What I Am Learning About Grief

And another favorite: “Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:7).

3. A willingness to deal with our anger.

My friend Jude said after her husband died, she was so consumed by anger concerning the mistreatment by him and then the financial mess he had left behind, she knew she had to do something. “I got two boxes,” she said. “I marked one anger and the other thanksgiving. Every time I got angry at Bob for something, I wrote it on a slip of paper and dropped it into that box. Then, I made myself write out two things for which I was thankful and put them into their box.” She had intended to do something important with them, Jude said, like have a bonfire for the box of angry memos. “But Katrina took care of that.” Her home was destroyed by the hurricane.

4. Journaling.

To friends who are having a hard time sorting through their emotions and dealing with anger, guilt, sadness, sorrow, and sometimes relief and gratitude, I suggest they get a wordless book and start a daily journal. (Handwriting their feelings seems to be more therapeutic than typing into a word document, but perhaps that’s just a personal choice.) In most cases, no one will read it but themselves.

5. Community. We need friends.

(See #2 above.)

6. Laughter. Sharing memories.

A merry heart does good like a medicine? (Proverbs 17:22) It does indeed.

One of the sweetest things I will ever hope to see in this lifetime happened a few hours after my wife’s funeral. Our three children were in my house with their families. At one point, when laughter erupted from the living room, I stuck my head in to see what was going on. The grandchildren—all eight of them—were on the floor in a circle, playing some kind of game. They were laughing, touching and loving being together. It must have gone on 15 minutes. Our two sons and daughter live hundreds of miles apart and these children see each other so seldom.

Meanwhile, about five feet behind them on a small round table sat the mahogany box containing the ashes of the grandmother who adored them so much, and whom they loved fiercely.

She would have loved this.

7. A counselor or therapist. 

Twice since my wife died, I’ve made appointments to visit Beverly, her pastoral counselor for several years. Beverly knows our family inside and out. When we had our 50th anniversary dinner for the extended family, Margaret invited Beverly and her husband. The counseling sessions did me good, and I’ll be going back.

I know so little about this subject, but I’m so grateful for family, for friends and for the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit. After all, He assures me, from the moment of salvation and from then on, “it is well with my soul.”  

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Joe McKeever
Joe McKeever has been a believer over 60 years, has been preaching the Gospel over 50 years, and has been writing and cartooning for Christian Publications over 40 years. He lives in New Orleans.