Over the past year, the Lord has taught me, my husband, and my family a lot about relying on Him for getting through the hard times.
In August 2015, my mother-in-law went home to be with the Lord. Less than a year later – in August 2016 – my father-in-law joined her in Heaven. This past year has brought immense grief to me, my kids, and especially my husband. In a short span of time, my husband has been left without any earthly parents. The Lord has been faithful to bring us through this loss. And, through this experience, I have learned what it means to love someone who is coping with grief.
1) Healing from grief does not have a time-line. Although both of my in-laws were Christians and we know that we will see them again one day, the grief process here on earth is real, strong, and at times, very painful.
It is normal to think that the first six months may be hard – and they are. Grief does not have a precise time limit; it can sneak up on you in the most unusual of times. Your spouse may have 100 good days, then what seems like an out-of-the-blue day filled with sadness. The Lord has taught me that, on those days when grief reappears, listening with an open ear is worth more than a thousand words of advice.
2) You do not have to have all the answers. A listening ear is a powerful way to help your spouse heal. Like many wives, I love to cheer up my husband when he is down. Dealing with grief does not always need a witty antidote, but instead an understanding and quiet spirit to listen, to cry with him, and be present to say that he is not alone. Ecclesiastes 3:7b reminds me there the is “a time to be silent and a time to speak.”
3) Don’t let him believe he is alone. The enemy will use this grief to make him feel isolated so that he is less effective and inwardly focused, instead of outwardly focused on what the Lord is doing in his life. It’s true that we may not know exactly how he feels about his pain of loss, but we can remind him that God has not stopped doing mighty things in his life. God’s sovereignty is one of the most comforting and difficult aspects to grasp when our emotions are wavering, like a ship tossed about by the storms of life. But God is still in control. He will never leave (Heb 13:5), and you can reassure your spouse you are there for him as well. A verse that has a whole new meaning for me now is John 14:18 – it promises that Jesus does not “leave you as orphans; I [Jesus] am coming to you.”
4) Don’t be afraid to mention the person whom they are grieving. At first, I was afraid that if I mentioned their names it may make the grief worse. And though it may bring on a wave of momentary grief, it is good for you, your spouse, and your family to remember the impact of that person in your lives. The one your spouse is grieving has gone from this earth, but the memories, lessons, and advice they gave is a gift for you and your family to cherish.
5) Never stop praying. We have experienced the power of prayer though these times of grief like few other times in our lives. There was a comforting peace that came from the countless prayers from loved ones, church family, friends, and even people whom we did know directly. Praying for the one you love that is grieving brings healing for them and also for yourself. Not just in the few weeks after the passing of a loved one, but your spouse also needs to be remembered in prayer for months. While the day-to-day life gets busy, the grief is still there. Pray that the peace of the Holy Spirit fills them afresh and new every day. (Eph 6:18)
6) Cultivate compassion for others dealing with similar grief. Through our grief, my husband and I have found that God has increased our compassion for others going through hard times. When you walk through the stages of grief personally, you learn that God never leaves us, and that as a family of believers, we are to be there for each other. We are to listen and not have all the answers, weep with others, pray for each other continually, and even see the grief we have experienced as a new way to minister to others (2 Cor 1:3-7).
As long as we are still in this earth, each one of us will experience grief in some way or other, but we also hold the blessed hope that our heavenly life will be free from sorrow. Seek the Lord’s guidance on what he is teaching you through the grief you are experiencing or the grief in the life of your spouse.
Stefanie Simmons is a North Carolina native. She is married to Geoff and is the mother of four wonderful children (three girls and one boy!). After graduating with her undergraduate degree from the Scarborough College at Southwestern Seminary, Stefanie and her family will be moving to the Yucatán to plant churches, minister to those who speak English, Spanish, and Mayan, as well as host short-term mission teams.