Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, November 10, 2019 

Shavuah Tov *|FNAME|*,

Once again I offer abundant thanks to Raymond Finney for this timely and thorough treatment of grief.  This week we get half.  Next week, the other half.  I hope find this as helpful and enlightening as I have.

Coping with Grief (Part 1) by Raymond Finney

Let each of you look… for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)

INTRODUCTION: In the November 3 RR, I wrote about grief following the death of my son. Today, I write Part 1 about coping with grief. Sooner or later you or someone close to you will need grief-coping skills.

>> UNDERSTANDING GRIEF: Probably millions of pages have been written about grief. I foolishly try to summarize this complicated subject in a few RR pages, knowing that my efforts will be woefully incomplete. You, your friend, or your relative may find the beginning of a process which will ease grief. Read other sources for a more complete understanding.

Rabbi’s note – Grief is a God given emotion to help us deal with the loss of a loved one.  Like every emotion, taken to the extreme, it is no longer “of God” but used by Satan to separate us from God.  This paper will help keep us from the counterfeit of extreme debilitating grief.  End RN.

Grief (mourning) occurs naturally after loss. The loss may be death of a loved one (even a beloved pet); property (home– fire, weather event; valuable property); finances (job, business); health (self, loved one); and so forth. Grief is a universal human reaction in all cultures. Even certain animals appear to grieve after the death of one of their kind.

In 1969, an American psychiatrist, the late Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, wrote a classic, widely acclaimed book, “On Death and Dying.” Dr. Kubler-Ross described five stages of grief following loss. Her stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Others have added two more stages (total of seven). Not all of Dr. Kubler-Ross’ stages, as written by her in a somewhat neat package, should be viewed as linear (one stage does not necessarily lead to the next) nor universal (not all persons experience every stage). There is no “normal” grief for all persons. For purpose of this discussion, I will list these stages, with certain caveats:

** All persons do not necessarily experience all stages of grief.

** Persons may progress unevenly through the stages. Some may skip stages or loop back to (repeat) earlier stages.

** Some persons may unevenly express stages– one stage intensely, another stage slightly.

** Persons may spend different lengths of times in the grief process.

** Anniversary reactions may exist for a long time. An anniversary reaction is sadness on the date the dead person would have celebrated a “milestone” (wedding anniversary, birthday, favorite holiday, and so forth). I talked to a woman who had an abortion more than three decades ago. She learned the EDC (expected date of confinement– the due date) of her unborn baby. Every day on that EDC, even decades after the abortion, she has a ”flashback” and sadly remembers her baby and how old he/ she would be that year. She wonders about his/ her looks, family, and other personal details that ended with the abortion. 

Special note:  Any young woman should think and pray very hard before having an abortion. An elective abortion is a life-changing event that is so very difficult to overcome for many women.  End SN.

Here is a summary of the expanded (seven-stage) grief process:

DENIAL, SHOCK, ISOLATION. The first reaction to loss may be denial. (“This can’t be happening. He/ she can’t be dead.”) Denial is a common defense mechanism. This reaction is the first wave of emotional pain. The mind causes denial (emotional “shock”) in an attempt to ease the emotional pain of loss that might overwhelm the individual.

PAIN, GUILT. As denial wears off, it may be replaced by intense emotional pain. Anticipate that pain may occur, and try to accept it without medicating it by turning to alcohol or addictive drugs. The pain is a necessary part of healing. You may experience guilt, even guilt over seemingly trivial matters. (“What could I have done? Why didn’t I visit him/ her? Why was I not kinder at his/ her birthday party?”) You may feel your life is a mess (chaotic, unfocused).

ANGER, BARGAINING. You may even feel anger at your loved one. (“Why did he/ she not stop smoking/ drinking? Why did he/ she drive so fast?”) You may try to regain emotional stability by asking a series of “if only” statements. (“If we had only sought medical attention earlier… sought a second opinion… treated him/ her better….”) You may make or may have made a deal with God. (“If You spare his/ her life, I will….”) God probably is more loving than we realize, and He likely understands the grief driven emotion of anger. Although possibly a natural reaction, this is the time to lash out at others and blame them. Give yourself time to get your emotions under control before saying things you may later deeply regret.

DEPRESSION, REFLECTION, LONELINESS. Depression in mourning may come in two types:

** You may experience the practical implication of loss. Sadness and regret are present. You may worry about funeral costs, and the logistics of providing a funeral plot and mortuary services, notifying relatives, and so forth. These decisions are made at a time your mind is clouded and suffers emotional pain.

** Then may come subtle and private mourning. You need time to adjust to a new life. No matter how kind your friends and relatives wish to be, you may find they say awkward, even stupid things.  May I offer you some good advice: Try not to be the one who says awkward things at a funeral. If a woman has just lost her husband, do not “cheer” her by saying, “You’re an attractive woman. You’ll soon find another husband.” Or, if parents have just lost a child, do not “encourage” them by saying, “You’re both young. You can have another child in a year or so.” Some times, less is more. A hug or handshake and a simple, “I’m sorry for your loss,” may be enough.  Never undervalue the “ministry of presence.”  Just being there is ministry.  We show our love by not running away to hide.

UPWARD TURN. As you begin to adjust to life without your loved one, your life should become calmer and more settled. You can smile and laugh (without feeling guilty). The sky looks brighter; the birds sing more beautifully. It is desirable for joy to re-enter your life.  After all, would your loved one wish that you mourn the rest of your life?

RECONSTRUCTION, WORKING THROUGH. As you recover from grief, you will start building a life without your loved one. You will find ways to accomplish the chores he/ she did. You will seek practical solutions to work on any financial changes caused by the death. You will devote more time to living family members, knowing they, too, have been hurt by the death. Concern for others will cause you to wish to make everyone as whole as possible.

ACCEPTANCE, HOPE. This stage is the goal of everyone affected by death of a loved one. You may not reach this stage by yourself. If so, do not be ashamed to ask for help from persons who have training and experience in grief resolution. Coping with loss is a deeply personal experience. Such coping is a form of work, which the grieving person must work through. Coping with grief requires healing of mental and emotional stresses heaped on the survivor’s mind. Just as someone cannot recover for you from your gall bladder surgery– you must experience the pain of recovery– no person can completely bear your mental and emotional pain for you. Yeshua, though, has offered to help you carry your burden of grief (Matthew 11:28-30): [Yeshua said] “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Yeshua did not offer to carry your entire burden; He offered to help you carry your burden.

>> BIBLE RESOURCES FOR GRIEF: The Bible gives numerous verses to assist any grieving person. It is good to read God’s Word– written in love for His children. Let Him quietly speak to your heart. Consider the following verses. One or more may help you in grief.

** … Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5b)

** Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

** [Moses said] “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

** [God the LORD] gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. (Isaiah 40:29)

** “’Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’” (Isaiah 41:10)

** “For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has mercy on you. (Isaiah 54:10)

** You drew near on the day I called on You, and said, “Do not fear!” O Lord, You have pleaded the case for my soul; You have redeemed my life. (Lamentations 3:57-58)

** [Yeshua said] “ … Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” (Luke 6:21b)

** [Yeshua said] “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

** [Nehemiah said] “… Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10b)

** I love the LORD, because He has heard my voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live. |…| Then I called upon the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I implore You, deliver my soul!” Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yes, our God is merciful. (Psalm 116:1-2, 4-5)

** Let, I pray, Your merciful kindness be for my comfort,…. (Psalm 119:76a)

** The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2)

** Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

** I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart;…. (Psalm 27:13-14)

** The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

** … God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1b)

** But I will sing of Your [LORD’s] power; yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; for You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble. (Psalm 59:16)

** From the end of the earth I will cry to You [God], when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (Psalm 61:2)

** Nevertheless I am continually with You [God]; You hold me by my right hand. (Psalm 73:23)

** My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)

** [A loud voice from Heaven, speaking of Heaven, said to John] “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

** Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the [Ruach HaKodesh]. (Romans 15:13)

** Surely [Messiah] has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;…. … The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4a, 5c)

** [David said] “But now [my son] is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:23)

** To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: |…| A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;…. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4)

** “’Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’” (Isaiah 41:10)

** Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints. (Psalm 116:15)

** This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life. (Psalm 119:50)

** For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

** So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)

** But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep [died], lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that [Yeshua] died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in [Yeshua]. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in [Messiah] will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

** Then I [John] heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’  Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” (Revelation 14:13)

** Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:2-4)

** But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

** [Yeshua] said to [Martha], “Your brother [Lazarus] will rise again.” |…| [Yeshua] 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…..” (John 11:23, 25-26)

** [Yeshua said] “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever– the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17) [“Helper” – from Greek parakletos, literally, “One who walks beside;” also translated “Intercessor, Consoler, Advocate, Counselor, Comforter.” Greek Parakletos (translated into English = Paraclete) is another name for the ever-present Ruach HaKodesh.]

** And many more verses of comfort. God is eternally a God of hope and restoration!

British writer and theologian C.S. Lewis wrote about God, who shouts His love to us when we hurt: “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Shalom and Maranatha.

Father: We look for that Blessed Day, when Yeshua’s promise is fulfilled: “God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Until then, give us strength, when we grieve; help us to help others, when they grieve. Amen.