Have you ever felt like you’re handling things well, and then you’re blind-sided by emotion realizing you’re experiencing more grief than you realized?
When we started hearing about COVID, I began by praying. When we went on lockdown, I rolled with it. I’m an introvert and a creative, plus I teach online and work in a one-person office. So, I thought life hadn’t really changed that much for me. I have enjoyed having more time with my family. My daughter who was overseas got home safely. I felt grateful that we were all home safe and healthy, at least for now.
As we prayed for those who we knew were sick, and as we heard stories of those who didn’t make it, my heart broke. But still, I thought I was handling it well.
Then one day, I was watching an old TV show where some kids were exposed to a virus. As I watched, I burst into tears.
Grief is often unpredictable. We may think we are handling it fine and adjusting to whatever the situation is, and then, without warning, we may burst into tears or become angry or depressed. (I recommend the bursting into tears of the three—it’s exhausting but very healing).
We may know the steps of dealing with grief. (If not, you can watch this Monk clip that shows them in a comedic way: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMBlEzcvAe8).
An emotionally healthy person will work their way through all these steps and go through some several times as they are dealing with grief. The key is to not get stuck in any of the early steps but keep working toward healing and acceptance.
There were moments during the past five months that my children were concerned and frightened. At those times, I cried out to God to know how to help them even while I was fighting my own fear. How, when we’re handling our own grief and emotions, do we help our family walk through their grief as well, especially when we aren’t always responding in the same way at the same time?
We hold on to truth—what we know. These are what helped me.
1. Laughter is good medicine. We have laughed a lot as we’ve gone through these months. We share items back and forth that we find on Facebook or YouTube to make each other laugh. We’ve watched goofy movies. And we’ve done our best to have fun together when we can.
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength. (Proverbs 17:22, NLT)
2. We know that as believers we grieve, but not like someone without hope. We need to grieve. It is how we process and find healing after a loss. To not grieve is not healthy. But we don’t grieve as someone who is hopeless. Even in death we have hope.Because we follow Christ, we have hope for today and hope for tomorrow.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. (1 Thess. 4:13, NLT)
3. We are confident that God is with us through all things. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. He leads us through green pastures and the valley of death. Wherever we are, He is there. (Hebrews 13:5, Psalm 23, Psalm 139). We are NEVER alone in this life. God is always with us, and in our weakness, He is strong (2 Cor. 12:9-11). When we feel we can’t go on, He carries us.
Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, NLT)
4. We know that God works all things together for good. Satan has meant this for evil, but good will come from this as well. I am amazed at how God brings good out of the darkest things. It comforts me to know that nothing is lost. No pain or challenge is meaningless. God not only helps us through hard times, He brings meaning to them and purpose in them if we will let Him.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Romans 8:28, NLT)
5. Grief will wear us out and zap our energy, but it doesn’t have to zap our faith. We have the opportunity to help our children see us grieve while holding on to our faith. Our faith is in our God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Sorrow and troubles will strengthen our faith.
At last he stood up again and returned to the disciples, only to find them asleep, exhausted from grief. (Luke 22:45, NLT)
Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. (Eccl.7:3, NLT)
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So, let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4, NLT)
6. We find strength in God’s Word. More than ever, we need to be reading and meditating on God’s word, and better yet, memorizing it. God’s Word will strengthen and encourage us through every situation. It has never failed to be a place of comfort and help to me.
I weep with sorrow; encourage me by your word. (Ps. 119:28, NLT)
7. We let joy and peace sustain us. The joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh. 8:10). It is our strength in facing fear, in getting through a stressful or discouraging day, in rejecting temptation, and in staying hopeful during a pandemic. Not only do we need to hold on to our joy, but we need to build joy in others, especially in our children. Whenever, wherever, however we can, we need to share joy, build joy, and encourage joy.
Sometimes we equate joy with happiness and blissful ignorance, but joy is the opposite of those. Joy knows full-well the truth, the dangers, the concerns weighing on our minds and hearts and yet, joy still thrives, and joy still hopes. It is tenacious and wise. Joy can thrive in happiness or sorrow. When we teach our children to hold on to joy, we are teaching them to be strong and resilient because our joy and peace are not based on the circumstances around us or how we feel about what is happening. They are based on the Truth and Person of Christ.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7, NLT)
We have the spirit of love to guide our choices and relationships. We have the spirit of power to overcome the doubts and fears that threaten to keep us from walking in peace and love. Self-discipline is the choice to obey God and follow His ways regardless of what’s happening in our world. Giving up these and losing our joy makes us weak and a victim to fear.
Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies… She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. (Proverbs 31:1, 25-26, NLT)
8. We know that these challenging times are temporary. We don’t have to give in to the fear and negativity. Instead, we can let this time have its work in our hearts and lives to grow closer to God. We know whether in good or bad times, dealing with good or bad emotions, they are all temporary. They will pass, and they will change.
That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So, we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (1 Cor. 4:16-18, NLT)
9. Using the time wisely and creatively. We’ve used this time to work on our house and get things done we haven’t had time for with our normal heavy schedule. It’s been good. It also gives us a sense of accomplishment when we may not be doing as much as we are used to doing. I’ve also found solace in being creative and writing more. It gives me an outlet for boredom and makes my heart happy.
Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. (Ephesians 5:16, NLT)
10. Eating and being healthier. We’ve been eating healthier and getting more exercise. We know that doing these things increases endorphins and helps us feel better. It’s just a good idea instead of eating our emotions and boredom in unhealthy sugary snacks. We feel much better and are handling these emotions better as a result.
You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12, NLT)
11. We encourage each other and watch our own thoughts as well. There is so much power in encouragement. I talk about it a lot. It is a lesson my children taught me as I watched their reactions to people’s affirmations and criticisms. We thrive when people encourage us—not flattery, but genuine encouragement and appreciation for others. It is like pouring healing oil on a sore place and finding immediate relief from the pain.
Plus, we’ve taken our thoughts captive when we are tempted to spiral into hopeless thinking. We have tried to keep our minds on the good and the things we’re grateful for instead of obsessing over the concerns and negativity.
So, encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. (1 Thess. 5:11, NLT)
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8, NLT)
We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. (2 Cor. 10:5, NLT)
12. We’ve rested. We often discount rest, and in stressful times, we may not be able to rest well. I pray for rest, for my brain to settle down and to be able to sleep deeply. It is truly a gift.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NLT)
I’ve found a lot of encouragement and strength in these. I believe they are some of the keys to living a victorious life in Christ, not just in crisis, but in all times. Helping our children grow in maturity during tough times is something we should strive for during times like this. I hate to say it, but I’ve seen an awful lot of immaturity among some adults during this time, and I’ve seen children copying the attitudes and behaviors of the adults around them. I hope I’ve done better, and I hope I continue to grow wiser and more mature as we continue on from here.
When I read Scripture and see the sacrifices made and injustices endured by Jesus and the biblical believers, I am challenged and a little ashamed. We long for comfort, for an easy, painless life. But just as we know sugar cookies don’t make a good meal for our kids, God knows that an easy, pain-free life isn’t good for us. We would grow complacent and selfish.
My prayer, especially during this time we’re walking through, is that we grow closer to God and stronger in our faith, tenaciously holding on to the joy of the Lord.
KidLit: I can not think of a better children’s book about grief and loss than A Little Blue Bottle by Jennifer Grant and illustrated by Gillian Whiting. It will be released next week, and my podcast next Tuesday is an interview with the author Jennifer Grant. Check out my podcast on Tuesday and order the book Wednesday when it launches (or pre-order it now from your favorite bookseller).
This week’s podcast that aired Tuesday, 8/18 was on reading funny books together. I highly recommend listening and checking out some of those books. A couple books I didn’t find until after the podcast that made me literally laugh out loud are the Snappsy books: Snappsy the Alligator and His Best Friend Forever (Probably) and Snappsy the Alligator Did Not Ask To Be in This Book by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Tim J. Miller.