By Anne Peterson, Crosswalk.com
Some days, you can’t believe your loved one is gone. So many times you wanted to wake up from your sleep, hoping to find it was all a bad dream. But it was real, and you are learning how to live without the one you loved so much.
Grief is a long and personal journey. No can tell you how to grieve, or how long you should grieve. We are unique individuals and as such, we all grieve differently. One thing that can help as you grieve is to express love for the one you lost. When you do, you may find your heart is thankful for their life. And that will turn your attention in the right direction to God.
Here are four life-changing ways to turn mourning into worship:
1. Sing to the Lord
I was on one of my daily walks when I realized how heavy my heart had been. I often thought of my granddaughter, Livie, when I walked. Especially since one of my favorite places to walk is the cemetery in my neighborhood.
But as the days and weeks went by, I could tell my heart was healing. I had spent a lot of time crying about Livie. Thinking of all the things we didn’t get to do, the things I would never see her accomplish. But one day there was a turn. And instead of thinking about what I lost, I started thinking about what I had gained.
Livie was a miracle. She had Trisomy 18 and wasn’t even supposed to make it to her birth, but she did. And so we lived each day, then each week, and month, wondering if it would be her last. It’s hard being a grandma wanting to have joy, when you know your grandchild is terminal.
Perhaps what made it even harder for me were all the times in my life that I stood before caskets. And even a couple times, tiny ones.
But when my heart was thankful, I felt like singing. So I’d walk through the cemetery and sing to God. I’m a hymn lover, and although there are some really nice praise songs; for me, they just don’t compare to the old hymns that I love and memorized from constantly singing them.
How Great Thou Art always seems fitting. And somehow I think the words are honoring when we are grieving because those words come from a broken heart. I also enjoy singing It is Well With my Soul.
Letting God know that although it was so hard holding Livie for the last time, and seeing the pain on everyone’s faces, I know we’re going to see her again. That hope makes the pain lessen. Singing to the Lord has been an important part of my healing journey.
2. Pray to the Lord
I loved walking around the cemetery, as I said, but in between times when I would sing, I often felt like praying. It was easy to pray for my family since they were all hurting. Listening to Livie’s siblings express their feelings was a privilege, because then I knew what to pray.
I mentioned each of them to God, but it wasn’t long before I noticed my prayers were soon full of thankfulness. Instead of focusing on the times I no longer had with Livie, I thanked God for one special night. I got a call from my daughter-in-law, Heather, asking if I’d come and sit with Livie, so they could get some sleep. I couldn’t get over to their house fast enough.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Natali Mis
And so, I sat and held her, singing as I rocked this precious one God gave us. Livie soon fell asleep in my arms, making it one of the most wonderful nights ever.
After Livie went to heaven, I was tempted to focus on how few our times were together. But God gently reminded me of our special night—just me and Livie. And no one can take that memory away from me. I have it tucked away in a special part of my heart.
3. Praise the Lord
It might sound difficult to actually praise the Lord when you are mourning the loss of a loved one. I wasn’t able to do this immediately after we lost Livie. But I found when I’d pray to God, sometimes my prayers turned into praises. When we’re hurting and we praise God, maybe that is the sacrifice of praise.
I praised God for his blessings. This included my husband, two grown children, and my grandchildren.
I praised God for his loving kindness.Livie could have died before her birth, which is what we had been told would happen.
I praised God for his tender mercies. We were given time with Livie. Not one day, or just one week, but a whole year with four months tacked on.
I praised God for his great love. Psalms 127:3 tells us children are a gift from God. I have four grandchildren here, and Livie, in heaven.
I praised God that he is near the brokenhearted.In Psalm 34:18 it tells us that. God was there when I got the call that Livie had died, just as he was there every moment of her life.
I praised God that he sent his Son. John 3:16 tells us that Jesus came so that we can have eternal life by accepting Jesus. Praising the Lord is possible when you are mourning.
4. Share about the Lord
While attending a Hospice-sponsored grief seminar given by Tom Reardon, I learned there are two types of grievers. There is an emotional griever who talks their grief out, and there are instrumental grievers, who work out their grief by doing something.
Note: This is not to be confused with the person who gets busy so they will not think about their loss. When we try to avoid grieving, it’s like trying to push a beachball under the water. It can’t be done without the ball popping up.
Reardon gave the illustration of a father who had lost his son. It was especially hard for the father because when he thought of his son, Mike, he also remembered the project they didn’t get to work on. Their dream was to build a canoe and then take a canoe trip.
Reardon encouraged the father to do two things. First, he was to make the canoe that he and his son had talked about. Secondly, he was to take that canoe trip.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Brian Lasenby
The father was reluctant at first, not certain he could do it. He was surprised how working on the project gave him such peace. Once the canoe was finished, he went on the trip without his son. His time was bittersweet.
He enjoyed following through on their dream, thinking about his son every step of the way. Taking that trip was a way to honor his son.
I had thought since I love to talk that I was an emotional griever, but I realized I’m an instrumental griever instead. As I was grieving for Livie, one day I had the idea of compiling some of my poetry into a book. I worked on this tirelessly, and when I was finished I had He Whispers: Poetic talks with God, Volumes 1-3.
Doing that project helped me in two ways. First, it required me to go through each poem, which reminded me of God’s love and faithfulness. Secondly, I got to dedicate one of the books to Livie, which was a way to show her I love her. This was like a soothing balm to my hurting heart.
I often share about my granddaughter through articles, or poetry, hoping I can help someone else who is grieving their lost loved one. In 2 Corinthians 1:4, we are told God comforts us so we can pass that comfort onto others.
In Joel 2:25, it says, God will restore the years the locusts have eaten. A pastor recently expounded on that, explaining God’s restoration happens when we take something painful that we’ve gone through and we help someone else who is struggling by sharing our experience of how God helped us in our struggle.
God is in the business of restoration. How wonderful that we can be a part of that process. All we have to do is be willing.
A Prayer for Those Who are Mourning:
Dear Lord, I pray for those in grief who are reading this article. I pray that you would lift their hurting hearts. I ask you to encircle them with your everlasting arms as you did for me, each time I lost a loved one. Father, give them grace as they face each day with questions and broken hearts. Help them remember, no matter what they experience that you are with them. Surround them with understanding people, and Lord, if they should be hurt by insensitivity, I pray that you help them extend grace to those who hurt them. Father, let them see, that many do not understand grief. Some are afraid of facing their own mortality. Above all, Lord, let them sense your presence in a special way. I pray all this in your Son’s precious and Holy name. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Anne Peterson is well acquainted with grief. Anne is a regular contributor to Crosswalk and a poet, speaker and published author of 14 books. Her books include: Broken: A story of abuse, survival, and hope, as well as a volume of 3 books, He Whispers: Poetic talks with God. Sign up for anne’s newsletter at www.annepeterson.comand click on free Ebooks to choose one.Or connect with Anne on Facebook. Follow her, so you hear when her latest book, Always There will be released.
Photo Credit: ©Pexels/James-Wheeler
Anne Peterson is a regular contributor to Crosswalk. Anne is a poet, speaker, published author of 16 books, including her latest book, Always There: Finding God's Comfort Through Loss. Anne has also written and published another memoir, Broken: A story of abuse, survival, and hope. Sign up for Anne’s newsletter at www.annepeterson.com and receive a free eBook by clicking the tab. Or connect with her on Facebook.