November 01, 2019
“Matt, san ka? Punta ka na dito sa hospital. Bilisan mo. Dito ko na ipapaliwanag.”
I received this phone call from my sister on a Thursday night, a few days after Mama’s fourth successful brain surgery. She was transferred back to the hospital’s Critical Care Unit after staying for one day in a regular room. At that time, she was starting to experience some complications in her body. I, on the other hand, started asking God questions.
I arrived at the hospital. Everyone was silent until the doctor broke the ice—Mama wasn’t going to make it. The doctors’ explanation made sense to me—but only in my head, not in my heart.
It was Mama’s last night with us and the next day would be her last morning. I didn’t want to sleep or leave her side. It was in that kind of situation where I’d wish for time to stop. So I got my guitar and played a song for her—but I think it was really for me.
The times when I would do errands for her flashed back in my memory—her regular physical therapy, her monthly check-up, how I coordinated with her doctors for home visits, and how I would buy her diapers and medicines. Because of these, our relationship grew deeper than before.
I guess God has His way of using physical illnesses to bring people together and make relationships richer and deeper. We cried, laughed, played music, and sang songs together. We prayed and I read the Bible with her; we grew spiritually together.
Of course, it wasn’t like this every day. There were days when she would get mad at me for coming home late. There were times when she would randomly say, “Thank you,” for the things that I did for her, to which I replied, “Of course, Ma. I love you,” while holding her face between my two hands. There were times when we would just look at each other with a straight face, then I’ll say, “Ma, walang sukuan ha?” while slowly putting up a smile.
Now in that hospital room, the idea of Mama’s death sank into my heart slowly and painfully. I was still numb. I couldn’t cry. I don’t remember asking God why, not because I fully understood what was happening, but because I couldn’t accept what was about to happen. I was in so much pain that even my mind was silent.
Mama died on the morning of October 5, 2018.
I knew God had a purpose but I couldn’t see it yet. I knew there were lessons to learn but I haven’t learned them yet. I knew that one of the first things that I needed to do was to grieve.
I learned through Mama’s death that grief is indeed real. I lost a loved one before, but it couldn’t match the intensity of grief that I felt when Mama passed away.
One’s faith, no matter how strong, cannot spare us from grief. It happens to all of us. If we won’t acknowledge our feelings of grief, we will never be able to come to terms with our loss. The last thing we want to do is to deny the pain and pretend that it doesn’t exist. Doing so would do more harm than good to our soul. And doing so would be a step further away from the healing that we need and long for.
A year after Mama’s passing, I learned one truth about grief: Grieving is a part of our life on earth. A counselor made me realize that I would have to learn how to embrace grief as a part of my life, but I must not allow grief to engulf my life and let it determine how I should live.
The reality of grief shows a reality of life but not the totality of it. Grief is very real, but we who have put our faith in Jesus Christ our Savior will only experience it in this life—never in the next.
My own grieving process led me to the only message that provides a remedy for grief: the message of the gospel.
The gospel does not only have the power to change a person’s eternal destination, it also has the power to heal the human soul. It acknowledges our soul’s current state and transforms it into a better one.
In the gospel, we see that we have a God who is well acquainted with grief.
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief . . .
Jesus wept and experienced grief when Lazarus died (John 11:35). He experienced grief in the garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:34). These accounts give us a powerful picture that we have a God who can relate with our grief in a personal way.
Also, the Bible tells us many stories of people who have experienced grief—all of them found hope and comfort in the truth of the gospel.
Where these people found their hope, it is where we can find ours as well.
How can we find hope in the midst of grief?
Memorize verses that bring comfort to your soul. Romans 8:28 and 2 Corinthians 4:16–18 are some of the verses that helped remind me of the hope I have in Jesus.
The beauty of Christian community is that it reminds us that we do not have to go through life alone—especially in a time of grief. Two weeks after Mama’s burial, I asked to meet with one of our counselors to help me deal with my grief. The insights that I gained and how I processed with that counselor helped move on from my grieving.
Because grief is something that happens in the heart, prayer is the best response to keep the heart from being overwhelmed by grief. Whenever I find myself crying, I make it a point to always lift my emotions up in prayer.
One of the hardest things to do while grieving is to accept that what happened is part of God’s will. But I realized that even when I cannot see the hand of God, I must remind myself to trust Him.
In your grieving, remember that you have a HOPE that can never be taken away from you.
When we put our hope in Jesus, God begins to work in us—a long-lasting and life-changing work that only He can do. There will still be days when you’d feel alright and that you’ve made progress, only to find yourself suddenly in tears and you’d start to wonder why. But these won’t last forever.
God’s grace doesn’t just give rest and refuge for grieving souls. It is the hand that allows us to grieve and rest well. Grace is God’s gentle hand that lets the tears flow, only to wipe it again to bring comfort to our soul.
God’s grace is the calmness in our soul when we are drowning in grief.
In times of unpredictable emotional surges, I realized that God’s sovereign grace has always been there, even when I experienced unbearable pain in my soul. His grace is the hand that sustained me and my family through the hardest moments of our lives.
God is the source of my hope. Grief may have brought me to my knees, but God’s grace sustained me in kneeling down and getting up.
When our hope is not anchored in Christ, grief can easily steal our joy and suck the life out of us. But God uses our grief as an opportunity to bring us closer to Him and lead us to a life of greater dependence on Him.
Whatever is causing severe grief in your life, God can and will use that for your own good. Our moments of grief become an avenue for God to display His grace, mercy, and love.
Remember that no matter how ugly, painful, dark, or depressing our situation feels like, dare to hope! God will make sure that all things—both the good and the bad—will work together for your good.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.