by Janna Benson Kontz, MDiv
When we’re dealing with the death of someone who is important to us, we oftentimes struggle with the larger questions in life. Many times, those questions include how God factors into the situation.
As a grief specialist and chaplain, I’ve witnessed this firsthand. People have expressed, “I would have never gotten through this without faith (or God or God’s help).” I’ve heard others say, “I have faith. I believe in God. Why isn’t God helping me?” or “Why can’t I feel God’s presence?” or “Why do I feel so alone in this?”
We never “get through” grief. We learn how to be a person living with and navigating grief. If faith is a part of who we are, we may also learn how to incorporate that grief within and around our life of faith. This walk through life is multifaceted and complicated. If we think of God’s story as the umbrella that covers all of our own story, we also see it encompasses our grief and our joy, our anger and our acceptance, our pain and our healing. Our story is a part of God’s story, and God’s story is part of our own.
We may very well feel abandoned by God in our grief. The loneliness seems so deep and wide. The alone times seem to be just that—alone. Grief is a unique part of life, and it’s a unique experience for every person. We often feel alone because our grief is our grief. It isn’t the same as anyone else’s grief. Just as our relationship with the person we’ve lost was unique to itself, so is our relationship with God. We are created as individuals made for community. As individuals, some of us long for community while others don’t. As individuals, some of us feel that God is close by while others feel a distant deity. Neither is right or wrong, but they are very different.
God may feel distant in your grief. Look for God in others and your surroundings in your life. God shows up in children. If there are children in your life, embrace their young wisdom and joy. God shows up in nature. From the beautiful sunrise and the ripples on the water to the birds that seem to sing just for you. God shows up in emotions. You are happy one minute, feel guilt the next and feel so angry sometimes.
We all feel grief, but that is part of what makes us human. We assume that grief brings out the worst in us, but maybe it can bring out the best in us. If we look for God in the everyday events and the everyday people and the everyday-ness of life, God will show up. If we look for some big dramatic “God thing,” we may not find it, but if we assume and seek out God’s presence in everything and everyone around us, God will show up.
God is present in our grief. We need to open ourselves—our hearts and minds—to that presence and find out what it means for our own grief. Your grief is your grief. Your relationship with God is yours alone. Open yourself to it, and you may find you are not alone.
Janna Kontz, MDiv, is a grief specialist with Hospice of the Red River Valley.
About Hospice of the Red River Valley
In 1981, Hospice of the Red River Valley was founded on the belief that everyone deserves access to high-quality end-of-life care. We fulfill our nonprofit mission by providing medical, emotional, personal and spiritual care, as well as grief support to our patients, their families and caregivers during a tender time in life. Our staff helps those we serve experience more meaningful moments through exceptional hospice care, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, wherever a patient calls home. The organization serves more than 40,000 square miles in North Dakota and Minnesota, including in and around Bismarck, Detroit Lakes, Devils Lake, Fargo, Fergus Falls, Grand Forks, Lisbon, Thief River Falls, Valley City and many more communities. Hospice of the Red River Valley offers round-the-clock availability via phone, prompt response times and same-day admissions, including evenings, weekends and holidays. Contact us anytime at 800-237-4629 or hrrv.org.