Grief is such a personal experience, isn’t it? Two people in the same home can’t even go through the process in exactly the same way. Psychologists tell us there are healthy ways to grieve, and there are unhealthy ways. But they will also tell you that, even though there seems to be a common progression, grief is different for every individual, including the period of time a person takes to grieve.
So, is there an acceptable duration of grief? Should a person grieve for a day? A week? A year? A lifetime?
Two of Aaron’s sons died violently on the same day. Yes, they’d sinned. Yes, they’d disobeyed God. Yes, they deserved to die. But these were Aaron’s baby boys.
If you’ve lost anyone suddenly like that you probably relate to Aaron. He had things to do, responsibilities, duties to perform, and Aaron went ahead and did them. But I imagine he was on auto-pilot that day. I imagine his arms felt heavy and his feet were like lead. I imagine he had to force himself to breathe. At least that’s how I felt on June 24, 2012. But Aaron had things that needed to be done, and he did what he had to do.
He just couldn’t force himself to eat. I wonder how long before Aaron could even look at food, how long before he got his appetite back. We don’t know. We just know that the day his sons died, the food sat before him untouched.
And that made Moses really mad. But Moses did something I think is important for us to consider. Moses went to Aaron and listened to him. Moses was angry until he stopped to understand Aaron was grieving. Moses may have misjudged the depth of Aaron’s grief because Aaron was able to get through his duties that day. I mean, Aaron looked like he was handling things. Why wouldn’t he eat? When Moses took the time to talk to his brother, he realized that behind the stoic front, there was a hurting man inside.
Maybe that’s what we should do when someone is grieving. Instead of going to them with answers, we should understand that they won’t grieve the same way we think we would in the same situation. They may be paralyzed by grief a day longer than makes us comfortable. But their grief isn’t about you or me.
Moses listened to Aaron’s heart, and it appears that he understood that Aaron’s grief was real, and deep, and personal. At that point, Moses stopped trying to force his own agenda on his hurting brother.
When someone in our lives is grieving, let’s determine to just listen, to try to understand or at least accept their pain as their pain. Let’s support them and love them, and pray that in God’s timing they will be able to dance again, to laugh and feel real joy again. And let’s pray that some day, they will be blessed by the memories of the one they have lost.
And if you are grieving, grieve. If you are hurting, hurt. But I pray you won’t go through this alone. Find someone willing to let you grieve, someone who will listen to you rant if you need to rant, or cry if you need to cry, or be silent if even the effort of speaking is too great. Grief is a natural thing when we lose someone. Don’t deny yourself those feelings. (I’m talking to you men, too, you know).
But let me encourage you to get out there again when you are able. I think for most of us there is an element of sadness, or grief that stays with us when we experience a loss like that. But eventually that grief doesn’t have to paralyze us. Eventually we find ourselves laughing at silliness again, rejoicing in good times (and there will be good times). We wake up one morning with joy in our hearts, believe it or not. And we get our appetites back, we actually smell the aroma of baking bread, and taste the pizza once again.
Most importantly, let me encourage to you pray. This grief is very personal, and we have a very personal God. I believe He weeps when we weep, that He gives His strength when we have none of our own, and that His joy is available in every and all circumstances.
Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”