Spirituality can become fractured due to the pain of grief and the disruption of mourning. But both are very necessary to move towards spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health as you find your new normal from the death of a loved one, divorce (death of a marriage), or a different type of loss that necessitates grieving because something still was lost and that pain needs to be acknowledged.
As I’ve grieved, most recently the passing of my grandmother Lena, books, music and connecting with others encourage me in the journey.
Below is a list of books I’ve read, currently read, why I’m reading them and what those words are teaching me about grieving, mourning and learning how to live where I am. If they can be a help to you please let them.
Experiencing Grief by H. Norman Wright – a very practical and healing guide for those journeying through the experience of the loss of a loved one. It felt like this book literally gave me oxygen the days after my grandma died. It gave me steady footing to not become overtaken by my emotions but instead begin to understand the grieving and mourning process and how to make my grief my own.
The Shack by William P. Young – nonfiction work that paints an unforgettable picture of what happens when tragedy confronts eternity. The book’s back cover states, “Mackenzie Allen Philips’s youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness.
Four years later, in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack received a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgement he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever. In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant The Shack wrestles with the timeless question: Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain? The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him.”
This book changed my life. It helped me walk through the nitty, gritty, iffy layers of grief around my losses in 2013. It helped me see God through completely fresh eyes. And he helped me walk through this book at my pace, my way. I started it in July 2014. Put it down. I picked it back up October 2014. Put it down. I picked it up again February 2015 and finished it by that spring. The book’s conclusion brought me to a new chapter in my relationship with God. For that, I’m forever thankful to him and to the author, William P. Young.
The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones – tells that Story beneath all the stories in the Bible. From Noah to Moses to the great King David, every story points to a Child. The one upon whom everything would depend.
As my grief deepened, picking up my Bible and just reading it was a very, very, VERY hard thing to do. I felt pain, I felt hurt and I didn’t know how to find God in that hard place. I knew he had not abandoned me and was as close to me as ever. But I FELT alone, I felt abandoned, I felt lost. Concentrating to read scripture was tedious and taxing for me. My mind was jumbled, my heart was broken and I just needed strength to breathe. It felt like scripture would fly by my eyes and mind as I tried to read. I didn’t have the energy to hold onto the words. But God maintained his tenacity to continue holding on to me.
I found my faith anew through this children’s Bible. It’s simplicity, gentleness and beauty were just what I needed and all I could handle. So I began to read it and started to see God through the eyes of a child. This is exactly the way he desires we all see him, with childlike faith, love and trust. I found that in my grief, a children’s Bible helped me to open my heart again to the Lord. And he met me exactly where I was.
Journeying through Grief series by Kenneth C. Haugk – a set of four short books to send to people at four crucial times during the first year after the loss of a loved one. One of the pastors at my church, Pastor Berry, introduced me to this series when my father died in 2005. It’s very helpful and divided into four books with a schedule for when to read or send the next book in the series, if you are helping someone walk through their grief. The topics include “A Time to Grieve,” “Experiencing Grief,” “Finding Hope and Healing” and “Rebuilding and Remembering.”
Come Away My Beloved by Frances J. Roberts – this is a devotional classic that I started reading January 2016. Each time I open a page I find words that feel hand-written especially for me in that moment. This book fosters connection and relationship with God and is a great resource to help you spend quiet time with him.
Open Your Bible from She Reads Truth – following my grief, I’ve struggled with studying God’s Word the way I’d done in years past. She Reads Truth is an online community of women who want to know God more deeply through the truth of his words in the Bible. I started following the SRT community on Instagram and then downloaded the phone app.
I came across this study in January 2016 and will start it this March. It’s described in this way: “Using powerful storytelling, real-life examples, and scripture itself, Open Your Bible will quench a thirst you might not even know you have—one that can only be satisfied by God’s Word. The Bible is sufficient and true. God’s Word is for you and for now.”
There is also a He Reads Truth community for men.
Ephesians via She Reads Truth App – personal Bible study on the book of Ephesians through the SRT app. The app is easy to use and didn’t feel so overwhelming as opening my Bible and trying to figure out where to start. Sometimes, it’s okay to embrace tools that can help you get where you need to be versus doing things on your own. It’s okay to admit you’re limited and you need help. Love this book of this Bible, which a good friend describes as a “book of grace.” Sometimes, we all need grace in our lives and the freedom to receive it. You can download the free app for iPhones through the iTunes store and Androids through Google Play.
I value the gift of music. I discovered creating a mourning playlist during my season of grief deeply shaped my journey. Here’s some of the songs that were the backdrop to my moods and my healing.
Lady Antebellum’s “Somewhere Love Remains” is slow and purposeful. It’s full of acknowledgment and asks for pursuit in its hopeful country melody. Loved listening to this while gardening outside.
Yo-Yo Ma’s “Quarter Chicken Dark” is funky and bold. Its beautiful violin banters and airy moments welcome thoughtful considerations. Enjoyed this most driving from place to place.
Etta James’ “A Sunday Kind Of Love” makes me want to put on a stylish dress, a pair of heels, go to a throwback classic soul dance party and slow dance with my man. It’s full of sass and soulful demands and beckons for love. This song just reminds me I’m alive.
Bobby Womack’s “That’s The Way I Feel About ‘Cha” is bluesy and guttural. Full of belly-wrenching emotion and truth. It encourages me to feel. This one is classic soul at its best. Soul music is just that – music that tells the story of what the soul feels.
India. Arie’s “Life I Know” is storytelling in pure form. It’s beautifully raw and authentically simplistic. Discovered this song after a run on the beach. As I walked during my cool down, I realized how much of my story is in this story. India’s hopes and realities are similar to mine. It’s a song of resonance.
Community is vital in grieving, mourning and healing.
GriefShare – grief recovery support groups for those who’ve lost loved ones. I did GriefShare in 2006, a year after my dad died. I was a part of the first group at my church to do this program. It helped me tremendously to grieve and face my feelings about the loss. I moved toward healing and I grew because of this community. If you’re ready for healing and to walk through your loss, consider joining a GriefShare group near you.
Meeting regularly with a licensed mental health professional, such as a grief counselor, can be very helpful in your grieving. I met with a counselor once a week for four months following my grandmother’s death. I continued counseling once a month for another eight months. What I appreciate about counseling is the door was always open for me to come when I needed it.
In grief it’s important to connect regularly with people who know you authentically and will walk with you through this season of loss, recovery and healing. For some, this can be your small group or Bible study group at church. For others, this will be your family and close friends who are like family for you.
Please understand some people won’t be able to walk with you in your grief. Either they’re not equipped because they’ve never lost someone or life demands much from them and they can’t buffer the new introduction of caring for you the way you need in this time.
Some friends and those you love may disappear because they don’t know what to say and don’t know what to do. Some may also minimize your loss because when they’ve lost loved ones, “they’ve just got over or got through it” and assume in time you will too.
Don’t be angry. But do recognize that you need to lean into people who are healthy and available to you. You need people who can lean into these “dark nights of the soul” with you. I believe God will bring them to you. Pray that he would and your eyes would be open to what I call “healing journeyers.” These are people who will walk with you through your loss and encourage you towards healing. I often find these are people who have a natural inclination towards the following:
- Giving encouragement
- Providing exhortation
- Willing to intercede for you in prayer
- Wisdom and discernment guide them
- Love by serving and hospitality
The journey of grief will change your life. But if you allow it to heal you, I believe the next chapters of your life will be worth the struggle and the pain. I speak from experience.