How Do I Process Loss? A Guide for Moving Toward Peace • 7 minutes

Life-changing loss affects us in different ways. If you’re grieving the loss of a relationship, a dream, or someone you love, you’re not alone. How do we begin healing while we process loss? And how can we start living again when everything has changed? We do it together. 

Your grief is unique, but you’re not alone on your journey toward healing. If you need prayer, click this link and you’ll be connected to someone who’d love to pray with you.

Navigating This Guide

What Is Grief?

Grief is complex, emotional, and often misunderstood. So let’s start with a simple definition: Grief is a natural response to loss or change. For you, it could be a lost job, relationship, or loved one. Or maybe you’re moving to a different city, entering a new life stage, or facing a health crisis. Grief often causes feelings like sadness, guilt, fear, or anger. 

So how can we grieve together when our experiences are so different? One way is for us to get more specific about the grieving process. So let’s explore three healthy ways for just about anyone to think about grief. 

1. Grief is personal.

Your grief is as unique as your personality, past, and relationships. So as often as possible, avoid comparing your grieving process with others. It doesn’t matter if your loss happened last week or ten years ago–your feelings are valid. 

2. Healing from grief doesn’t equal forgetting what you’ve lost. 

Grief connects you to something or someone you love. So as we talk about grief, know we’re not trying to help you overcome or move past grief. Instead, we’re finding a grieving process that brings comfort while reminding us that grief is a way love lives on. 

3. Grief is a process.

Healing from grief is, in some ways, similar to healing from a physical injury. It can do more harm than good if you try to rush the process. So it can be helpful to remember: It’s okay to not be okay. 

How Did Jesus Process Loss?

It can be easy to overlook how human Jesus was. Yes, He is God, but He’s also a person like you and me. Jesus ate, drank, and felt similar emotions, including grief—like when His friend Lazarus died. Check out this passage: 

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” John 11:33-36 NIV

“Moved in his spirit and troubled” doesn’t quite convey the depth of the original language. It makes it seem like Jesus stood stoically with a single tear coming down his face. Elsewhere in the Bible, the same words used here describe being visibly shaken.

Jesus Wept

Later, Jesus faced His own death and wept again. He asked God for a way out to avoid pain. But God didn’t answer Jesus’ prayer in the way Jesus hoped He would. 

So how does Jesus respond to life-changing loss? He feels deep emotions, comforts hurting people, and prays to His Father. 

Jesus does not respond by telling His followers, “Well, it’s all a part of God’s plan.” Or, “Every day will get better!” Instead, He chooses to feel our pain alongside us. So we can trust that Jesus (who is God) cares for us in our grief.

Jesus is with you in your grief. But you can also find help from others as you process loss. 

How Do I Find Helpful People?

Your grief is unique. So is your path toward peace. But that doesn’t mean you need to experience grief alone. Friends, family members, pastors, and counselors can offer hope and listen when you need to process your thoughts and feelings. 

These people are our “grief partners,” our team members who stand by us when we need them most. Their presence reminds us that it’s better to grieve together. But what if we don’t already have a team of people to help us grieve with hope? 

3 Qualities of a Supportive Friend

Imagine your ideal grief partner. What qualities do they have? How do they support you?  Consider creating a list of qualities you’d value in a supportive friend. We’ll give three examples, then you can spend some time writing a few more. 

1. Someone who listens.

The best grief partners understand that listening is better than giving advice. Grief can be complicated, so it’s good to have people you can process your feelings with. Often, we need to express emotions before we can truly process them. That’s why we need the support of people we can trust. 

2. Someone you can laugh with.

Sometimes you may need to talk about your loss. Other times, you need some space from your thoughts and feelings. Great grief partners are willing to cry and laugh with you. 

3. Someone who understands that grief is a personal process. 

Supportive grief partners will let you set the tone and time frame for your healing process. They won’t rush you toward healing but will let you process and heal at your own pace. 

Now, you may not know someone who checks off all the boxes on your list. That’s okay. Because it’s rare to find one perfect grief partner. Instead, seek a support group of people you know might have one or more different valuable qualities. Recognizing this can help you know who to reach out to in certain situations and how to set healthy boundaries. 

Your friends and family certainly won’t always get it right and may accidentally say the wrong words at the wrong time—so as often as possible, offer grace while being honest about how their words and actions affect you.

How Do I Know if I’m Healing From Grief? 

Have you ever seen a forest after a wildfire? It’s pretty bleak. There isn’t much life or hope. But after some time, green grass begins to break through the burnt ground, and slowly, life starts to return. Of course, it’s not the same forest as it was before, and some of the burnt trees stand as a reminder of what was lost, but the new forest eventually becomes healthy and full of life again.  

You probably know where we’re going with this. If you went to that forest for a few days in a row, you might not notice any progress. You’d need to pay attention for weeks to see some of the growth process. The same is true for your grief. You are making progress, even if you can’t see it at the moment. So what are some of the signs of moving toward healing? 

Let this list be an encouragement to you. Don’t worry if only some of these apply to you. Any progress is worth celebrating! 

A Few Signs of Healing After Loss

  • Trying something new
  • Feeling hopeful about something in the future
  • Not experiencing guilt when you feel positive emotions 
  • Feeling sadness without being overwhelmed
  • Returning to activities and places you used to enjoy 
  • Finding healthy ways to honor what was lost 
  • Reconnecting with friends, family, or your church community 
  • Facing something you’ve been avoiding for a long time
  • Clearly communicating your feelings 
  • Taking care of yourself by getting enough sleep, hydrating, and exercising 

This isn’t an exhaustive list. There are plenty of other examples of how you may see signs of hope and healing after loss. The grieving process can feel slow, but you’re moving forward. So be kind to yourself, celebrate progress, and continue moving toward healing. It may not always be as fast as you hoped, but life is breaking through.

Healing from grief doesn’t mean forgetting what you’ve lost. Instead, it’s finding a way to move forward into a new normal. It’s not easy, but it is possible. So as you move toward peace, remember that you’re not alone. Jesus is with you, and there are people who want to help you. If you’d like prayer today, we’d love to connect with you here

A Prayer for Grief

God, I’m hurting and I’m not sure what to do. I don’t want to forget what I’ve lost, but I’m desperate to find peace. I know You’re with me every day, and You feel my pain. Please help me to find people who can support me and find hope to sustain me. Thank You for being with me even when I feel alone. Help me to believe that better days are coming. In Jesus’ name, amen.