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I say ‘freshly’ because I’ll write other posts about the different stages I went through and how I responded and the stages I am going through now and how I am responding (you are going on this journey with me!). The Bible teaches not to grieve as the world does because we have a greater hope knowing our loved one is in heaven but what I discovered is as with most life changing occurrences, you really do not know what this means until you are experiencing it – You cannot do it without the help of the Holy Spirit as your feelings and emotions will always try to take over. I know Dapo is in heaven with Jesus but I miss him so much. I find that people do not really know what to say or how to act around the bereaved. It is such an emotional time. I’d like to discuss some common things people tend to say/do and how these things made me feel during the first few week after Dapo’s death. Let me quickly apologise for my personal opinions and emotions (I actually felt differently after some weeks) – Not every freshly bereaved person may feel this way. I’ll list out and discuss in a do’s and don’ts manner:
IT IS WELL
Somehow and I truly will like to research into how this started and caught on like a virus the phrase ‘IT IS WELL’ has become the full stop, medication, golden elixir, solution, miracle balm and answer to a lot of life’s questions in Nigerian Christianese (Christian Language). Sadly, it happened to really frustrate me during those first few weeks because to me IT WAS NOT WELL! So why was everyone saying it was!!! Were they in denial? Were they trying to be funny? I did not understand it (I later did and now think of it like a prayer).
To the comforter – I will like to humbly suggest that if you are visiting a freshly bereaved person and you must use this phrase please please keep it minimal – trust me, they heard you the first 150 times! You DO NOT need to say it over and over again and most definitely not with that morbid deep sigh, worried expression and placement of your palm under your chin gesture that usually follows. At the time it made me feel like I was on the path to intense suffering and the person who said it was bidding me farewell (sorry, I really can’t explain the emotions I felt at the time)
To the freshly bereaved– Please see this phrase as a prayer. People usually do not know what to say or how to behave around a freshly bereaved person. Some cultures and societies believe that you must act a certain way so people do so without actually thinking about how their words and actions affect others. Please do not blame people. Try to be accommodating, I know it is a lot to ask of a freshly bereaved person but try to talk to the Holy Spirit in your heart (if you can because you may dislike him so much right now for taking away your loved one), sing a song in your head ……whatever you need to get through the particular situation. I am so sorry you’re going though so much pain! The phrase is actually quite comforting when you think about it as a prayer but I guess it is just overused. What it is supposed to do is let you see that even though things are falling apart because you are God’s own all things will definitely fall into place. I had to Google the phrase and hymn to discover why the original writer had said ‘It is well with my soul’ Please research it when you get a chance.
GOD KNOWS BEST
This is the sister partner of number one above and usually comes immediately after and in some occasions, before. This also made me quite frustrated because I did not understand why people were stating the obvious were they trying to tell me God was a bully who did not care about my feelings just that ‘he knew best!’. Well No! God is definitely not a bully and he does care about you (I have deliberately not used the word ‘feelings’ again but I will discuss in my note to the bereaved below)
To the comforter – Please also try to keep usage of this phrase minimal. I started counting the number of times it was said to me (as a coping strategy so as not to scream) and based on the number I actually got scared because it made me wonder if there was another meaning. Did they know that my life was going to turn out bad and were trying to prepare me? Was God going to allow more havoc to be wrecked in my life? It made me feel totally and utterly helpless and alone in the midst of the crowd.
To the freshly bereaved – At the time the phrase brought me zero comfort but later I began to understand it simply meant he knew what he was doing. He made the universe didn’t he? It is indeed a helpless feeling I will tell you the truth but I found rest in that state. If you are a bit of a control principled freak like I was then it may do your head in to know that you truly do not have control until you let go of it. I found peace knowing that the greatest person in the universe knew what he was doing in my situation. Let me stretch this a bit further as well – you know how we often say ‘God is good’ it really doesn’t sink in that GOD IS GOOD! It’s not that he does good things………he is the word GOOD itself! Anything he does, makes, allows to happen etc. is GOOD! It sometimes appears like God is just folding his arms right but the Bible tells us that his ears are not deaf to hear and his arms are not too short to save. If he believes it is the best thing to do, he will and he loves you just the same in any situation.
Don’t use your brain to figure it out…….ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it to you like I did in September 2016. My words to God were very harsh. At that point I did not care any longer) I don’t think there were any tears left to cry. I had cried and cried and as we say in Nigeria – cried blood (since there is no water left!) Dapo was suffering! The kind of suffering that is brain numbing, I couldn’t bear to look. Why would a God who said He loved us allow us to suffer so much? Couldn’t He see how much pain Dapo was in? What more did He want from the poor man?
He couldn’t eat, couldn’t sit, couldn’t lie down, couldn’t talk, couldn’t breathe properly, couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything! He had prayed, fasted, begged, pleaded, cried, deprived himself of things, and had faith a zillion times bigger than a mustard seed! A man with such vigour and promise reduced to this bag of bones! Why were you so wicked God? and you went around claiming to be good! I screamed at God and lashed out that He was a pretender and He was just so wicked! I thought about the horrors Jesus went through and got angrier thinking about how cruel God was that he could allow his son go through that. I am a mother and I know how I feel when my children need to take an injection or even have a little scratch. It’s often unbearable so how could God do that to Jesus…….to himself?
I was also angry that the Holy Spirit had not been responding to my questions and accusations. What sort of friend was He? He couldn’t handle difficult conversations because He cowered away in hiding anytime I told him the truth about how I felt. I hated Christians, I hated Christianity, and everything in the Bible was hogwash because they were not true to me anymore. I had done everything I was supposed to do, I had been ‘good’ all my life, Dapo had been good and lived a holy life, sacred unto the Lord so why were we being punished? We had stood firm in our faith these past 4 years of pain. I cried and cried and then begged God for forgiveness. I was deeply hurt.
One of the questions people had asked me over the years and one of the stages people mention for Grief is the Anger stage. I actually was not angry, I was just deeply hurt, like a little pet who had suddenly been thrown away by its owner. I needed to understand why he was being so mean to us. What did we do wrong? Where had we gone wrong? Every Pastor and intercessor who prayed with us had declared healing. Dapo himself saw and proclaimed his healing. Were we all in denial?
I slept off after hours of crying and was later gently woken up by the whispers of the Holy Spirit (H.S). He quietly asked me ‘child, define good and bad’ I was upset because I sort of knew where he was headed, I had heard this sermon before but I obliged him with a textbook answer of what good and bad were. Then he asked again ‘what do you think good and bad mean to me’ I gave him the same answer I had given the first time. Then he said ‘therein lies the problem, I do not think the way you do, I do not see the way you do. You see in tiny fragmented parts interpreted by your emotions and feelings I see a full clear picture – Everything is connected, it is a tapestry, a process, there are no isolated events’ (I will talk more about this conversation with H.S in my post on healing).