Grief & Bereavement

Grief is an intense emotional suffering caused by personal loss. It involves acute sorrow, deep sadness, suffering, pain, and anguish. Bereavement can be defined more specifically as the grief that follows the death of a loved one. This chapter will focus primarily on that aspect of grief.

Bereavement is a difficult time. The bereaved person will often feel that his or her experience is unique, that no one has ever endured such a loss or suffered as he or she is suffering. There are cycles of healing to the pattern of grief, which permit the sorrowing person to recover in due time. For some, however, complete recovery never comes.

The cycle of healing from grief usually proceeds as follows:

  1. The initial shock of death: that intense emotional impact which sometimes leaves a person with a seeming paralysis.
  2. Emotional release: a time characterized by weeping.
  3. Loneliness and depression: a sense of loss, often related to the degree of dependence on the deceased.
  4. Guilt: a feeling of guilt characterized by second-guessing: “I could have done more,” or, “I should have done something differently?”
  5. Anger, hostility: “Why did God do this to me?”
  6. Inertia: Listlessness: “I can’t get on with it,” or, “I couldn’t care less.”
  7. A gradual return to hope: “Life will go on.” “I will be able to cope.” “God will help me get over this.”
  8. The return to reality and normality: admitting the loss and adjusting to it.

We must remember, however, that grief is not predictable nor can it be cataloged. Sometimes the stages of grief will seem to merge and overlap. The bereaved may feel release from a certain ?phase? of suffering, only to have it return.

Helping grieving people calls for genuineness, special sensitivity and tenderness, sympathy, and empathy. We must depend on the Holy Spirit for guidance. There are no easy answers. Our words must be sincere and meaningful, “tailor-made for the situation,” because real comfort for the bereaving person depends on where he or she actually is in the grieving process.

Billy Graham says: “Our confidence in the future is based firmly on the fact of what God has done for us in Christ. Because Christ is alive we need never despair, no matter what our situation may be. ‘Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him. . . . For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:8, 23).”

The Death of Children:

The death of a child is especially difficult for surviving parents and families. Death after such a short life span often produces feelings of guilt, melancholy, and a lot of questions. In addition to the foregoing helping strategy, the following may be helpful:

  1. Though we cannot know why the child died, we do know that children are especially precious to God. Referring to children, Jesus said, “Of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14). Interpreted in the light of Scripture as a whole, this passage has led some scholars to believe that children who die are taken immediately into God’s presence.
  2. If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and trust in Him as our Lord and Savior, we have the blessed hope of seeing our loved one again. When King David’s child was taken from him in death, he said, “Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:23).


    “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?'” (John 11:25-26).

    “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1-3).

    “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Corinthians 5:1).

    “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. . . . For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” (Philippians 1:21, 23).

    “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5 NASB)