Overcoming Grief

by Brian Jones

During my first year of college a life-long family friend and mentor tragically lost his son. Separated by distance, I assumed that his Christian friends, the staff at his church, and his Sunday school class would step in and wrap their arms around him and his wife. Needless to say I was surprised, one year later, when we were able to finally meet face to face. When I asked him how he and his wife were doing the first words out of his mouth were, “Brian, the church failed us during our greatest time of need.” Knowing first-hand his maturity and emotional soundness, I was taken back. I thought, “If he said the church failed them, the church must have really failed them.”

Those who experience tragic loss, which I’m sure will include all of us by the time we leave this planet, experience sorrow that defies explanation. C.S. Lewis, struggling to put into words how he felt after losing his wife commented,

“No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.” (A Grief Observed , p. 19)

And if there was ever someone besides Lewis that couldn’t put their finger on the depth of their grief, it had to be Naomi.

The Book of Ruth tells us that Naomi was happily married to a man named Elimilech and together they had two strong sons, Mahlon and Kilion. As life goes, business took her family to a foreign country-a place called Moab. But even in that distant land their family blossomed. Life was good. Then, without even the faintest hint that heartbreak was standing at her door, Naomi’s husband didn’t return home for dinner. Who could have known that their kiss that morning would have been their last? Her sons eventually married, but even their weddings and talk of children couldn’t take away the emptiness she felt. Finally, in a cruel twist that even Hollywood wouldn’t script, she lost both of her sons. She was devastated, alone and bewildered. Naomi was so broken that Ruth 1:20 tells us that she began asking people to not call her Naomi (meaning “pleasant”) anymore but Mara (meaning “bitter”).

The bright spot, if there can be a bright spot in someone’s tragic loss, is that there was someone who didn’t leave her. Her name was Ruth, her daughter-in-law. We’re told she didn’t offer any deep theological explanations. There’s no record that she tried to provide the “right word” at the “right time.” All we hear is Ruth’s promise in Ruth 1:16, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay, I will stay.” And that’s exactly what she did.

I never asked my friend what his church could have done differently. I didn’t feel that it was my place.

My guess? Unlike Ruth, there were probably too many words and too few visits.

About the Author:

Brian Jones is the author of Second Guessing God: Hanging on When You Can’t See Plan (March 2006) and the founding Senior Pastor of Christ’s Church of the Valley in Collegeville, PA. More information about his writing and speaking can be found at http://www.brianjones.com.

Other Related Links:

When Bad Things Happen to Good People – I personally recommend this book. It’s excellent!

I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing After the Death of a Loved One

On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss


8 thoughts on “Overcoming Grief

  1. I have just read through your entire blog, and wept with you. I am so sorry . . . and I understand your pain. On 12-11-04 our son also died – very similarly to your son from the “choking game” – and he accidentally hung himself. Our then 11 year old son found him – our then 15 year old son cut him down. I and my DH gave him CPR. I remember the screams – the horrible screams – the unbelief. I too remember the first time seeing him in the casket – it did not seem real. And now, the recovery in the last 2+ years. Though there’s more joy than tears, we still miss our son so terribly. We were just blessed with another baby – so precious – yet our first one our son did not meet, this side of heaven. The bittersweetness. One of the ER nurses that was with us when our son died – came up shortly after our baby was born. She was with us in death & life. We too had a packed out funeral – we never expected it. I wish we had taken pictures at the funeral. But, I have his LIFE pictures. I miss him terribly. I just wanted to let you know, I stopped by, and wept with you & for my pain too. Some day our tears will be wiped away, when we stand beside our children in heaven. Til then I know we will miss them.


  2. Thank you, Loni, for stopping by and sharing heartfelt words with me. I’ve been to your website and have cried over your son’s passing too. I’m so sorry.

    I’m missing Barry so much today, I have no words to express the sorrow I feel for you and for me. Our sons should be with us, living life to the fullest, but they are not.

    Take care of yourself…and your little one.

  3. I am not finished reading through your site but I must tell you that it has truly been an inspiration to me. You see, I lost my 17 yr old son to suicide on JUne 15, 2006. I have done nothing but search for sites such as yours for some sort of comfort, I guess that is what you would call it. Therapists have offered nothing but drugs to me and I refuse to go that route. I guess largely because that it was those type drugs that led to my sons lack of judgement in what he chose to do.
    I just wanted you to know that your site has helped me and I am forwarding it to someone that has just lost their daughter to suicide. I’m sure they will find some comfort as well.
    thank you and God Bless!

  4. I’m so sorry, Julie, about your son. I agree that taking drugs to cope isn’t right for everyone. I felt the same as you and refused that path. This was something I needed to work through, not hide from.

    Thank you for your kind words. I needed to build this site. It helped me cope and now I’m pleased that it’s helping others too.

  5. Kristina

    This site is helpful in 2005 i watched my boyfriend commit suicide. Now i am doing a presentation on suicide in one of my college classes, hoping to open everyone’s eyes to this growing problem.

  6. I’m so sorry that you had to witness such a thing. I’m glad, however, that you are using a good opportunity to raise awareness. Thank you.

  7. adel

    this site is wonderful, but am still having difficulty dealing with the pain and mental anguish as a result of the breakup between me and my bf for 2 and half years. its hard for me to accept the truth that its over bet. me and him….i love him so much……i wish i could recover and live a normal life …am in terrible mess..

  8. The pain after a breakup can be intense. It can feel that you’ll never get over the person. But, as they say, time heals all wounds. How much time you’ll need isn’t known, but you can take matters into your own hands and, I believe, you’ll recover quicker.

    Every time your thoughts turn to sad things, push them aside and make yourself think of something brighter and happier.

    Don’t shut yourself away and listen to songs that will remind you of the person. Go out and mingle with new people, or old friends, and you’ll soon see that you can still laugh and have fun.

    Remember, that you can’t make someone love you. If they don’t want to love you then you are better off taking the love you have inside and giving it to someone who will appreciate it…who wants it. I know it’s hard, but long term, you’ll be far happier.

    I hope you find inner strength to move on soon.

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