The Journey of Grief

August 30 is National Grief Awareness Day. Rev. Jennifer Powell shares her insights into grief, faith and how to help others

The Journey of Grief
Carrie Cravens
Oct 26, 2023

August 30 is National Grief Awareness Day. Grief is a complex emotional experience that encompasses a wide variety of coping mechanisms and becomes a journey toward healing. Rev. Jennifer Powell shares her insights into grief, faith and how to help others based on her experiences as a pastor and an individual who has leaned on God’s love and comfort through devastating and tragic losses in her life.

What is Grief?

Experiencing the death of a loved one is one of the toughest experiences we face in this life.  Grief is not something we typically learn about before we're thrust into it.  I'm not an expert on grief, but I have spent the last 19 years navigating and learning what I can about grief and walking beside others immersed in grief. Even though I have experienced tremendous loss, I can’t possibly know how someone else feels in their loss.  The truth is, we can prepare our heads, but not our hearts before we experience the death of a loved one.

Is There a Right Way to Grieve?

The answer is, there is no right way to grieve. Grief looks different for every person.  Some struggle with many tears, others struggle with no tears at all.   Some of us may be angry--with others, and with God, even questioning our faith. It's ok to feel the pain.  We have the idea that when something hurts, there is something wrong with us.  If we didn’t love so much, we wouldn’t be experiencing the deep pain of grief.

What does Society Expect?

We live in a grief avoidance society, which only adds to the difficulty of grief.  We often hear, even two weeks after a death “you should be over this by now, why aren't you back to normal yet?”  It can make us question ourselves and think there might be something wrong with us because we are “not over it” yet.  The truth is grief is a life long journey. We carry the love of the person who died with us throughout our lives. We learn to move forward through, and with our grief.

What Does Our Faith Teach Us?

 We often hear, “if you have faith in God, why can't you just get over this?” or, “why would God put you through this?”  I have often said that I would not have survived the devastating losses in my life without my faith in God. I can't imagine what it would be like for those going through difficult times, especially grief, to do so without faith. Having faith in God doesn't mean we won't suffer or face hardships. It also doesn't mean we can't be angry with God.  God will always be there, lovingly waiting and even walking beside us as we grieve.

Helping Others Grieve

We should show compassion for those around us who are grieving, even if it looks different than the way we experience grief or what we might imagine our grief would look like.  Far too often, we simply say nothing to the grieving or avoid them altogether, because we don’t know what to say or do.  The truth is, there are no “right words” and there is no “right thing” to do.  Our presence with others is probably the most impactful thing we can offer.   

Listening, sharing memories (be it a poignant moment or even a funny story), comforting those who are grieving are all powerful ways to show our love.

Rev. Jennifer Powell is the Pastor of Congregational Care at St. Andrew Methodist Church.  She experienced the tragic death of her husband in 2004, her youngest son in 2011, and her oldest son in 2018.  Through her personal experiences with grief, she has developed a passion for helping others in their grief and facilitates Grief Care at St. Andrew twice a year.