Fred Smith gives us four down-to-earth suggestions for the grief process.

By Fred Smith

Grieving is a natural part of the human process. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified the cycle of grief years ago in her landmark writings. I would like to give you not a cycle, but a reality check. When we face loss, whether through death, divorce, financial reversals, dead-end dreams or depression we need to do just that ---- face it. I am convinced that much physical illness is the result of pushing grief deep into our psyche. Let me share some suggestions that I would make for grieving. These come from a long life and many experiences.

1.) Be honest with yourself and cry if you want to.

Often tears are our best detergent for the soul. One of our children was sitting in the auditorium during a funeral that we attended and noticed that the women were crying freely but the men were keeping "the stiff upper lip" at first. Then they just simply began to do what was natural — they cried. I don't know what in the American keeps men from responding with natural crying, but we need to give each other permission to cry. The Bible says there is a time to weep and a time to mourn. We are admonished to "weep with those who weep." These words were written to strong men.

2. Journaling is very helpful.

I remember when Stephanie May lost her entire family in a plane crash. She began to write and I think it is one of the finest journals I have ever read. If you have not read it may I suggest "In God's Hands." I have given away several copies to those who grieve. When my father died I had a few hours alone with his body. I sat and talked to him and thought about our life together. It hadn't always been totally smooth because of our different temperaments, but I knew him to be a great man of God. Between 12:30 and 3:15 that night I wrote my feelings about my father.

3. Grieve as a believer

My third suggestion is that we grieve as believers, which has celebration as the backdrop for our grieving. We hurt with hope. As we faced Jim Smith's death one of his friends asked him to give a precious loved one "a hug and a kiss and tell him we love him." Jim replied, "And I'll tell him that you'll be along before very long." That is the hope against which we hurt. It is important to be clear that we grieve, but not like unbelievers. We are never instructed not to grieve --- this is important to remember.

When Ray Stedman died, his friend Jack Modesett walked out on the terrace of his penthouse in Houston. He thought about his great relationship with Ray and said to God, "Father, since you're so much closer to Ray now than I am. Will you say goodnight for me?" After my mentor, Maxey Jarman, died I would often say in my evening prayer a word of request for God to say hello to Maxey for me. It's perfectly proper for us to say, "Loved one, we miss you."

4) Grieving takes time

Let's remember it takes time for grief to be effective. We Americans are so used to having everything suddenly that we get in the habit of taking a pill or finding three easy steps to accomplish what requires a great deal more time. The grief process cannot be and should not be, hurried. The nature of the relationship and the way we are wired will affect the length of the process, but getting there the fastest is not the goal. The important thing is to let grief do its work properly and thoroughly.

As you know, I look at life and distill it down to principles. You may use a variety of techniques to work through grief, but I simply want you to know that grief is a natural and necessary part of life. The physical response of tears is a good thing. We can often untangle our confused thoughts as they work their way through the point of a pen. As we believe with the hope of eternity in mind we still know that it will take time --- there is no fast food substitute for authentic grief. We hurt, but not without hope! I hope these suggestions will be helpful.