Grieving the death of a loved one is a unique process. Mourning depends upon the closeness of time, energy, and presence with the deceased. The circumstances of the death itself can flavor the grief responding to the loss. In the process, it is common to be concerned about the possibility of losing faith in God after someone dies. What reactions can be expected? How is it possible to actually be finding your way through the tragedy?
Is Losing Faith in God After Someone Dies Inevitable?
Faith and death can be deeply intertwined. The loss of a loved one takes a physical, mental, and emotional toll on an individual. While many will ask, "Where is God when it hurts?" a more practical question lurks around the corner. "Does faith help an individual handle grief?" Will loss reveal God's absence?
Struggling Is Necessary
Every person wanders through grief at their own pace. Moments of relief will be followed by anguish and turmoil. Strong emotions create an atmosphere of uncertainty and chaos. Pain is a reality for which there is no antiseptic. Struggling through grief forces people to answer questions about their beliefs, lives, and hope.
A Refining Fire
The struggle searching for answers to the questions of life and death are similar to metal being purified by a refiner's fire. The intense heat of the fire removes impurities from the molten metal. Stirred and skimmed, the imperfections rise to the top and are eliminated, producing a purer substance.
A Strengthening Revelation
Grief forces the rose-colored glasses to come off. Trauma destroys masks, pushes away pretensions, and reveals the nature of your worldview. While there are exceptions, generally, suffering and tragedy reveal the kind of faith that is already present. If one enters tragedy with no faith, the emergence will be seen as proof justifying reasons to doubt God. But if one approaches the same situation with faith, eventually faith accompanies the individual through the tragedy, more mature, perhaps more mellow, and often stronger.
Suffering Asks Bigger Questions Than There Are Answers
The Bible contains a story of a man wrestling to understand suffering and death. Regardless of religious inclinations, the account of Job reveals a deep struggle with tragic loss and grief. Death appears to be a physical circumstance, but it actually reveals a spiritual battle. God reveals to Job that suffering wants answers that no human can really understand. Suffering and death must be endured.
Finding Your Way in the Forest of Faith and Grief
Whether one can identify themselves in a particular stage of grief, everyone experiences the pain of loss. Talking about the deceased and verbalizing the circumstances around the death can be helpful in the process of finding the way through grief.
Religious Clichés Rarely Help
Many with good intentions will attempt to offer comfort by sharing what seems to be the proper religious answers. Friends and loved ones advised Job to simply curse God and die. Some told him God had a greater purpose. Others surmised Job was being punished for his sins. While there may be kernels of truth in the cliché, they do not answer the realities of the loss, nor do they provide comfort for the pain. The path between faith and grief is crooked and thorny. Grieving and pain causes questioning of certain religious truths. These truths, while questioned, serve as a foundation for continued and strengthened faith.
- There is an acceptance of the goodness of God. The Apostle Paul writes, "God works all things for good for those who love Him" (Romans 8:28 NIV). While not seeing death as a "good" thing, a fundamental principle of faith expects God to be good rather than vengeful or capricious.
- There is an understanding of the reality of evil. Death is seen as a consequence and result of sin. The presence of evil in the spiritual realm touches aspects of physical death.
- There is comfort found in community. Believers share the burdens of life's experiences together. There is a "time to mourn and a time to dance" (Ecclesiastes 3:4 NIV). The believer expects to be comforted by others as they walk together through the difficult times of life.
- There is hope in reunion. Those of faith trust the day will come when they again see their loved one in eternity. This is the reason the Apostle Paul tells the Thessalonians believers "do not grieve as one who does not have hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 NIV).
Accepting Loss and Experiencing Pain
Many people who experience the loss of a loved one have difficulty accepting the reality and finality of the death. It is natural to struggle with accepting a death. Funeral services can aid the process, but grieving the finality of losing the loved one is a necessity. Experiencing pain is a part of the process of healing through the loss. Acknowledging and feeling the loss avoids the temptation to bottle up emotions or deny the feelings that are present. The person who avoids grieving often eventually suffers from a form of depression or experiences physical problems.
Adjusting Roles and Expectations
When a loved one is gone, there is a gap that must be filled. The roles the loved one played in the life of the family require that someone else perform their tasks. The tasks will never be completed exactly as the loved one would have, but the roles will be filled.
Reinvesting Time and Energy
The final step in working through grief takes the time and energy spent on the loved one who has died and reinvests it in another relationship. The goal is not to forget the one who died, but to remember them without experiencing a grief that disables. Some are fearful to take this step, less another loss will be experienced. For some, involvement in charities or services provide structure and purpose. Grief recovery is an investment of oneself in others.
Grief Can Leave Everyone Better People
Grief and suffering touches deeply inside minds and emotions. Mourning stares squarely into the face of death and demands answers. While grief is a unique experience, dealing with death is common to everyone. Life on earth ends for all, without warning, expectation, or understanding. One can find a way through the turmoil of grief without losing faith in God after someone dies.