5 Techniques for Resilient Grieving

The loss of a loved one can leave us at a loss for words. Even those who want to offer comforting words may have difficulty expressing themselves. A Light in Darkness shares stories that are like letters from friends who have already walked through the valley of the shadow of death. Parents who have lost a child, spouses who have lost a lifelong partner, even a child who has lost his parents share the heartache, pain, and glimmers of hope that they have experienced during a time of loss.

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Techniques for Resilient Grieving

Grief is as individual as your fingerprint. Compare your hand with a friend and you will mark obvious similarities, but no two fingerprints have the same configuration of arches, loops, and ridges. Our stories are different, but we all face the same choice. All those who grieve decide what to do with what has happened to them.

Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth were all women who buried men they loved. Naomi had lost more than the others, and she returned to Bethlehem having labeled herself bitter and empty. Or­pah retreated to her family and gods in Moab. It is Ruth who models resilient grieving, and her choices show us a path to loving life amid loss.

1. Move through Fear

resilient grievingThe first choice Ruth made was not to lose what she had left to what she had lost. Ruth cleaved to Naomi and her decision informed all the others that followed.

When our daughter Greyson died, I still had to keep raising my then ten-year-old daughter Sullivan. She wanted to ride her bike where I couldn’t see, take trips without me, and generally live. I wanted to lock her in my house and never let her go. Fear is grief’s comfortable companion, but we are not living as God intended if it wins. Choosing to nurture what remains is often an avenue God uses to restore us. Cleaving to Naomi meant Ruth had to embrace an uncertain future, but her willingness to move through her fear allowed her to discover the life God still had for her.

Ruth’s speech to Naomi declares, “thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (Ruth 1:16). Ruth had just buried her husband. She has tethered herself to a woman who doesn’t seem to be a shining example of God’s favor. It is at her low point, in the midst of grief, that she yields her life to God. Choosing to let God author your story is the most important ingredient in learning to love life during loss.

2. Turn to God

Isaiah prophesied that our Lord would be “acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). The psalmist declared, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart” (Psalm 34:18). Even when you are not OK, God is always OK, and He can handle your grief. It is tempting to grab the pen from God’s hand when life isn’t going according to our plan. It’s hard to see that it’s just a season—a chapter of our story not intended to last forever. What you need to love life can only be found through God.

3. Pray Scripture

When our daughter passed, I began to pray Isaiah 61 over my family. God, give us “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; . . . that he might be glorified” (Isaiah 61:3). Joy, hope, beauty, praise—these are God things. We cannot take the pen from God and write them into our own story.

Ruth caught the eye of Boaz be­fore he even knew who she was. We shouldn’t be surprised that Boaz, the son of Rahab who escaped Jericho, would notice Ruth, the Moabitess. The union of Ruth and Boaz was blessed with a son, Obed, the grandfather of David. Ruth gave God the pen and He grafted her story into the lineage of Je­sus Christ. God is a restorer who does all things well. Trust God with your story, even when it hurts.

4. Let People In

The final choice Ruth demonstrated was the choice to do the next right thing. Ruth cleaved to Naomi determined to follow. It is probably safe to say loving life was not the sentiment she felt. When Naomi and Ruth settled in Bethlehem, Ruth understood they needed to eat. She does the next right thing by gleaning after the reapers in the field. The law of Moses made provision for those who were poor or strangers to glean from the corners of a field so they would not starve. Ruth doesn’t necessarily love life as she enters a stranger’s field, hoping to glean enough corn for their next meal. By choosing to do the next right thing, Ruth positioned herself for the blessing of God, who providentially led her to glean in the field of Boaz.

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God wants you to have love, joy, and peace in your life. Galatians 5 tells us these are fruits of His Spirit in us. Grief can make it temporarily difficult to see the fruit of God in our daily lives. In those moments, we must continue to do the next right thing.

5. Recognize Purpose

This year marks five years since the passing of my little girl. The loss doesn’t leave. I wouldn’t want it to. Yet, it is not the will of God for grief to be our final destination. The Gospel of John affirms Jesus came for us to have abundant life (John 10:10). That is the heart of God for you. Life is a gift whose value is better understood by those who have grieved. We are still here on purpose—His purpose. Give God the pen and watch Him write beauty, joy, and praise into the next chapters of your story. I did, and He does not disappoint.

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Brooke W. Pamer serves as the teaching pastor at Apostolic Church in Barberton, Ohio, where her husband is the senior pastor. She is the mom of Sullivan, Greyson, and Marlowe.

Resources and Links

(A version of this article was published in Reflections.)

A Light in Darkness – the loss of a loved one can leave us at a loss for words. Even those who want to offer comforting words may have difficulty expressing themselves. Sometimes silence is best. At other times it can help to hear from someone who has been there, someone who has walked the lonely road of grief. These stories are like letters from friends who have already walked through the valley of the shadow of death.