When my son had his first tooth come in and when he took his first step, I wanted to call my mom. Tell my dad. Text pictures to my brothers. But I can’t. And I never can.
My parents and two of my brothers passed away seven years ago. I still remember it as if it were last week. I remember finding out that they were gone, coming home from my mission, and having to plan a funeral. But even after everything was over, my journey of grief was just beginning. This traumatic event released emotions that were more intense than I knew were possible to experience.
Feelings of anger, sadness, numbness, anxiety, and depression became regular emotions that I suddenly had to learn to cope with. It would be easy to assume that all grief progresses linearly, ending in a state of well-being. However, feelings don’t always happen in a set order. These feelings come and go over the course of a lifetime.
Sometimes, when grieving, we feel pressure—even subconsciously—to only portray the positive. In my experience, people understood that I would need to grieve, but as time went on, I felt I wasn’t allowed to honestly say how I was feeling. There was an expectation for comfortable answers—“I’m fine,” “I’m OK”—rather than the honest answer that I was still struggling.
The plan of salvation gives us the promise that as we “press forward … and endure to the end, … [w]e shall have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:20). We “press forward” by exercising faith—doing things like reading our scriptures, attending the temple and Church meetings, and fulfilling callings. But sometimes in the middle of grief, it can feel like we’re failing at having faith in God’s plan if we show others our emotions.
Many people in the scriptures experienced confusion or questioning during times of trauma. While imprisoned in Liberty Jail, the Prophet Joseph Smith prayed in agony, “Oh God, where art thou?” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:1). After his father, Lehi, passed away, Nephi asked, “O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul?” (2 Nephi 4:31). And Job, after so many awful trials, wondered why he’d even been born (see Job 3:11). The scriptures teach:
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: …
“… A time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
“A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 3–4).
Heavenly Father understands that during times of intense suffering or loss, we will struggle. He knows that there will be moments when we mourn and experience sadness. We need those experiences in order to move forward with our lives.
But even though Heavenly Father has prepared “a time and season” for grief, we still sometimes feel pressure to move on or be happy right away. If Heavenly Father is patient with us during our struggles, shouldn’t we be patient with ourselves?
When navigating your own season of grief, here are a few things I have found to be helpful:
Give yourself permission to feel things in your own way and time. Cry when you need to.
Reach out to others for help, and be honest about your feelings.
Don’t feel bad for experiencing moments of sadness, even long after the loss has happened.
Always remember that because of God’s plan, we can feel peace. Our struggles won’t last forever.
The Savior was the perfect example of mourning with those who mourn. He healed the sick and lifted the afflicted. He taught, listened, and loved others regardless of their struggles. He even navigated His own season of grief while He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Grief is a difficult life transition to face. To the person who is grieving, know that it’s OK to not have all the answers. To the person who is trying to help, it’s OK to not know what to do. The Savior extends this relief to all: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reminds us: “We must acknowledge that He is aware of each of us and of our needs. … The Lord’s timing is different than ours. … We need to trust the Lord enough to be still and know that He is God, that He knows all things, and that He is aware of each of us.”1
As we come unto Him in our grief, we can find peace in the hope that “all things shall work together for [our] good” (Doctrine and Covenants 90:24).