created Adam and Eve, they were perfect and all of creation was perfect, until it was marred by the original sin in the Garden of Eden. Since that time all of creation has been affected by sin; not just the sins that each of us commit ourselves, but the sins that have been committed throughout the world since the beginning of time. They have all affected creation. Paul says it in Romans 8:22 when he states, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” I believe that he was speaking of creation groaning under the oppression of sin. My rheumatoid arthritis has been genetically passed down to me, and my husband’s heart issues have been genetically passed down to him. Our genetic codes have been affected by sin. I believe that cancer, and diabetes and the allergies, autism, ADHD, and I could go on and on, are all the effects of sin on God’s original creation.
So, you may ask, what does that have to do with my own grief and my own losses? Everything! Romans 8:28 tells us ” And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purposes.” Death and grief are a part of life on this earth. That is a fact. I can cherish the memories of my loved one and honor that person’s life in my life and in the life of my family. I can also thank God for the loved one’s life and for how that person made a difference in my life and the lives of others. I can also know without a shadow of a doubt that God will bring something good out of the tragedy of death, grief, and loss, for that is His promise in Romans 8:28.
Then we have to ask the right questions. Questions such as:
“Who is with me when I am experiencing grief and loss in my life?” GOD
Even Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died. He is weeping along with us in our grief. I can imagine that the angels are shedding tears, as well.
“Where can I go to get help when I am grieving?” To my church, to family and friends who care for me
“What can I do help me when I am struggling?” Read my Bible, pray, listen to music, call a friend,
We can have the assurance that is told us in Romans 8:35-39 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…No in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I have some additional resources that I hope that you will find helpful:
I know that this was a difficult topic this week, yet I felt led by the Lord to address the issues of grief and loss. My prayers are with any of you who are grieving.
May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.