Q: Dear Pastor,
How are you supposed to move on after a parent passes?
A: Unfortunately, the cruelty of a parent’s death is something we must all experience at some point due to the cycle of life. No one is ever truly prepared for the moment our most significant relationship is gone, even if that parent is estranged from us. When someone gives you life, you feel their death down to the bone and marrow they helped to create in you.
If that passing happens at a joyful occasion like Christmas, it will be devastating at a deeper, more painful level. Sadly, all clergy acknowledge that people often die at holiday time. If you’ve served in a pulpit for a while, you’ve most likely officiated a funeral around Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, etc. There’s no explanation for this other than the elderly and infirm sometimes hold on until they see their relatives one final time. Holidays gather the family.
In other cases, there are tragic events... fatal accidents... which occur at any time of the year, but are unusually bitter during holiday seasons. The children left behind when Mom or Dad pass become instant orphans; unmoored and even frightened, no matter how old they may be. Almost always, the survivors have one or two unanswered questions, depending on the situation: How do I cope? Why did this happen?
Often, there is a third, unspoken question lurking in the abyss of a sudden loss of life: Where was God? “The Lord is close to all whose hearts are crushed by pain; and he is always ready to restore the repentant one. Even when bad things happen to the good and godly ones, the Lord will save them and not let them be defeated by what they face” (Psalm 34:18, 19, TPT).
There are seasons in life you simply survive one day at a time. Sometimes an hour at a time. Sometimes minutes. Your job, in the case of a devastating tragedy, is to function. Keep moving somehow and above all, give yourself the grace to feel what you feel, no matter how horrific those moments may be. In the context of our spirit and its emotions, we cannot heal what we cannot feel. Antidepressants are extremely helpful to assist people in the aftermath of a shocking tragedy... but they often prevent God from doing a deeper, healing work long-term because they anesthetize a person’s ability to feel. Allow your grief-cycle to take place and surround yourself with compassionate people who understand you. It takes time to heal anything - know this, too.
The death of a deep love, whether it is a physical death, an emotional death or both, is something a human being is not equipped to handle alone. We need God in that moment because only he can possibly know what grief is like for each of us. God may not always explain why things happen the way they do, but he promises to assist in the healing if we let him. Anger against God; playing the blame-game and rejecting him for what the devil clearly authored (God is the author of life, not death) is not going to help your healing. We need God in those moments, more than ever.
It sounds trite and unkind, but the earth is a cursed place; full of death, disease, despair and striving, according to Genesis chapter three. Our ancestors overstepped God’s parameters, and the whole earth fell into spiritual darkness that continues to affect the natural realm of earth to this day. Horrible things happen here because we’re still plagued by sin’s trajectory. We may not be the sinning culprit per se, but our lives are surely affected by the sins affects - either the original sin of Adam, or the drunk driver who swerved, maimed and killed.
What are we to do? Trust God and believe what he says no matter what: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is his faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-13, ESV).
Do you have a question or comment for Pastor Adrienne? Send your inquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to P.O. Box 214, Harrison, OH 45030. For more information on Pastor Adrienne, or to purchase her book, “Ask Pastor Adrienne: 100 Best-loved Columns,” please visit www.adriennewgreene.com.
Ask Pastor Adrienne: The death of a parent
Q: Dear Pastor,