My older brother lost his life to addiction at the age of 22. His death shocked me and left me feeling numb, hopeless, scared, and devastated. I’m still learning how to heal from grief, and some days I wonder if I’ll ever get relief. But I’m praying for eyes to see purpose in my pain, and over time, the number of hopeful days has increased.
I can still remember the moment I found out. I remember trying to convince myself it was a dream or a prank or anything other than reality. And when the truth finally set in, my initial reaction was to distract myself at all costs. I threw myself into any project and did everything I could to forget. The thing with escapism, though, is that the problem will always be waiting on you when you get back.
It’s been nearly two years now, and I still feel like I’m in the thick of my grief. It’s easy to get discouraged when things don’t seem to be getting easier. But, I once heard Pastor Levi Lusko say that believing you’ll get over the death of a loved one is like believing you’ll get over the loss of a leg. It will get easier. You can learn how to live life with one leg, a good life even. But, you won’t ever return to the way you were before.
How to Heal
Today, I’m no longer in denial. I don’t cry daily, I don’t feel the need to escape (most days), and I can carry on with life with some ease. What I’ve found in this phase is that my grief amplifies the obstacles I face. When life happens and challenges arise, I can almost hear an audible voice of the enemy whispering, don’t forget your brother is dead, too.
Here’s the good news: We serve an empathetic God. He feels our pain, and He grieves alongside us. We see it in John 11:35. It simply says, “Jesus wept.” We don’t serve a God who knows only joy. We serve a God who walked the earth and felt pain just as intensely as we do.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15 NIV
So, is it possible to learn how to heal from grief? Yes, healing begins with facing reality and remembering that God is with you. Healing is a journey, so be patient and give yourself grace. Then, when you’re open with God, his presence will provide you with peace, and he will teach you through your suffering.
Grief has taught me how to be a better friend when tragedy strikes the people I love. It’s hard to know what to say. We want to be there for our grieving friends, but we don’t want to say anything wrong. Through my experiences, I’ve gained some perspective and learned how to better support others in a time of loss.
3 Ways to Support a Grieving Friend:
1. Show up. Send the text, make the call, and make it a priority to be at memorials.
2. Don’t forget. Follow up months and years down the road. One of the loneliest parts of grief is about three months later when everyone has moved on, and they no longer ask how you’re doing. Don’t forget.
3. Validate their feelings. For me, it’s not helpful to hear “they’re in a better place” or “be happy about all the good times they had.” Instead, I needed people to tell me that it was okay to be sad. It’s still okay to be sad.
If you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, a relationship, or even a dream, I want you to know that your sadness is not failure. As you learn how to heal, believe that hopeful days will come.
Levi Lusko speaks about this topic in an extremely personal and meaningful way. Our church had the opportunity to hear his story of coping with losing his daughter. His words have lifted me from my darkest moments; I hope they do the same for you.