We’ve had a lot of loss in our family over the last year. My aunt, uncle, and cousin passed away tragically and unexpectedly. I feel as if I am “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” and am suddenly feeling very afraid of losing anyone else. How can I respond to this crushing fear of loved ones dying?
First of all, I am so sorry for the losses you have experienced recently. It is never easy to lose someone we love, even at the end of a long, well-lived life. But to lose multiple loved ones suddenly and without warning is an extra heavy burden to bear. Grief is real and grief is hard, and overcoming it will require you to give yourself permission to feel every feeling you feel for as long as you need to feel it. If you feel sad, cry for as long as it takes. Cry out to God and give Him your pain. If you feel angry, don’t be quick to shut it down. Be angry. Get it all out of your system by writing it down, opening up to a friend, or whatever works for you, but allow yourself to see that anger through. And then, envision wrapping it up in a box and sending it to Siberia. Whatever your feelings, feel them all. When they don’t consume you anymore (and that day will come), release them.
I’m addressing your grief first, because often fear is a response to grief as much as anything. If you don’t work through the grief, the fear will continue to be overwhelming. That said, here are a few thoughts that I hope will be helpful.
First of all, we have no control over the mortality of those we love. Ecclesiastes 3:2 tells us there is a time to be born and a time to die. These two events – birth and death – are in God’s hands, not ours. While it is hard to understand what God was thinking when He allowed three family members to die in the same year, it is still up to Him. We can be sad and we can be angry, but at the end of the day, He is still God. When Job lost his all of his livestock and then all of his children, he tore his clothes, cried out and said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21) Job acknowledged that God had the right to allow these massive losses in his life.
Second, it is important to remember that in the realm of eternity, the years we spend on this planet are a micro blip on the timeline of infinity. While it is hard to say goodbye to believing relatives, you’re really just saying, “see you soon” and then you’ll have eternity together. This was a message I received from the Lord when my husband was diagnosed with cancer twice in one year. I did not think I could bear losing him and then I had this epiphany while driving home from work one day: our time here is like a blink of an eye and heaven is forever. For this short season, I can endure whatever He calls me to endure. And then we’ll be together forever. The same is true for you – in no time at all, you will be reunited with those you’ve lost.
“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed
about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve
like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” — I Thessalonians 4:13 (NIV)