Grieving is Tough Work

Have you ever been the victim of well-intentioned people who, in a time of grief, their hand on your shoulder and say, “Give it time, you’ll get over it.” I know they mean well and I understand that with the passage of time the moments of grief grow farther apart and, in some ways less intense, but how does one “get over” a thirty-four year marriage?

Lois died on September 11 and I am now doing the work of grieving. We were the closest of friends; she was my main advisor, and a trusted confidant. We were lovers and parents, teachers and leaders who shared values and priorities, pain and happiness, failure and success. We were partners who could talk for hours but be just as comfortable being quiet as long as we were together. In the 12,435 days which made up the years of our relationship there were only 67 days when we didn’t at least talk on the phone and those were times when I was in a foreign country where telephone service wasn’t available. Yes, I took the time to calculate the number. It’s part of the work of grieving for me.

How does one “get over” the absence of someone so close? I would be embarrassed to admit how many times the past few weeks I’ve had to stop myself from doing something ridiculous. I will share that numerous times I’ve ended a phone call and started to dial Lois’ phone to tell her about the “crazy call I just had!” Or, I’ve received an email and started up the steps to tell Lois who just sent a note. Sometimes in the middle of the night I wake up wondering why Lois isn’t in bed only to remember . . .

Working through all this is the tough work of grief. It’s not bad work and I’m not depressed or discouraged with the on-going task of grieving but I suspect that it would be easy to ignore the task and hope I “get over it.”

Losing a loved one does not mean the rest of us stop living. Nor does it mean we ignore that someone very significant has died. The tough work of grief drives us to God who guides and comforts us. Only God can begin to fill the void in our lives. Anything else we turn to fails to speak to the grief.

In the middle of sadness and loss there is ample evidence of God. That confirmation comes from the Bible in passages like Psalm 31 and Isaiah 51 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. There are also books that help us in this tough work. I find two especially helpful: “Good Grief” by Granger E. Westburg published by Augsburg, and “A Grace Disguised” by Jerry Sittser published by Zondervan.

God calls us to acknowledge that He is in control of everything – even the death of a loved one. The sadness and loss we experience is part of the fabric of life. Embracing the tough work of grief is part of His plan and, ultimately, its satisfying work.

What about you? How are you coping with the tough work of grieving in your life? Maybe you’ve lost a job or had a marriage end in divorce or experienced the failure of a business. All of us will be touched in some way by sadness and loss because we live in a broken, fallen world where bad things happen to good people. Grief comes to us in many forms and working through that grief is one of life’s most rewarding challenges.

Jesus said, "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for? Matthew 16:23-25 The Message

10 thoughts on “Grieving is Tough Work”

  1. I checked just yesterday to see if there had been any new postings. Thank you for sharing your heart and insights and what the Lord is teaching and you are learning. We all miss Lois is different ways and it’s so good to know that God heals each of our griefs in just the ways that we need it – so individually. We continue to pray for you and the kids in your process.

  2. Thank you, Jim for sharing your grief process. As the tears run down my face from reading this, it helps me a little. And yet I still ask why the Lord chose to take Lois now and not let such a wonderful marriage grow old (very old) together. I see marriages end so easily (at least it seems so to me) and they have no witness like you and Lois did. I guess your witness is what you had and that you can tell it to others. Thank you for that! But my heart is still so heavy for the lose you and all your family must deal with each day. The more I live, the more I see what I will never understand in this life. I know I have to “let go and let God”, but more often that is hard to do because I don’t want to. I didn’t want to let Lois go, still don’t. But it’s not my choice. And I have to submit to it, like it or not. Knowing we WILL see Lois again is the only thing that makes all this grief bearable. Please continue to stay in touch. Love and prayers, Carol

  3. Jim
    I recall visiting one of the families at Oakthorpe and they had been married 50 plus years…..however when I would talk with him he would always bring up his first wife who died within the first year of their marriage. “you will get over it”….what an unthoughtful thing to say, though one understands his/her thougt of aiming to be comforting. You have already built a house of memories….those will always be there and what comfort they will be. I think of and pray for you each day as well as the family during the “grieving” time. Thanks for being you.
    Your friend in Christ,

  4. Dear Jim,
    People don’t mean to be cruel, but they don’t know what to say.
    When I lost my first husband I learned that it takes years to lose the sorrow, if you ever do.

    When Wayne died I never got mad at God, but I sure did get mad at Wayne for going to be with Jesus and leaving me to raise 4 children under the age of 8 by myself.

    We are looking forward to seeing you soon.
    Love, The Lamb’s

  5. Jim . . . God has so “gifted” you with that special ability to speak clearly, insightfully, and meaningfully from the heart! [And you’re sharing things which will be so helpful to anyone going through the ultimate grief of losing a lifetime lover/partner/spouse . . . as a very credible witness (precisely because you’re living through it, by God’s grace, yourself).] Thanks much!
    Our Confirmation Class has one more session (coming up October 28th) on “Death, Dying, and Our Christian Hope”, and I’ve take the liberty of making copies of your “testimony” here. Thank you for the privilege. I know that your witness will plant seeds of thought, feeling, and faith in the hearts of our youth which God will use in their futures when they need these insights the most.
    Dave Nolte

  6. Jim:
    You have been so strong. I admire you. It has been just little over a year ago that sister Mildred went to be with the Lord and the rest of my brothers and Sister, Mom and Dad. My birthday was just Monday, I told Mary, that I was really going to miss Mildred’s phone call and birthday card. She was alloways so good about staying in touch. We miss our loved ones.
    Please stay in touch

  7. Hi, Jim. I’m so sorry that people can be so unintentionally hurtful. They often want to “fix” the problem so they don’t have to feel uncomfortable along with you. Hopefully what I am about to share won’t fit in that category. Obviously, I have never had to grieve the death of a spouse, but when my Mom died, I read a book which was called “30 Seconds After You Die” or something like that by Dr. Lutzer, I believe. One thing that really has helped me from that book is realizing that since we know our believing loved one is with Jesus, there should be nothing wrong with giving Christ a message for our loved one from us. I have often done this when I really missed my Mom. I also wrote God a letter telling Him exactly how I felt, and that helped some, too. However, I know there are no “quick fixes” and grief hurts A LOT!!! And, it hurts for a long time. Our hearts ache for you and your family. We love Lois, too. She was (and is) and wonderful mentor and friend with a true servant’s heart.

    Miriam Crouch (and Steve and family)

  8. Dear Brother Jim, It is so good to read how you are working through your grieving process. It’s like having a surgery. At first you feel the pain and you are suffering. After the necessary suffering comes to an end it starts to itch. It reminds you of the input that removed Loved One had on your life, that now causes you to think, act and say what you do. Lois has had that very important part in your life. Every time you do something that had her input, you have an itch that you try to scratch, but you want it to continue to itch because it feels so good scratching it. That itching never seems to go away and you are so glad that it don’t. It is the feeling that you need to have in order to drive you and give you the energy you need to face tomorrow.
    The input of her life into yours will always be with you. We pray that the “itch” will never go away and that you will continue to enjoy the scratching. We Love You and Know that the Lord’s Love for you will always be Strong. Ron, For Pauline too!

  9. Dear Jim,
    May the peace of Christ be with you and your family in your grief. Give my regards especially to your mother; she and your father were major influences in my life. It’s been too many years! Blessings. – Dan McKinley, Minister of Music, Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church, Danvers, Massachusetts

  10. Jim, my heart really goes out to you! I was very sad to hear of Lois’ passing (I was in China when it happened & found out after I got home). My love & prayers go out to you & your family. I don’t have anything profound to say other than you are in my thoughts & prayers.

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