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Grief: Caring for Those That Hurt

By Marty Edwards

In motorcycle ministry, there are many unfortunate events that give an opportunity for ministry. Most of us are not professional counselors, but all of us can extend a hand of concern and all of us can say a prayer. We only get into trouble when we (a) do nothing at all or (b) do and say too much out of ignorance.

Grief Defined and Observed

Basically, grief is the natural, human response to significant loss. People will experience and express their grief in unique and different ways. No two people or two losses are the same. Some elements that are responsible for people grieving differently include gender, age, cultural and religious beliefs. The bikers “sub-culture” will add its own unique spin on what grief looks like and how it is to be dealt with.

We must be able to discern the symptoms of grief: (www.stages-of grief-recovery.com)

Physical Symptoms of Grief:
  Disturbances in sleep patterns, fatigue, restlessness, nausea, pain & tension in   the body, decreased immune system, difficulty stopping activity, inactivity,   unusual clumsiness

Emotional Symptoms of Grief:
  Crying, sadness, fear & anxiety, numbness, and/or emptiness,
  loneliness, anger, helplessness, irritability, a sense of observing
  yourself, guilt, reduced confidence, lowered self-esteem, loss of
  interest in previously enjoyed activities

Cognitive Manifestations of Grief:
  slowed thinking or processing, difficulty making decisions, mental
  confusion, daydreams or flashbacks, talking to the deceased loved

Spiritual Manifestations of Grief:
  a sense of closeness to God, a  sense of distance from God, anger at God,   isolation from one's  spiritual community, sensing the deceased loved one's   presence

Social Manifestations of Grief:
  isolation/withdrawal, preoccupation with one's own feelings and
  needs to the exclusion of others', marital or relationship stress, loss
  of interest in sex, impatience with others who are also grieving the
  same loss due to different grieving styles

The Five Stages of Grief

The Kubler-Ross Stages of Grief that most of us have heard of before come from Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’ book, On Death and Dying. KüblerRoss describes five stages of dying that begin when a patient learns he or she has a terminal illness. In her final book, On Grief and GrievingKübler-Ross simply substituted the term “five stages of loss” and “stages of grief” for her previous “stages of dying.”

Denial. “This can’t be happening to me.” When the news first
comes that a loved one has died, those left behind often feel a
sense of shock or difficulty taking in the news. This is especially
true if one was not present at the time of death. An unexpected
death, such as by an accident, can be especially difficult to
comprehend. Some grievers admit to entertaining the thought in
their minds that their deceased spouse or loved one is “on a
business trip” in order to get through the responsibilities of the

Anger is not a universal experience for those going through a loss.
In Kübler-Ross’ final work there is evidence to suggest that she
carried a great deal of anger throughout her life that she did not
deal with until her later years. Many people are sad about the loss
of their loved one and never angry about it.

Bargaining may be a common characteristic of those who
discover they have a terminal disease. They bargain with promises
to God in exchange for, hopefully, more time on earth. However,
this does not apply to those grieving a loss of a loved one. Those
left behind know that there is nothing they can offer that will bring
back their loved one from the grave.

Depression is an interesting label. Many of the symptoms
common to depression occur for those who are grieving a loss.
There may be difficulty concentrating, a lack of energy or
motivation, change in eating or sleeping habits and sadness.
However, when the symptoms are due to the normal human
reaction to loss, they should not be labeled as depression. The
exception would be someone who is clinically depressed before the
loss occurs, will likely to be clinically depressed and need
profession treatment after the loss. Grief is the normal reaction to
the loss of a relationship or significant attachment.

Acceptance. While there are issues of acceptance that must be
addressed for the bereaved to heal their heart and move into
peace, joy and happiness in their life, this is not a stage that all
those who grieve will automatically pass through. Acceptance
involves a choice to take a realistic look at the good and bad of the
relationship and address the emotions that are involved in these

A grieving person may take a few moments or a few weeks to go
through on of these stages. Grief is like a long dark tunnel. It can be
traveled quickly or slowly depending on the person. The important
thing, however, is that they eventually come out of the tunnel. Our job
is to love and pray them through their process.

                                       Do’s and Don’t of Helping Others

1. Support, but don’t fix. As much as you may like to, you may not be able to make a sick person well and you likely cannot raise the dead. If someone has lost a home, you can’t buy them a new one either. Your job is to love, pray, hold hands and in a few cases give truth and direction. If someone’s condition is over beyond your expertise, “refer” to a professional.

2. Listen more than you talk. We want to help so badly, that we are likely to talk too much; telling stories and giving advice. Talking is just another form of “fixing.” Don’t do it! It’s much better to get them to talk by asking them short questions.bw

3. Avoid cliché’s, Christianese and quick, easy answers. Romans 8:28 is certainly true!  “All things [DO] work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” But that’s not necessarily the best thing to say to someone who has just lost a friend or loved one in a motorcycle accident. “It’s going to be alright!” may not make a lot of sense to a woman who has just lost her child, for, in truth, she may never be the same.
Dumb things people say…
            “You’re young enough to have another child“ (or marry again).
            “I know exactly how you feel.” "It could have been worse..."
            “Be thankful you have another daughter”
            “He’s in a better place.”
            “Be grateful you had him for as long as you did.”
            “God must have needed another angel in heaven.”
           “That’s not nearly as bad as when my mother died…” (i.e. comparing                           losses)

4. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”  People ask a lot of hard questions when they are grieving.  “Why did God allow this to happen?” and“ Is my husband going to be in Heaven?” If you don’t know the answer either say so or tell them what you DO know, such as, “God is good and knows exactly what you’re going through right now.

5. Grief does not go away in a day. We described grief as a “tunnel.” Some tunnels are longer than others and some people travel faster than others. It is highly unlikely that someone is going to show measurable growth from your one visit. You will more likely be one link in the chain of love and encouragement that will come their way. When tragedy strikes, people are often flooded with well-meaning visits. But what about a week…and a month…and a year later? The anniversary of a tragedy can bring back a wave of grief that someone thought was healed. Truth is, healing is recognized by fewer and less traumatic times of pain with occasional “flare ups.” In time, the bad memories are replaced more often by the good memories – but it takes time.


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