The holiday season is a time when most slow down and begin to think about spending some quality time with friends and family.
Life isn’t all about work and this may come as a shock to some…work and earning money is important but we can be rich in more ways than financially, there is actually more to life than money.

Family dynamics

I’ve read many interpretations of the word ‘family’ lately, especially on Twitter.
One thing everyone unanimously agrees with, is the fact that family doesn’t have to be natural blood relations.
Sadly, it’s rare to meet people who have wonderful relationships with all of their siblings and their parents.
Conflicting life philosophies and opinions, inflexibility, pride and an inability to sincerely apologise, can and usually does create rifts, leaving relatives in serious disagreements, which often result in relatives not speaking to each other.

IARNR_United family
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Additional family
It’s commonly agreed that good friends can become family, especially if you develop an ability to support each other, tell each other the truth, hear the truth and have a platonic love and respect for each other.
True good friends, are family by ‘choice’ whereas siblings are family/relatives by parental desire, if you have them, cherish them and look after them.

I’ll  go one step further with my distinction of family and relatives…our parents are naturally our family and when we are single, without children (whether we live with parents or not) our siblings are also family.
However, as a believer, once married and a parent, our family became our spouses and children (Matthew chapter 19 verses 4 to 6) and are our primary importance.
Siblings etc. (blood relations) in the above scenario become relatives, secondary family.
As a believer, relatives and good friends become family when they support (as mentioned above) but more importantly, when they subscribe to the Biblical truth in Matthew chapter 12 verses 48 to 50.

The absence of family
Before I continue, I will make a few obvious statements.
When a loved one dies, everyone suffers loss and the pain which goes with it.
None of us has the monopoly on pain and grief, as both cannot be measured, there is no scale which determines how much an individual reacts to death.

I’ve written about
2016 and how it became a difficult year for us, due to the death of my paternal Grandma and best man, who were both ‘family’ in every sense of the word, along with my mother-in-law having a stroke, which to this day, has her bed bound.
Previously to that, 1997 was also difficult, as Lady G had a miscarriage of (who would have been) our third child.
God had plans for him/her and decided to call them home…that was extremely difficult but we couldn’t dwell too long on that loss, as we had 2 young children to look after.

FSAC_Time goes by and the world keeps turning.
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The world keeps on turning
Those who have experienced grief know that the world keeps spinning while they (for a time) are seemingly stuck in a time-warp.
You deal with pain, missing your loved one, anger, tears and more pain, others will come alongside you in support for a while, however, they, you and others, still have to get on with life and living.
We all react differently to loss and pain, some are not good with expressing emotion and therefore don’t have much to say in support, some can uplift while others can make you feel even worse.

We underwent a different loss in 2000, when our house was repossessed and we had to go into temporary accommodation for a number of months.
The reaction of my mother and father-in-law was more dramatic (concerning losing the bricks and mortar) than it was concerning flesh and blood, with the miscarriage of their grandchild…as I said, everyone reacts differently and also places different values on the situations and circumstances of life.

I have spoken to the congregation at my paternal great grandma’s funeral, one of my uncles funeral, my paternal grandmas funeral and at my friends funeral.

At my friends funeral, I told the congregation to bear in mind that we all grieve differently and that it’s important to remember, if (for example) the person was a happy person who liked to laugh, not to be angry if you see others sharing fond memories of that person and laughing.
Laughter can also be a way to deal with the grief…grieving isn’t done solely with tears.

There are differences in loss
I mentioned that none of us have a monopoly on pain but I think we can all understand and agree that having a child die through illness (or even worse) being killed, is pretty high up. on the list of feeling pain.

If like me, you believe that parents should not outlive their children (without taking anything away from those who are grieving the death of parents, friends or other family members) how can you not say, that losing a child is more devastating.
I’ve also assisted in conducting a funeral of such a case, where friends of mine had their daughter’s life taken, by a stabbing.

The circle of life and death
Life keeps on going, our loved ones die and new babies are born every day.
Humankind continues to serve love and hate (sadly in equal measure) and when we are grieving, to help our grief, it’s important to remember we are not alone.
Others are not only going through similar, others have gone through similar and are here to help us get through these difficult periods.

IARNR_Comforting the grieving
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Your support circle
Your support circle is crucial throughout your grieving period, it’s important to be open to receiving help and understanding, from those closest to you, however, sometimes, its a new friend or even stranger, who can offer the most support.
I’ve experienced both, where relatives have seemingly not offered support, due to my perceived strength (feeling I don’t need it) or feeling that they have nothing to say.
I’ve had friends who have been a support to me, where those relatives haven’t and I thank God for them, my mum, wife and children.
Never be afraid to cry or express your emotions, please let others in, if you want or need help.
Also, remember others are grieving too, if you’re suffering a loss, they are (or have) too, try to reciprocate and be there for others, as you would want others to be there for you.
Praying for others is always good but our love and faith needs to extend beyond words to practical helps, James Chapter 2 verses 14 to 20.

He is always there
I would like to share something with you and I hope you receive this in the spirit in which it is meant to encourage.
For some, the only time they acknowledge that there could be something/someone greater than themselves (God)…is the point of death.
Grieving is a natural part of the process in dealing with the death of a loved one and sometimes the burden can be so great that those in grief may need to see a counsellor, to assist them with the healing process.
This is hard for some to process, however, it’s important to realise and or remember, that God is an Omnipresent Spirit,  which means, no one place or building can contain Him and He is everywhere, as beautifully illustrated by King David, Psalm 139 verses 1 to 18.
He is the giver of life (James Chapter 1 verses 16 to 18), however, He is also the one who (for whatever sometimes complex and difficult to understand reasons) is the one who allows life to be taken.

Our memories
Memories serve a purpose, not only to remind us about past mistakes or intentional bad choices, thereby teaching us.

Memory also helps us to hold onto the love we have for those who are no longer with us.
In our times of grief and mourning, it serves us well, helping us to remember the habits, sayings, routines and specific idiosyncrasies of our dearly departed.
Those memories will help us to contemplate, laugh, cry and ultimately heal, that is how our loved ones stay with us, via our memory and the love we feel in our hearts, as we remember them.
For they are no longer physically or spiritually with us once they die, they move onto the spiritual realm, Luke Chapter 16, verses 19 to 31.

The reality is…

Taking those truths (about memories) into account….What are you feeling? Why do you feel a warmth and security at times, especially in your lowest moments?
I think you know the answer… You are not feeling the spirit of your loved one, they have moved on.
You are feeling the Spirit of God himself, comforting you, blessing you and keeping you from going too far in your grief, Matthew Chapter 5 verse 4.
If you are a believer, this is not a surprise to you, however, if you only acknowledge or didn’t believe, this is probably a new revelation for you, remember what king David said in the Psalms, wherever he goes, he knows God will also be there.
Jesus promised he would send His Spirit to comfort us and we feel that comfort the most, in our times of distress, grieving and mourning.

You are never alone, you have your ‘family’ and friends to support you but more importantly, you have the Spirit of Jesus to comfort you and help you to heal.
Blessings in Jesus’ name.

Phil Gayle
G Man

IARNR #support #encouragement #grieving #counselling

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