Rev Sharon Townsend and Dorothy Dwyer share how painful loss and bereavement can be overcome this Christmas, so that those who have experienced it can start living again
Christmas is here again, no getting away from it. But what will people be doing this festive season?
Some will be happily looking forward to celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus. Unfortunately, there will be others who will want to get away from it. For them, the thought of Christmas, with its high-spirited festivities and social interaction, is a real cause for anxiety because of the loss they have experienced.
Loss and bereavement are an inevitable part of life. It is natural to experience all kinds of loss as part of life’s seasons, whether it’s due to unemployment, loss of property, migration, a divorce, deteriorating health, and even the loss of a much loved pet. The ultimate loss is the death of a loved one.
In our work as counsellors, supporting those experiencing loss and bereavement, we also deal with corporate and shared loss within the Christian community. Sometimes it’s because a beloved pastor was called home, and the church is left in mourning because they feel the ‘church is just not the same’, and have difficulty adjusting to the new leadership.
Other times, a church experiences a split when a group leaves and starts worshipping together elsewhere. This leaves a deep sense of loss within the original fellowship. This is an important situation to note, as we know that the Kingdom of God is about building an effectual community of believers. Healing is urgently needed here for the body of Christ.
Whatever the loss, the effects are similar. These can be physical: evidenced by crying; constant tiredness; lack of appetite; a breakdown in health, and abuse of alcohol or other substances. There will also be emotional effects, including shock, sadness, denial, depression, pining for the loss, guilt and anger. The state of one’s mental health is inevitably affected. There are social effects, too. Some people withdraw themselves, whilst others make every effort to go out amongst others to forget the pain.
But it isn’t all doom and gloom. God has given us the gift of resilience and, most of the time, we experience a natural process of recovery. We can look back at the difficult times, and see how we have indeed overcome. People of faith can also draw on the Word of God in times of weakness. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart (Psalm 34:18).
I love King David, and there are many lessons we can learn from his eventful life. He experienced a range of loss and bereavement – he lost his freedom, when King Saul insisted on persecuting him to the death. David also went on the run, living like a fugitive (1 Samuel 19), and he experienced the double loss of his best friend, Jonathan, and his adversary, Saul, when both died together in battle. On receiving this news, David took hold of his clothes, tore them, ‘mourned, wept and fasted’ (2 Samuel 1:11-12).
Then David experienced the ‘ultimate’ loss, when his son, born as a result of his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, died after seven days. The reaction of people around is interesting to note. They were afraid to break the news to him at first. David was in a bad way, sleeping on the floor, and not eating for days as the child lay sick. His friends felt he might harm himself on hearing the ultimate news.
Though not always of God, David also had romantic and intimate relationships which, when they ended, he pined for. Many people can relate to such heartbreak. Perhaps a soul tie has left its effects and consequences – blocking progress – and a breakthrough is needed.
We have to acknowledge the reason for our Lord Jesus’ weeping. John 11:34-35 says, ‘Jesus wept.’ This was at the sight of the laid out body of his friend, Lazarus.
At the time of writing, there are 45 sleeps to Christmas. If anyone is still suffering the effects of a loss or bereavement – however long ago it occurred – they will understandably not be looking forward to the celebrations.
There is no simple answer to grief, but if you know you need some support, please don’t hesitate to make a step. Look around at your options: church, counselling, family, friends or specialist organisations, like the Loss & Bereavement Group that is run at Junction Community Church.
Remember, weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
Rev Sharon Townsend is a Psychodynamic Counsellor and Dorothy Dwyer is a qualified Life Coach. They run a Loss and Bereavement Group. For more details, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 8769 5174.
(NB: this email/website address isn’t active yet. Sent a test email (which I don’t normally do! LOL!) and it bounced back. Also, I’m not sure if the & is accepted as part of a web address. Please check)
Here are some Scriptures that can provide comfort to those who are grieving:
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart – Psalm 34:18
Cast your burdens on the Lord – Psalm 55:22
The Lord is near to all who call upon Him… He will also hear their cry and save them – Psalm 145:18-19
All things work together for good to them that love God – Romans 8:28
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the will of Christ – Ephesians 6:2