Surviving Grief Without Losing Your Mind

Beth Marshall

Losing someone you love is like having part of your heart ripped out. Whether death came through sudden catastrophe or a drawn out disease where there was time to prepare, grief often leaves us with more questions than answers. 

  • What do I do with all the regrets? 
  • Why do people say crazy things when they’re trying to help? 
  • Shouldn’t I be able to power through the sorrow on my own?  

Grief is a process and there are three challenges almost everyone goes through:

1. Rehashing regrets is like riding a stationary bicycle. You’ll go round and round to the point of exhaustion, but don’t really get anywhere. 

When someone dies, we’re often left with a sense of unfinished business, rehashing circumstances that could have played out differently. Maybe there are things you wish you could have said, or some things that would have been better left unsaid. How do you stop the Instagram video of regrets playing over and over in your head?

Writing a letter to the person you’re missing is one of the best ways to short circuit the relentless replay of what could have been. A letter:

  • is a safe place to express your unfiltered thoughts. Good, bad, confused, relieved — every emotion is OK.
  • can help you express yourself when you’re feeling stuck.
  • is for your eyes only, or not. Your choice.

How you release the letter is up to you. You could shred it into a thousand pieces or attach it to a balloon and literally let it go. 

I love to offer this kind of letter in the form of a prayer, asking the Lord to fix what I can’t. Psalm 62:8 reminds us that we can be honest with whatever we’re feeling: “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” No matter how deep your sorrow, God can be trusted.

2. Listen more. Talk less. 

Why do people say such crazy things when someone dies? 

  • Well, I guess God needed another little angel in heaven. 
  • At least you can have more children.
  • Sorry about your husband. I know just how you feel. My cat died.

Seriously? While there’s no way to prevent insensitive comments, you may want to take a deep breath before firing back to set the record straight. James 1:19 says it best, “ quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry...” Hopefully, next time the well-meaning person will embrace the awkward silence rather than attempting to fill it with words that hurt.   

3. For some reason, we’ll go to the doctor for a broken arm, but we’ll try to mend a broken heart with no outside help. 

Psalm 34:18 says, “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  

People with strong faith are often the worst to try flying solo through life’s most intense challenges. If you’re feeling overwhelmed in grief, calling a trusted friend, care pastor or counselor is one of the bravest steps you can take. Allowing people to pray for you can be a pivotal moment as you begin to embrace life again after loss. 

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