Grieving Fully


“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

by Dr. Valencia Wiggins, assistant professor at Moody Theological Seminary. A clinical psychologist and licensed professional counselor, Dr. Wiggins enjoys helping individuals become emotionally healthy.

A few weeks ago, I discovered a small, dusty cedar box filled with rusty trinkets, a few pennies, and old letters from college friends. To my surprise, I found a postcard from my father, who passed away many years ago, with a beautiful message of encouragement.

Immediately, I began to cry and experience a range of emotions from grief to joy, and even a moment of laughter. I expressed gratitude to God for this reminder from my father, as well as thankfulness for his life and legacy of faith that he left behind for me and my family. After this wave of emotion and reflection, I smiled one more time as I placed that precious postcard from my father on my refrigerator and breathed a prayer of thanksgiving.

Grief is the normal response of sorrow, emotion, and confusion that comes from losing someone or something important to you. It is a natural part of life.

Take a moment and do a brief inventory of loss in your life. Have you experienced a major loss in the last year, month, week, or even yesterday? Maybe your loss includes a loved one, a financial loss, a relationship, a pet, or even the loss of something small such as a watch or necklace that may hold a significant memory. Whatever loss has occurred, a process of grief will follow.

Psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross developed one of the most famous concepts on the process of grief. She observed that people who are dying often experience five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

This leads to a question: If someone experiences each stage of grief, have they grieved fully?

Grieving is a personal experience. How you grieve depends on various factors including your personality and coping style, life experience, faith, and the type of loss. Grieving and healing take time, and the grief process looks different for each individual. Someone may start to feel better in a few weeks or months, while another person may grieve for many years. Whatever your experience with grief, it’s important to be patient with yourself.

So, what does it look like to “grieve fully”? Below are some suggestions as you move through grief:

  1. Acknowledge the loss in your life: Take the time to process the grief or loss with family, friends, or church. 
  2. Allow time for tears: Crying is a natural response to disappointment, pain, and other circumstances in our life, especially immediately following a loss. God knows the pain and sorrow connected to each tear, and He promises to stay close and provide comfort in our time of need (e.g., Psalms 34:18: 56:8; 147:3).
  3. Feel feelings: Many emotions occur following the loss of a loved one, or situational loss, such as a job. As Kubler-Ross described in her stages of grief, you may experience feelings ranging from denial to anger to sadness to depression. During stages of grief, you might feel hopeless and lost in despair. There are examples of grief in Scripture. We read how Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus and King David wept over the loss of his son Absalom. Yet, even in the midst of the suffering, God promises hope and restoration (e.g., Psalms 23:3; 42:11; 62:5).
  4. Stay in community: If you have a small group of friends, church, or family, remember to also stay in contact with your extended family members. If you need more support, consider seeking professional Christian counseling or a grief support group.
  5. Rest: Sleep is one of the most important levels of self-care. Grief is exhausting! Remember to take time out each day during your process of bereavement. Eat, exercise, explore, journal (e.g., prayers, comforting verses from Scripture such as the Psalms), and please do the basics of self-care.
  6. Reflect, remember, rejoice: Keep a journal and jot down memories of your loved one. Write down your feelings, thoughts, and hurts. Remember the life of the one for whom you grieve, and celebrate God’s gift of the life and legacy of your loved one.


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