Do People of Faith Grieve?
Brenda F. Atkinson, M.Div.; C.T.
Continuing Care Coordinator
Thomas McAfee Funeral Home
On many occasions I have heard well-meaning people quote to grievers of faith the verse from 1 Thessalonians 4:13: “ Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” (NIV) While many people are truly trying to bring comfort to a family or individual, this can be confusing. It can cause a person to question their faith and grief. My encounter with them goes something like the following:
“Is what I am feeling the way I am supposed to feel after the death of my loved one? Is this normal?”
“I cannot remember anything.”
“I cannot stop crying and I cannot make decisions.”
“I tried to pray and the words will not come and I am questioning my faith.” I am angry with God!” “I am feeling guilty because someone told me ‘people of faith are not to grieve’.”
As a minister and grief counselor, I to try to help the griever understand the scripture from 1 Thessalonians. This verse does not say we are not to grieve, but that we are not to grieve as the world. There is always sadness and loneliness when a loved one dies. There are many examples of people in the Scriptures who grieved: Abraham grieved Sara, David grieved his son, Job grieved his 10 children and Jesus grieved Lazarus, to name a few.
Many grievers have anger toward God. But be assured that God is big enough to handle your anger. Dr. Harold Ivan Smith, in his book Grievers Ask…Answers to Questions about Death and Loss; states it this way: “What I have learned is…God comes to us in our angry grief, our ’I cannot believe it!’ grief. He shows up long before we invite him or before we recognize his presence. God can definitely handle our angry, zinger prayers.”(p.56)
At each of our 3 locations in December, Thomas McAfee Funeral Homes’ invites the families we have served to our Services of Remembrance. Last December, Dr. Stephen Clyborne, Pastor of Earle Street Baptist Church, spoke and quoted the Reverend Ansel McGill: “Grief has a way of coming down every street and sooner or later knocks on every door.” The quote really resonated with me because no one is exempted from grief.
The emotions we feel are given to us so we can lament and cry. Something to remember is that no one grieves the same. We all grieve differently. There is no time limit on grief; it takes as long as it takes. As long as you are able to get up every morning, dress, and go through your day, you are doing okay. You will need some time to yourself to think and remember. Talk to someone you trust, who is willing to listen to your story and will allow you to grieve. There is no closure on the death of a loved one. Your memory and love for them will always be in your heart.
So to answer the question, “do people of faith grieve”…yes they do. The day will come when they will be able to smile when they think of their loved one and they will find comfort in the words from Psalm 30: 5b; “…Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”(RSV)