Grief is cruel and seemingly relentless. If you are mourning a loved one’s death, no one can tell you that you will emerge from your grief, healed and refreshed, in six weeks or six months or a year. Grief, you see, operates on its own schedule. Your pain won’t be constant, however – it will ebb and flow, and you will learn to take comfort where you can find it.
There will be times when you want to cry out in rage, when you feel so alone…when you just need someone to talk to…when you want to cry until there are no tears left. Many bereaved people find prayer to be a source of comfort in such times. It doesn’t matter if you go to church every week or consider yourself to be a religious person. The power of prayer is available to anyone, of any faith, as well as to those who have no faith – and those who are still seeking.
Turning to a Higher Power in times of sorrow and need is human nature, and prayer in one form or another has been around since ancient times. Whether they know that Power as Jesus, Yahweh, Allah, or Mother Nature, people of all faiths look to the God of their understanding as the source of life, and when life ends, all creation returns to its Creator.
Dispelling Myths About Prayer
Prayer doesn’t have to be formal, long, or eloquent; prayer is simply conversation with God. Some people pray only in church, but you can pray anywhere – at home, at work, as you walk through a park. It doesn’t matter whether you stand, sit, or kneel to pray. You can pray any time of the day or night, alone or with others, silently or aloud. Prayer requires honesty, and little else.
Prayer needn’t follow a strict formula of praise or petition, adoration or gratitude. Your prayer can be as simple as a heartfelt conversation with a friend. Think of your best friend, who would do everything in her power to comfort you, if only she could. You don’t have to believe in God, but if you can accept the idea that there just might be a Power greater than yourself, you can allow that Power to wash over you and comfort you in your time of sorrow.
How to Pray
If you are familiar with prayer, you may find it very natural and easy to turn to God in your grief. Even some active churchgoers, however, find that faith eludes them in their grief. And then there are those who aren’t accustomed to praying. If you are one of those people, you may be wondering where to begin.
The following suggestions, based on themes familiar to anyone who has ever lost someone they love, are meant to get the conversation started. Keep in mind, though, that this is your prayer, and the words, thoughts, and feelings will come from your heart once you begin.
- Pray for God’s presence. God is everywhere, but sometimes we can’t feel God’s presence. When you are ready to pray, take a moment to breathe deep and be still. Then pray to feel God’s presence to soothe your soul.
- Pray your anger. When you deny the anger you feel, it festers like a boil inside of you, and healing can only begin when you let it out. If you feel angry, don’t hold back – God can take it.
- Pray your sadness. God knows the secrets of your heart, including the sorrow you bear. Talk to God about the loneliness you feel, the emptiness, the hopelessness. Let it all out as God’s comfort wraps around you.
- Pray to let go. Sometimes people hold onto their grief, fearing that in letting go, they will lose the connection to their loved one who died. Ask God for the courage to let go of all that holds you back from healing. You will still have your memories to keep your loved one in your heart.
- Pray to begin again. People who are grieving may be afraid to return to work, enjoy the activities they used to enjoy, or begin new relationships. They may be wary of returning to “normal” because they see “normal” as somehow disloyal to the loved one who died. When you pray, ask God to give you the strength and courage to begin your life again, free of guilt. Your loved one would want you to be happy, and God does, too.
- Pray for guidance. The death of a loved one leaves more than an empty space in your heart. You may be overwhelmed with choices and decisions to make. Ask God to guide you as you make the decisions that will build your new life.
- Pray your gratitude. Grief is hard work, but it’s not all sorrow and pain. When the tide of pain is at an ebb, consider all you have to be thankful for. Thank God for your loved one’s presence in your life, for the friends and family who have sustained you since your loved one’s death, for the warm sunshine that greeted you when you awoke this morning. Gratitude and hope go hand-in-hand.
Your Experience with Grief and Prayer
Do you have a story about grief and prayer? Please share your experience here to give hope to others.