The Saturday sky mirrors the mood of everyone at the cemetery; gray, somber and sad. Slight but intense pain in my chest intensifies as I watch the 6 pallbearers carefully take the white casket out of the hearse.
My husband, Donovan, is one of the 6 laying his close childhood friend, Jonathan, to rest. He was gone what seemed too soon at just 30 years old. I didn’t know Jonathan personally. However, I did know that his funeral changes the way I would deal with death, unchecked grief and loss FOREVER.
Death and funerals generally aren’t my favorite topics to discuss. Honestly, as far as I can help it, I naturally try to avoid it though it’s part of life.
In this particular case, going to Jonathan’s funeral was out of emotional support for Donovan knowing that he would need someone to lean on. Also, since I have never met Jonathan, I figure that I am emotionally solid to go. After all, it’s a little difficult to truly mourn someone you’ve never met, right?
During the funeral service, I remember feeling this overwhelming and painful emotion coming over me that would not leave. I tried my best to fight it as reoccurring thoughts went back to the sudden loss of my grandmother battling undetected cancer in 2015.
I remember feeling stoic at my grandmother’s funeral. Between helping my dad resolve family issues, making sure my grandmother’s service was proper, and keeping myself emotionally together while everyone was falling apart, I would feel exhausted and too tired to show much emotion.
At Jonathan’s burial, It was a LONG and EXCRUCIATING 20 minutes of watching his casket being placed into a crypt and sealed in this tall, massive wall by the cemetery employee. I watch as Jonathan’s family deeply cry and lament over him realizing the finality of never seeing him again. I want to cry too but couldn’t.
Hours after the funeral, still reeling from the sudden loss of Jonathan and thinking about my grandmother, I would go home and completely fall apart emotionally. It was at that moment during a long talk with Donovan, I realized that I had still not grieved for my grandmother. Jonathan’s funeral would be an unexpected emotional trigger for me.
Finding Comfort in the Mourning
Having alone time with God, I would come to Him with unending tears pouring my heart out and asking hard questions about death and the pain that I was feeling:
- Why did Jonathan have to die so soon? He was only 30 years old and never had a chance to marry or have children. He had his whole life ahead of him being the same age as my husband and I. It could’ve been my husband or even me in that casket.
- How could my grandmother be taken within 48 hours of her stage 4 cancer diagnosis? If anything, she’s to see me get married and be the rock and matriarch of our family at least for a little while longer.
- Lord, how do I deal with this pain I’m feeling?
- Why NOW do I decide to feel this way?
Deeply struggling, I knew if I couldn’t get answers, then surely God’s Word will provide SOMETHING for me. He did. I’m thankful for God’s Word as it reveals more about His character, ways of handling death also revealing things about myself too.
Jesus is the prime example of God having COMPLETE knowledge of death and grief. He experiences it as He saw His close friend Lazarus die (John 11:28-37). He also experiences death for Himself by dying on the cross for us and resurrecting (Matt. 27:45-56, Mark 15:33-41, Luke 23:44-49, John 19:28-30).
His all-knowing experience and understanding give us as much comfort as we need while still dealing with the pain, sickness, death, and brokenness of this sin-stained world. Yes, death inevitable and does not discriminate, but neither does God’s comfort. He’s grieving and hurting along with us but will see us through by His healing and love.
“Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.”
The Grieving Process
In the midst of grabbing onto God’s love and healing during the death of a loved one, He is also teaching me about taking time to grieve. There was one profound thing that the pastor said to the family about grieving that I desperately needed to hear. It was like cold, refreshing water pouring into my dry, aching, spirit.
“I give you permission to mourn. I give you permission to cry and feel but I also give you permission to hope in God during this time of mourning and healing.”
–Pastor David (Church of God of Prophecy)
This broke spiritual and emotional chains for me. When dealing with my grandmother’s death, I felt as if I couldn’t cry or mourn though I wanted to badly. I was told that I should not cry for my grandmother because she is in a better place (heaven).
Yeah, a little insensitive right?
I knew that Pastor David was talking to the family but he REALLY talking to me.
What freedom it is to know that’s it’s OKAY to show emotions when everything is telling you to pull it together or to go to God with your upset, hurt feelings with the hard questions. Whether we show emotion or not based on our emotional threshold, we can still feel and acknowledge our hurt. When he spoke those words, all I could do what think of one of my favorite Psalm.
“Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62:8 NKJV)
As a HIGHLY EMOTIONAL person, I rejoice that I have permission to express my feelings and emotions that God has given me. I’m created personally by God to not deny the feelings. I am not to be stoic or to compartmentalize my feelings.
In my emotions, when dealing with grief and death, I’m to go to God to help me express my emotions and grief healthily and safely without taking away from who I am and who God emotionally designed me to be. With expressing my grief, it also takes time.
There’s no rule for the length of time you’re supposed to grieve. Some take longer than others and that’s okay.
Most importantly, if you’re going to grieve, grieve well with the Lord on your side.
You will hurt, you will cry. You will remember but with God on your side in time, you will HEAL.
I’m still not out of the woods emotionally with my grief. It’s still a little fresh as I’m still coming to terms about the sudden loss of my grandmother and Jonathan as both hits close to home for me. I’m trusting in the Lord as it’s getting better with time. Though some questions may be unanswered and may still be on this side of heaven, I will have faith that God knows best and that in tragedy, His ways are perfect and good.