“Good Grief” seems like such an odd phrase when you stop and consider it in the midst of real grief. So odd in fact, that I took the time to look up its origin in an attempt to understand just what was so good about grief. What I discovered is that it is most likely the result of people substituting the word grief in the phrase they wanted to say in order to not take the “Lord’s name in vain” by saying, “Good God!”. Since God observes the heart and motives, I’m not sure how effective such a strategy is — but that’s a matter for a different post. 🙂 While the research helped me understand the origin, it did nothing to answer my internal question of what good could be found in grief.
Anyhow, this is an article I have been working on for two years now and while I’m still short on answers, I do realize that the grieving process is natural and necessary . . . and often very different for each person. And while the phrase was never meant to have anything to do with grief or goodness, I’ve begun to think that good grief is only possible when we allow God to change and transform us even through our losses. But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s turn the clock back a couple years and pick up on this journey to discover good grief where it began . . . or at least where it came to the surface in the most unavoidable way.
Two years have passed but I remember the day as if it was just yesterday. They say my phone lit up with the initial incoming call while I was leading the closing prayer time at church, but it wasn’t until we were at Subway for lunch that I noticed I had a missed call and voicemail from my brother. The message was pretty basic — call me as soon as you can. The urgency in his voice took me outside the restaurant to return his call with great concern in my heart for my mom and dad. The concern increased as he wanted to make sure I was sitting down, and then the news broke . . . it wasn’t mom or dad, it was one of his kids — Bre was gone.
I don’t know that I grieve in the way most people do, and I’m not sure that I’m even capable of expressing grief in the ways most people would recognize, but that day began a journey that changed not only me, but in some way it changed everyone who knew my niece. While I can’t speak accurately of the changes it brought to the lives of others, I can write about how it has changed me so far. While the day of the accident and the news of it is etched in my mind, the rest of the week is mostly a blur. I readily and humbly agreed to “officiate” the funeral service and the week was filled with long days and nights as I prepared a funeral message while taking care of a major floor refinishing project at work. The volunteers who were going to be doing the floors had been “reassigned” to a different project and I was left alone with my work and with God to begin examining what I would share with the family and friends who would gather at the end of the week, and to begin considering what good God could do in my life out of all of this.
The first thing to change was a renewed awareness of the brevity of life. We’ve generally come to expect that “old” people will die and while we grieve their passing, it usually doesn’t hit us as abruptly as the loss of a young person. While Bre packed more into her twenty-one years of life than most people do with many more years, it seemed there was so much more that should have and could have been done. Yet this moment is all any of us have and what we do with it is what builds our legacy we leave behind. If God puts it in your heart and mind to do something and you don’t take the first step toward that today, it is always possible that the step will never take place. Loss brings us face to face with grief and grief is designed to bring us face to face with God. What people do when they face God in their times of grief varies greatly, but God’s desire is that they would find comfort in Him.
The second thing to change, related closely to the first, was a renewed focus on spending time more wisely when it comes to making family time a priority. The process of grieving caused me to reevaluate many things about how I used my time. The “good” out of this grief, so far, has led me to be much more deliberate in spending time with my wife and daughter in special ways whenever we get the chance. Things that consumed my time with no apparent benefit to me or others went by the wayside as I would head out to nearby parks with my family, and camera, to just spend time together in God’s presence. Vacations and even spur of the moment overnight getaways have become more meaningful as we build memories together. While this change began gradually after the funeral, it really solidified a year ago as I concluded that memories are what we hold onto when we are no longer able to hold onto the ones we love — so make good ones!
While I suppose there are many other lessons that I have been learning which are making good come from the grief, these two seem to be primary at this time. While loss brings much pain, when our time of grieving is spent with God, He can bring good changes to us even through the grief. Good grief? Well, yes . . . and no. The cause of the grief is rarely good, but God can make the result of the grief into something good in our life and through our life into the lives of others.
And so, for now, I close this writing with a photo that includes the poem God gave me to write two years ago as this process of “good grief” began.