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That’s Not Normal! – Processing Death Of A Loved One

Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

The worst thing you can tell someone experiencing the loss of a loved one “That’s not normal!”

We all go through it at some point in our lives, some of us sooner than others. Some of us “more” than others. But one thing is certain, especially as we age -we will experience the death of loved ones, friends and acquaintances. Something we cannot escape in this lifetime. And we all usually will attend some kind of memorial for the loved one. A wake and or a church service, then the burial.

But what happens after it’s all over? What happens to the individuals who are emotionally shattered and yearning for their loved one? What happens to those left behind, who feel deep remorse and have only memories, pictures, and a broken heart, with an ache so profound it feels like suffocation? What happens to them?

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away – Revelation 21:4

Well for one thing they undoubtedly struggle. They cry. They speak of their loved ones. They will share anecdotes stories and memories of the loved one. They laugh in between the tears. They hug as their tears intermingle with each other. And if they share a deep love of the LORD, they know where their loved one is. They know that the loved one is sharing in the supper of the Lamb, and they’re in the Lamb’s Book of Life!  But- still – it HURTS!

All of the above is normal. It’s a process-a cycle of life – born, live, die.

But what about the ones that can’t get past the loss? They don’t want to accept the facts. The ones that won’t believe that their loved one is gone. What happens next?

Well – everyone goes through a process at their own pace. There are no one-size fits- all in the time of grieving!  And it’s not anyone’s job to condemn or make a person feel like they’re not “normal.”  It’s a long arduous and painful journey to undergo experiencing the loss of a loved one.

One moment you will think you’re past the critical point of claustrophobic grief, that’s gripping and twisting your insides, and squeezing you until you can’t catch your breath! And then, you will suddenly hear a song, see a picture, or just sitting in your car, when the memories consume your mind and heart triggering an episodic crying session!

Recently two members in my family lost their loved ones. One is sort of getting on with her life – accepting it and grateful for their 78 years of marriage. She is surrounded by her loving children, grandchildren and great grandchildren!  She will go on successfully, aging in place, until she joins him in heaven one day, when she is called home.

Ostensibly, the other one is experiencing an extremely difficult journey. Not wanting to live. Not wanting to go on. Refusing to accept the person is no longer with her. Speaking to the Urn on her dresser as if she will respond, and not wanting to leave her room or go anywhere at all.

Many family members are concerned and have suggested she get “meds” to numb the pain. Or that she should be schooled about the reality of the situation. These particular family members, (cousins mainly) think they’re being helpful confronting the family member and trying to “shake sense into her.” News flash – they’re only exacerbating an already bleak and dire situation.

I’ve been speaking to this individual who is truly suffering with the loss on a daily basis. Her pain is palpable through the phone! Morning calls is usually around an hour. Evening calls is usually 45 minutes or longer. However, she is responding to my calls. Thanks be to God. What do I do? I merely listen!  I don’t condemn. I Don’t say that’s right, or that’s wrong. Or strongly point out what she should be doing.  And I certainly don’t parrot my cousins, “that’s not normal” spiel! She has gotten much better in terms of acceptance. And as it turns out she really only wants to speak with me, and barely speaks with other family members. She doesn’t wish to hear their “words of wisdom” in which they have no idea what she is going through. They mean well – I guess – but, seriously – this person is ninety-two years old!  Easy cousins!

It’s times such as these that I thank the LORD for guiding me into a realm of which to say, how to respond, and how to help. Because honestly, without God, I wouldn’t have a clue. He is the One who gave me the gift of “listening” and “helping” thus my profession and career. He carved it out for me. And when this happens, He gets all the glory and praise for being there, always. Listening is the best thing a person can do when someone is hurting. Listening and validation is two top criteria in helping someone cope and eventually, hopefully to an acceptance stage.

My point here? Please give individuals a chance to mourn before pointing out “what they should or should not do.” Give them a chance to cry, and vent and speak of their anger and rage at being left behind.  Give them a chance to laugh, to share their stories. Read some soothing scripture to them. It helps!

Please keep in mind – no one is the same. People mourn in different ways. Some might not shed a tear. That doesn’t mean they are not experiencing pain or grief. People are different, are deeply varied and as wide as the Pacific Ocean!

Next time you’re with someone who has experienced a loss. What can you do? Sometimes, seriously, all you have to do is “LISTEN.”

Please note that there are social workers in your local area who can guide you to grief support groups. This may or may not be a viable option for some-but for others it helps them cope and process their loss as they share with others going through similar issues. The bond of loss can be a major coping strategy and catapult those into an acceptance phase of their lives.

But I can’t express this enough – Please offer an ear, and “listen” that is the biggest gift of all to those suffering a loss.

“Father, may all those who are mourning at this time realize their loved ones are with You, may their broken hearts be healed, and their grief be shortened by the knowledge of Your love and promises, in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

About C D SWANSON

C D SWANSON is an Author of 22 plus books, freelance writer, contributor to various websites, including The Bottom Line Ministries/Faith News. She's an active member of Faithwriters- and has her online website/ministry for over 15 years. It is her greatest joy to write what’s in her heart, and thus her favorite form of expression is in her devotionals. She and her husband share a deep love of God and dote on their fur baby Mickey. Retired Director from Long Term Healthcare Industry, she continues to be an advocate for many. To check out other writings of this author you can go here:

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4 comments

  1. C D, Thank you for your comforting and practical article. Christians need to hear what you said.

    I lost my wife of 53 years – about 6 1/2 years ago. Because I had made a concentrated effort for several years to memorize Scripture, those verses gave me strength. A special help to me was Psalm 116 – the entire chapter. In that chapter is the very familiar verse 15, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” That verse along with the entire content of the chapter helped me overcome.

    I had several friends who later told me that they didn’t speak to me afterwards because they didn’t know what to say. But they didn’t have to say anything. Just having someone with you is sometimes a lot better than a lot of words.

    The Lord helped me through that time. An additional help to me was the fact that I had a full time job to go to everyday and was not sitting at home alone. Keeping busy at age 75, plus having social and church obligations were very important therapy for me.

    After four years as a widower, the Lord led me to a Baptist pastor’s widow. Getting married a second time at the age of 80 probably sounds difficult. But so far God has given us 2 1/2 years of a wonderful marriage.

  2. Dale,
    Thank you so much for your kind words, and for sharing your personal experience with the significant loss of your beloved wife of 53 years. It is so true; most times people just avoid those who lost a loved one. My cousin said to me, “I don’t call her because I don’t know what to say. It’s too uncomfortable.”

    It’s so sad, all people have to do is “listen” and be available, whether in person, or on the phone. Just connecting and letting them know someone truly cares. Plus, reading scripture, as you’ve just said with Psalm 116 – I will read that to her this evening, thank You Dale. That will be very calming and comforting for her, I’m sure.

    Praise the LORD for leading you to your current wife, that is truly a gift from the LORD. My heart is full and so glad to hear this message from you. Thank you so much. I pray that others going through these issues will read this article and your response, which greatly enhanced and helped solidify the article.

    Have a blessed night Dale~

  3. thanks cd.. I lost my mu in 2007 and brother in 2017.. on neither occasion was I with them at the end.. something i deeply regret.. i miss them..

    • Oh Keith, I’m so sorry to hear that. It’s tough enough losing someone you love, it seems to triple in pain when not there when it is happening. I’m sure they knew you loved them and they you, still doesn’t make it easier. But, thank God we have faith, and know where they are-and you will see them again one day.

      As for missing them – oh yes, of course you do – and that is something that will never go away. You know my patients in the nursing home some of them even in their 90’s -on their death beds were missing their mothers and calling out to them right before they passed. It’s bond that never goes away. Especially a “mom/mu.”

      I lost my dad on the operating table due to a medical error during the procedure on Jul 1, 1991 – I still miss him. My mom is gone going on 9 years next month, on my birthday – and I ache for her to this day. But – I know they are both at the table with the Lamb.

      Thank you for sharing with us, I’m sure many will relate to your comments Keith, thank you.

      God Bless~

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