When Tragedy Happens and Grief Comes In Like a Flood
It was not long ago that I took a walk on the beach during a hurricane. I don’t recommend doing this, and I am not sure that I’d do it again. Since the storm was starting to head out to sea, my brother and I assumed that by this time most of the damage would have been done already, and we would not have to worry about things like street signs, tree limbs, or parts of wooden staircases flying into us from the wind. Those items were already being tossed in the waves and had been knocked down onto the streets blocking different roads.
We walked, or should I say, we were blown, down the boardwalk above the ocean’s raging waters. Pushing past its normal boundaries, the waves of the sea lapped and snapped and roared underneath of us. The sea shook its frothy mouth and it greedily devoured the land on the wrong side of the boardwalk – the side where the people lived.
That is what grief is like. It floods into everyday living. It temporarily covers and overwhelms the scene with its presence.
Last year at this time, my dad died. This year, I have friends who have experienced either their mom or their dad’s recent death.
On Friday, a sudden tragedy took place at our church: Two teenage girls walked along the sidewalk after school when a car suddenly careened into both of them from the street. One girl almost immediately entered the gates of heaven, and the other girl was severely injured. A brother witnessed the whole thing. Just. Like. That.
What if they had only gotten an extra drink at the water fountain while still at school?
What if they had only stopped to chat with one more friend in the hallway for just an extra minute or two?
What if they had just tripped on the curb and been delayed because of that?
What if? What if? What if?
How could this have been avoided? How could this have even happened?
Ripped from our lives in a split second, death tears another person from the fabric of the land of the living. Dwelling side-by-side, we all suffer. Our territory is covered in a flood of emotions, engulfed, and overcome by its surprise.
I have noticed that all grief feels similar, in a bad kind of a way. Whether it is from a husband suddenly leaving your marriage like I experienced, or the death of a loved one which I have known too, both feel like an awful blow to the stomach.
What do you think? How has grief affected you?
Here are some of the ways that grief has made me feel:
- Like being knocked over on the ground, feeling confused, and not knowing quite how to get up again quickly.
- Like you are sick to the stomach with a bad case of the flu and cannot eat.
- Like being really fragile and bruised inside, but not physically.
- Like you want to sleep longer instead of waking up to remember it all.
- Like you are numb and cannot feel.
- Like you cannot talk.
- Like you are doing everyday things mechanically, like a robot, and in slow motion.
- It can make you feel like it does not matter if you order the french fries and the coke AND the milkshake at the McDonald’s drive-thru.
- It might feel like the world is standing still, and the little worries that used to matter do not seem important at all anymore, and you wonder why you worried about those small problems before anyway.
- Like someone hit the pause button on your life, while others around you are still continuing on like nothing is the matter.
- Like you are all alone because no one really understands what you are thinking and feeling inside.
- Like when someone asks how you are, then you might just force a smile and say, “Fine,” because you do not feel like trying to explain it again, and very few notice or even have a clue.
- Like you might watch a movie that distracts you with the storyline but makes you cry and sob because you are really crying and sobbing about something very different and the pile of tissues grows taller on the floor.
- Like an ache that will never, never go away and you wonder if you might ever feel happiness again.
But God gives us this promise:
“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.“
Grief feels bad. Sometimes it feels like the waters of grief will never ever recede.
But just like when it happens with the waters in a flood, your grief will go back to manageable levels. Right now, though, God is able to sustain you through this even when you are feeling really, really awful.
It’s going to be okay. Ask Jesus to help you. He understands grief, and He will not get tired if you need to cry out to Him again and again. He will not be offended when you are totally honest with Him.
Let me pray for you too.
Lord, I ask you to help my friend right now through her heartache. Let the flood waters of grief recede from her emotions. Let her see again the promised land that you have provided for her. Help her to walk in the good plans that you have for her. Be her strength. We ask for Your help, God, because we need You, in the Name of Jesus, Amen.