Grief just Is

I have written this in response to an article on singleness that I read on the web recently.  I don't have the link, but suffice to say it was largely exhorting singles to be ‘content’ and not ‘self-pitying’ or ‘complaining’.

Here is my comment to the writer of that article.

Thanks for your article on this topic. However I wonder if you move too quickly to the resolution of 'trusting in the Lord and the wonderful promises of the resurrection' and, consequently, haven't given any time to reassuring singles that what they suffer is 'grief', that grief in singleness is OK and that grief refuses to be dealt with by logic.

Grief demands to be recognized and allowed to be what it is - an uncontrollable emotional response - sadness - in the experience of a great loss.

No one chooses grief - it just is. It sweeps across us unexpectedly, it catches us by surprise and it refuses to disappear just because we want it to. It demands acknowledgement, it demands that we pay attention. That is why it is so cruel when we are called to 'trust God and get on with serving'....  In most instances we are in fact already doing just that.

We have been trusting God throughout our lives and the sudden onset, or the re-emergence, of grief doesn't mean we have stopped trusting God. Rather, it is the demand of our emotions to us, to pay attention to what is happening inside us - that we are grieving. It is only as we allow ourselves to grieve and talk with God about our grief that ultimately we will recover our equilibrium and find our settledness again.  As with all grief, it is beyond our control.

Because the griefs of singleness and of not having children are so deep, so real and so totally right, they can't be dismissed or dealt with by anything other than allowing ourselves to grieve.  Grieving with the friends who understand and who don't imply we are being self centred or self-pitying or even that we're doubting God's goodness. Such hurtful and totally inappropriate, even cruel responses to women and men in grief, do not help. In fact they add to the isolation and loneliness of grief.

It is true that God binds up the broken hearted and He does that as we are allowed to express the grief we feel. As with all grief there is no timetable for recovery. Grief just is. How good it would be if preachers began speaking of the reality of this grief and affirmed the single in the reality of their grief and prayed for them.....without any tag lines like 'and help them to serve you Lord and to find their contentment in the wonderful opportunities you give them for serving'. I have never yet heard a preacher speak to discontented marrieds in such terms. Nor do we imply that marrieds are being self centred or doubting God's goodness.

I know singleness from the inside; I serve the Lord with a glad heart. I've been an adult single for over 50 years; I've learned to grieve and to live with what is an extended grief. I've learned to allow myself to be a human being, and I've also learned that servant hearted women who are single need to be set free to grieve. In such a context of loving concern there is great comfort and support.

And finally, if anyone is worried about this, you can be sure that God will look after growing us to Christian maturity in His time and in his way for, each one of us is very important and precious to Him, and He loves us dearly.

“We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ”. 1 Thess 1:2-3 

Narelle Jarrett was the Archdeacon for Women's Ministry and Principal and Mary Andrews College.

Comments (3)

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  • Philip Griffin
    May 23, 11 - 12:35am
    Thank you Narelle for dealing with this issue so frankly and helpfully.
  • Andrew Mackinnon
    May 23, 11 - 3:03am
    Thank-you, Narelle Jarrett, for your very wise words.

    Hope is found in truth and denial of the causes of our unhappiness is truth suppressed. What you have stated that we need to grieve such causes, in our own time as we go about our life, before we grow into our future is truth personified.
  • Ernest Burgess
    May 24, 11 - 1:52am
    Hi Narelle, I think the grief you are referring to is often called disenfranchised grief and I have shared some stuff on this in Michael Jensen's blog "true feelings" An Author who has done some work in this field in Therese Rando and you will find a summary of it on page 498 of her book "Treatment of complicated mourning". Her 4 points are 1) that recognition that support for the griever is necessary 2) when a loss is not or cannot be openly acknowledge, 3) publicly mourned, 4) socially supported. I think women in general and single women experience this more in areas of trust, and service in male dominated ministry. It is my understanding that Moore is having a series of lectures on grief shortly which should be beneficial to all.