Richard Exley Ministries

A Wound to the Living

"Death," as Joe Bayly so aptly put it, "is a wound to the living.” Yet, like all wounds, some deaths are more severe than others.  For instance, the death of a child is more painful than that of an aged parent.  And an unexpected death is almost always more traumatic than one which comes at the conclusion of a lengthy illness. 
 
As a pastor for nearly twenty-five years, I have had numerous occasions to walk with families through "the valley of the shadow of death."  I have wept with parents following the accidental death of a beloved son.  I have held the hand of a grieving widow as she tried to imagine life without her husband of nearly fifty years.  And I have stood beside a tiny grave with a grief-stricken couple as they laid their stillborn child to rest.  Although each experience of death is unique in its own way, in another sense all grief experiences have many things in common. 

As you well know, bereavement is first encountered as a shock that somehow numbs the pain.  You feel as if you have been swathed in great bands of cotton.  You continue to comprehend reality and interact with the world, but as if from a great distance.  Life goes on, but in slow motion.  Everything seems to be filtered through layers and layers of insulation.  (click here to continue reading)
 
You can probably remember how the first two or three days passed in a maze of necessary details, which served to distance you from the reality of death even as you seemed to be dealing with it.  The details themselves became a sort of mandatory escape, a legitimate way of postponing the full force of your grief.  Every decision took on a special significance:  What should your beloved be buried in?  Who should you ask to give the eulogy?  What scriptures should be read and who should conduct the service?  Should you have the service in the funeral home or in the church?  Should it be held in the morning or the afternoon?  What about special music?  Should you accept flowers or establish a memorial fund?  Who should pick out the casket and the burial plot?  The list went on and on.

Now that you are a few weeks or months removed from the loss of your loved one, can you step back from your pain and get a glimpse of the whole picture?  Can you see how compassionate God is?  The shock which we experience initially is His way of helping us deal with the pain of our loss.  It works like a divine tranquilizer that enables us to comprehend the reality of death without plummeting the full depth of our devastating loss.  As the initial shock wears off, the promise of eternal life with our departed loved one becomes the gift of hope that keeps us going until grief has done its healing work.   

Once the funeral is over, life returns to something akin to normal for most of your family and friends, but not for you.  For you grief's long journey is just beginning.  Long after the last casserole has been devoured and the serving dishes washed and returned; long after the last of your out-of-town relatives have said their good-byes and made the long journey home; long after your most caring friends have recovered from their grief and resumed a normal life, you will still greave.  The pain of your loss will linger like a stubborn toothache.

More than ever you will need the ministry of comfort.  Not covered dishes or sympathy cards, but a safe place with a safe person, somewhere you can grieve without being rebuked, or even misunderstood.  You will need someone who will let you be real, someone who will let you weep or rage as the need may be.  You will need someone who won't try to explain the unexplainable, or "fix" everything with a prayer.

In my next article I will talk about the healing power of grief.  Until then, know that you are loved and that the things you are feeling are "normal" for someone who has lost a loved one. One finally suggestion:  Don't let anyone make you feel guilty because you are still grieving.  Grief is a slow process and often takes as long as two years to complete its healing work.  That doesn't mean that you will always hurt this bad, but it does mean that you should give yourself permission to take as much time as you need to work through your loss.

This article has been excerpted from 

“When You Lose Someone You Love” by Richard Exley
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