“It’s okay to be real!”
I repeated that phrase multiple times after my husband died — to my children, to myself, and later to other widows.
There is no “right” way to grieve.
We all process differently. Some people are private. Some spill every thought and emotion for all to see.
I was a new widow with five children, all trying to process our loss. It would have been great to think that together we would follow a set path of grief from one stage to the next. That is not how it worked.
I have a couple of children who analyzed each thought as we talked. Others would dump a load of thoughts at one time but did not expect to discuss them. Some wanted to rush through grief by listening to every sad song they could get their hands on. Others did not want to hear anything sad and fell apart listening to music in general.
I wondered how I would cope and work through my own grief while helping my children who approached it differently. Then I remembered airplane protocol during an emergency landing — I needed to take care of me FIRST, in order to help them.
Grief rolls like a rollercoaster!
Grief can be ugly. At its most raw, it can make other people feel helpless and uncomfortable. Covering up our feelings in order to please others or keep them from concern does not help anyone.
That is why I told my children, “It’s okay to be real!”.
Pretending grief is not there because you don’t want to go through the pain is not an option either. Eventually each stage hits you, ready or not. Repeatedly directing yourself back to God’s Word for your response to grief makes it easier to navigate in times of need.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16 (ESV)
We each had needy days when grief felt like the gravitational pull of the earth magnified solely on us, paralyzing even normal movement. For me those days were few. When they came around I was very intentional to allow my mind and body to have much needed rest. I was watchful of my children and when I saw they were having one of those days I directed their activities to stop for necessary down time.
Other days we felt more capable of navigating life, though grief was still present. On those days we resumed normal activities. We attempted to move forward the way my husband would have encouraged us to do.
The best days included laughter again over things large and small. The blessing of uncontrollable laughter that returned was the best because we all loved to laugh.
In hindsight, our differences were a blessing from God.
One or more would encourage any who were having a bad day. After the initial shock of our loss, I don’t remember many times when everyone struggled simultaneously. Even on dreaded “first” celebration days it was amazing how we helped each other. We learned flexibility and to read each other’s distress signals well.
There is nothing abnormal about grieving openly, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for some people to observe. Jesus Christ set our example at the death of his friend, Lazarus:
“Jesus wept.” John 11:35 (ESV)
Friends told us it helped them to see how our family grieved together because we made it easy for others to grieve with us. One dear friend told me she was determined to interact differently with her own children after watching me grieve openly with mine because she had never let her children see her cry about anything. Learning to grieve with others is a blessing.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15 (ESV)
It’s okay to be real!
Lord, please help us to allow other people to share in both our joy and in our grief. We do not know what added blessing may come from our willingness to be real in our relationships. Make us aware of the needs of those around us who might not realize that they can be real with us, too. Please help them to know that we care. Amen.
Terri Oxner Sharp is a wife, mother, grandmother, homeschool teacher, and a writer for aNew Season/A Widow’s Might Ministries. Her first husband passed away suddenly in 2012. She gives God all the glory for how He has grown her spiritually on her widow journey, in preparation for her new journey into a blended family. Terri and her second husband live in Arkansas with the final child still living at home from their combined family of seven children, two son-in-loves, and two grandsons. She loves to be with people who love to laugh, enjoys spending time with their grandchildren, who know her as “GiGi”, and feels called to minister to other women who find themselves bewildered to be on a widow’s path as well.
If you are interested in having Terri or any of our writing team speak, please contact us via email at: email@example.com.