What Good Grief Looks Like When a Daughter Dies
The beginning of "good grief" starts with the premise of a good God. Otherwise, all bets are off. If God is almighty and malevolent, then there is no solace to be found in him. If God is the author of sin, evil, suffering, the Fall, and death, then the Bible makes no sense when it tells us that God tempts no one, that God's will is that none should perish but have everlasting life, and that death is the very enemy of God and humankind that Jesus, who is life, came to abolish and destroy.
Jesus said, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). If there are promises I cling to as I weep for our Christy, it is this promise, not the sorry solace and cold comfort of, "God did this but we do not know why." No! A thousand times, no. God and his will are aligned with what is good and true and beautiful and loving and holy.
Days later, as I stood before the casket and stared at our "Christy girl," as we called her, I was so thankful that the God of the Resurrection had a better plan for her. Her lifeless body was so cold, so empty. The phrase, "It's all God's will," is cold comfort. I believe in a God whose "Yes!" to life is louder than death's "No!" Death is not God's will. On the contrary, God is in the trenches with us, fighting the very same evils we fight in this world—disease, suffering, sorrow, sin, and death itself. He cries with us.
What Good Grief Looks Like
For some, the phrase "good grief" (if not immediately associated with the Peanuts cartoon strip) seems something of an oxymoron. What can be good about grieving a departed loved one? In the first place, there is such a thing as bad grief: inconsolable grief, grief that consumes the griever, or grieving without hope. The Bible doesn't commend or command that sort of grieving.
Paul discusses good and bad grief in 1 Corinthians 15. He tells us that grieving is both normal and natural even for Christians. In Christy's eulogy, we wrote,
It was C. S. Lewis who said that you can tell the depth of how much someone loved and was loved by the depth of the grief when that person goes on. Christy loved us deeply, and we grieve deeply. But we will continue to remember her sparkling smile, and cherish personal memories we hold close in our hearts.
Just so. It is right for Christians to grieve. Those who have loved and been loved much, grieve much. However, Paul adds a proviso: "But do not grieve like those who have no hope."
I have met Christians who thought they had to be Stoics, to pretend they didn't hurt. Strong people (especially men), they believe, should not allow themselves to grieve deeply and should certainly not let their grief show. Wrong. That's Stoic apatheia: the aim of avoiding deeper emotion or pathos. That is not Christian theology at all. Christians are the very ones to grieve deeply because they have loved and been loved deeply.