Grieving our Losses

By and

For most of us, 2020 was a difficult year, characterized by both loss and uncertainty. As we enter into semi-normal life again, we need to take time to process what we’ve experienced. In response to this need, Alliance Life staff decided to interview National Office chaplains, Keith and Kathy Davis, to get their perspective on the importance and practice of grief.

Alliance Life:

Why is grieving our losses so important?

Keith Davis:

Grief denied doesn’t heal. It festers until it finds another emotional, relational, or physical release. And that kind of release is always damaging. Emotionally, it can manifest itself in anger, bitterness, addictive behavior, relational sabotage, a crisis of faith, etc.

Physically, if we’ve experienced a loss, especially if it’s more sudden, excess stress hormones are released, the body dehydrates, and we can experience joint pain, muscle stiffness, headaches, heart and blood pressure issues, inability to focus, disruption of normal sleep patterns, etc. If we don’t process the heartache, our healing is delayed or we never experience it at all.

Kathy Davis:

We’re either in touch with God and turning toward Him to help us through grief or we become a victim. When grief happens, Satan starts lying—“You’re a victim, you’re not strong enough, you’re not spiritual enough.” To me, the importance of grieving is that we step into God’s plan for us to turn to Him when we need help.

AL: Why do you think people hesitate when it comes to grieving losses?


There’s no perfect way to grieve. Most of us want a formula or a pattern. We get stuck because we think, What am I supposed to do next? As a culture, we tend to avoid situations where people are in pain, or we try to help them get over it, or we minimize it. Nobody mentors us in how to grieve.

And it’s difficult because we connect our grief, suffering, and pain to shame. We feel ashamed when we feel sad. Often when there’s loss, we feel like we did something wrong. Maybe it’s that we didn’t get the job
promotion, and we feel like it’s our fault. Even if it’s a death in the family, we say, “Oh, if I’d only been there,” or “I should have spent more time with them.” We begin to “should” on ourselves. And that’s all about shame.


We live in a culture where self-reliance is promoted. Often it’s the expectations we feel from people or even ourselves that we should just cut our losses and move forward. But God wired us to stop, and grief is His invitation to turn to Him because we don’t do anything about loss well. Unless somebody comes along and helps highlight it or shares their experience, it’s easy to get stuck trying to fix it. 


For a lot of people, grief feels like a weakness. If I feel the anger or the shame or the hurt, it’s personal weakness. And instead of turning toward God, we just try to suck it up and move forward, promoting unhealth in our whole system.

AL: In turning to Him, is it okay to express your anger with God when you’ve suffered loss?


Several of the psalms are laments and the various psalmists are angry, sad, or frustrated with God. Most of these lamenting psalms have a positive resolution, but four or five don’t, and we’re left feeling like it didn’t end. And for those folks, it didn’t. And there’s the book of Lamentations, where Jeremiah is so angry with God that he’s actually cursing Him. If we understood the vernacular of his day, we would be horrified.

AL: Can you think of a time in your lives where you needed to grieve and you chose not to? How did it end?


We’d been church planters for about 12 years. Our church plant was the fastest growing church in our denomination, and incredible things were happening. But I was frustrated because it wasn’t growing fast enough. There wasn’t a loss because it kept moving forward, but I felt loss.

Around the same time my dad called the house while I wasn’t home—my dad who I’d only seen once since I was four. He called our house and said, “This is Keith’s dad. Just thought I’d say hello.” Kathy gave me the message when I got home. We knew we were going to go back to my hometown soon, so I didn’t call. I thought, We’ll just stop by and visit. Maybe this will be the beginning of a relationship.

A few weeks later my oldest sister called: “Dad just blew his brains out with a shotgun.” I didn’t know what to do with that, so I didn’t process. I was becoming more and more irritated, but I wasn’t aware at all. I eventually acted out through relational sabotage toward Kathy. It was a disaster because we lost everything. When I confessed, I was finally forced to grieve because my whole life was gone. We had a great counselor who helped us work through it, and it changed me dramatically. I became more aware of my own feelings and a lot more understanding of other people’s losses.


Instead of accepting, grieving, and turning to God to find out what He was doing, I put my grief aside and tried my hardest to pull everybody together, fix the whole thing, and keep our ministry. I was a force to be reckoned with. Even with the counselor, I was just trying to do what I thought was my part—to take responsibility and fix it.

But God brought a pastor I hardly knew into my life who just listened to me talk about how I was going to fix the story. At the end, he just said, “Kathy, have you ever thought that maybe beyond this story of pain, God is in control? And maybe instead of staying in this community and holding onto this church, He’s wanting to rescue you out of something you aren’t even aware of? Is there something bigger going on that God wants to get your attention for?”

I began to feel grief. I got on the pathway of learning to let go, because I was very self-reliant. I didn’t know how to surrender and trust God at every level.


Her grief was deep. She would be doubled over and physically sick because she felt it so deeply.


I told God, “I’m not happy. I didn’t deserve this. Where are You? How could You let this happen?” But when I was done expressing my grief, He said, “Kathy, I love you enough to allow you to come to the end of yourself.”

In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul talks about how God wants to pour comfort into us so we can comfort others. When we embrace grief, there’s always hope attached to it. If we stay the victim, there’s just the dark, which is where the enemy likes to leave us.

But Paul says “Brothers and sisters, you need to know about the severe trials we experienced while we were in western Turkey. All of the hardships we passed through crushed us beyond our ability to endure. . . . It felt like we had a death sentence written upon our hearts and we still feel it to this day. It has taught us to lose all faith in ourselves and to place all of our trust in the God who raises the dead” (1 Cor. 1:8-9, TPT).

He is a powerful and in-control God. I had to give up my self-reliance and trust Him. And it took a lot more conversations of grief. Like Paul said, I still feel it today. But when it hits, I know how to talk to God. He doesn’t care how much turmoil there is in His relationship with us—He just wants that relationship.

AL: How important is it for someone to walk with us in these seasons of grief?


There are a lot of things pushing against us so we don’t see grief as an invitation to become more like Christ. We need somebody to give us permission to feel angry, sad, victimized and to help us identify when we’re grieving, without judging us or comparing their grief to ours. Sometimes we just need somebody to sit quietly with us too.

Without our counselor, we wouldn’t be here today. It doesn’t always have to be a professional; it can just be a friend. We just need to be self-aware enough to say “I’ve just experienced loss. I need to talk to somebody.”

Think through the people around you and find somebody who has experienced pain and loss, even if it’s different from yours. And if you don’t have somebody in your friend list, then you might need to seek out a professional.

AL: How do you identify loss?


There’s a lot of things that fit in the category of loss—anything that diminishes us or is taken from us. If you can think of a loss, there’s probably a need to grieve. Ask yourself, “Why am I disappointed? What caused this?” It doesn’t have to be huge all the time, but we need to acknowledge even the little moments of loss rather than allowing them to fester and cause more problems.


When we recognize that grief, we need to take action—talk about it, journal, pray. It takes a positive action to work through grief or the enemy shows up again.


And it can be weeping, screaming, or even writing out your own angry book of lamentations. If you’ve been wounded or suffered a loss, there’s a desire for healing so do something positive for yourself: exercise, get a massage, pamper yourself. That might seem like the opposite of what we think grieving should look like, but taking care of ourselves is important.

Especially because sometimes in the process, it feels like we are going to die. But even Jesus was full of grief. He wept before Lazarus’s tomb, even though He knew that in just a minute, Lazarus was going to be raised from the dead. And He certainly wept before the cross—He grieved to the point that He sweat drops of blood.

We live in a constantly breaking world that often hits us harder than we can even describe. God has given us grief to help us move forward in healing. He longs for us to come to Him with our pain, our anger, and our loss. Even if we use God as our emotional punching bag, He hears us—and as we feel heard, we begin to experience healing.

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