There is no shortage of advice on this subject. Not all of it, however, is helpful. For instance, you may find that some will advise you not to cry or show your feelings in any way. Others may push you to do the opposite and expose all your feelings. The Bible presents a more balanced view, one that is supported by modern research.
In some cultures it is considered unmanly for a male to cry. But is there a real need to feel ashamed about shedding tears, even in public? Mental-health experts acknowledge that tearfulness is a normal part of grieving. And grieving may, in time, help you to move on despite the enormity of your loss. Suppressing grief, however, may do more harm than good. The Bible lends no support to the notion that it is wrong or unmanly to shed tears of grief. Think of Jesus, for example. At the death of his dear friend Lazarus, Jesus openly wept, even though he had the power to bring the dead back to life!
Bouts of anger are often part of grieving, especially in cases of sudden, unexpected death. There are many reasons why a bereaved person may feel angry, such as when thoughtless and unfounded comments are made by a respected person. “I was only 14 years old when my father died,” explains a South African man named Mike. “At the funeral, the Anglican minister said that God needs good people and takes them early. * This angered me because we desperately needed our father. Now, 63 years later, it still hurts.”
And what about guilt? Especially in the case of unexpected death, the bereaved person may repeatedly think, ‘It might not have happened if only I had done this or that.’ Or maybe your last encounter with the deceased involved an argument. This may add to your feeling of guilt.
If you are being plagued by such feelings of guilt and anger, it is important not to bottle up these emotions. Rather, speak to a friend who will listen and reassure you that such irrational feelings are common to many bereaved ones. The Bible reminds us: “A true friend shows love at all times, and is a brother who is born for times of distress.”
The best Friend a bereaved person can have is our Creator, Jehovah God. Pour out your heart to him in prayer because “he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) Moreover, he promises that all who do so will have their thoughts and feelings soothed by “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) Also, allow God to help you heal by means of his consoling Word, the Bible. Make a list of comforting scriptures. (See accompanying box.) You may even want to memorize a few of them. Having such thoughts to ponder over may be especially helpful at night when you are alone and find it hard to sleep.
Recently, a 40-year-old man, whom we will call Jack, lost his beloved wife to cancer. Jack says that at times he feels intense loneliness. But he has found help in prayer. “When I pray to Jehovah,” he explains, “I never feel alone. I often wake up during the night and cannot get back to sleep. After reading and meditating on comforting thoughts from the Scriptures and then pouring out the feelings of my heart in prayer, I sense a calmness and a transcending peace come over me, putting my mind and heart at rest and enabling me to sleep.”
A young woman named Vanessa lost her mother to illness. She too has experienced the power of prayer. “In my most difficult times,” she says, “I would just call on God’s name and break down in tears. Jehovah listened to my prayers and always gave me the strength I needed.”
Some bereavement counselors advise those who are struggling with grief to get involved in helping others or to volunteer their time in some community service. Doing so can bring joy and may ease a person’s grief. (Acts 20:35) Many bereaved Christians have found that working to help others has brought them great comfort.