Getting to the Other Side of Grief

(Baker Books, 1998)

The death of a spouse forever changes the life of the surviving partner and challenges the very foundation of one's faith. Yet, faith is an essential ingredient for the healing process.

The grieving process allows us to adjust to an environment that has changed and will continue to change.

However, the authors suggest that we should intentionally choose to grieve rather than avoid the pain. Avoidance will only cause the pain to resurface in some less healthy way at another time. Both authors agree that it is critical from a Christian perspective to embrace the grieving process rather than void the pain and real work of grief. The grieving process allows us to adjust to an environment that has changed and will continue to change. It is important to let the wound heal and eventually move on in our lives. We will need faith to make that journey.

The basis for grief lies in three levels of loss: loss of a spouse, loss of control and disappointment with God. Faith will lead the grieving survivor to understand that death is not God's fault, that God does understand and that happiness will return.

It is important to understand that grieving is a unique process that varies with each individual. No two grieving experiences will be exactly the same. Three factors tend to make each experience unique: the nature of the relationship with the deceased, your personality characteristics as they relate to personal circumstances, and the type of death.

Grief will express itself in four primary ways: physical sensation, feelings, behaviors and cognitions. While early researchers talked about going through stages of grief, these authors suggest grief-work should be viewed as "a series of tasks." The tasks of grief include recognition that your partner is dead and will not return, allowing yourself to experience the feelings, finding a place for memories, adjusting to life as a single, and reinvesting your life according to your own desires and interests.

The authors encourage the surviving spouse to pay more attention to the process of grief rather than trying to hurry on to a restructured life. But, ultimately they see grief as a journey leading to "moving on." As Robert De Vries writes,

"You, O God alone, can turn
My mourning into dancing."

Other books suggested by the authors as possible additional sources include:

  • Carol Staudacher, A time to Grieve: Meditations for Healing after the Death of a Loved One (San Francisco; HarperSanFrancisco, 1994)
  • Melba Colgrove, Harold H. Broomfield, and Peter McWilliams, How to survive the Loss of a Love (Los Angeles; Prelude Press, 1991)
  • Earl A. Grollman, Living When a Loved One Has Died (Gilbert, AZ; Beacon Press, 1987)

– EF

Getting to the Other Side of Grief by Susan J. Zonnebelt-Smeenge and Robert C. De Vries
was published by Baker Books in 1998.