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Naomi arrived in Bethlehem "as the barley harvest was beginning" (Ruth 1:22). This description is a beautiful metaphor of a new beginning, since barley is harvested in the spring. After receiving a celebrity's welcome (1:19) and baring her grieving soul (1:20), she appeared to settle into a "new normal" only to be roused into action by her faithful daughter-in-law (see Ruth 2-3).

While gleaning in Boaz's barley fields, Ruth found favor with this man of standing. When Ruth told Naomi about it, she replied, with hope glimmering, "That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers"(Ruth 2:20).

With Naomi's help, Boaz ultimately redeemed both Ruth and Naomi from their pitiful plight as widows (see 4:9-10). Ruth's redemption included a beautiful love story. Boaz, smitten with Ruth at first sight, arranged to buy his kinsman's land and wife. Ruth's first son, Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David, placed Ruth right at the core of the lineage of Jesus Christ, our Kinsman-Redeemer.

When we are in deep distress because of the loss of a spouse, we long for answers to the haunting question of "why." Faith leads us to believe God when our circumstances cry out that He means us harm (see Jer. 29:11).

Naomi did not know that the loss of her husband and sons would give her an integral role in God's redemptive purposes. She did not know that while working out a plan for her and Ruth's survival she was also putting pieces of our redemption into place.

Healthy grieving requires both a present and a future perspective. Eventually, we must accept the present reality of our loss, understand that grief is the normal emotional response, give ourselves permission to go with its flow and believe that God will redeem us through our pain (see Rom. 5:3-5; 8:28).

At the same time, we fix our gaze toward the future and a reunion with our loved ones. In eternity our Kinsman-Redeemer will wipe every tear from our eyes, and "There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Rev. 21:4). As we look toward another time and another place, grief will give way to hope, and although life will never be the same, it can still be good.

HEALTHY GRIEF RESPONSES

Following are some responses to grief that mourners and researchers have found helpful for persons experiencing significant loss:

Give shock and denial appropriate time. Mourners must not allow others to pressure them into moving out of this stage too quickly.

Believe the loss has really happened. Accepting the loss calls on the bereaved to own and deal with their pain.

Allow yourself to experience the pain of loss. Early and full grieving is recommended. Talk and weep with those who will not pass judgment about your feelings, thoughts and behaviors during the mourning process.

Keep a diary of your feelings and thoughts related to the loss.

Practice spiritual disciplines when able. Pray alone and with others. Read the Word. Attend worship services as soon after loss as possible.

Forgive self and deceased. Survivors must forgive the deceased for real or perceived offenses or abuse. If they were the perpetrators of offenses, abuse or neglect, survivors must seek and receive God's forgiveness and then forgive themselves.

Gradually adjust to environments associated with the lost relationship.

Let go of the relationship as it was. Build a new relationship with the deceased through memories. Memory "trips" and photo albums can help.

Let go of life as it was with the deceased. Life changes significantly with the death of a spouse, child or parent. Reality requires that mourners recognize that life as they knew it with their loved one will never be the same again.

Embrace new life without the deceased. Once mourners intentionally let go of the past with the deceased, it becomes easier to embrace the future without them. Survivors must give themselves permission to move on without the deceased.

Integrate the experience into your life by allowing God to use it for His glory and to change you in the process. The loss of a loved one brings pain and change. We can emerge from the experience bitter or better. God's purposes for us in trials of any kind are to (1) strengthen our faith in Him; (2) make us more like His Son; (3) allow life to become more meaningful; and (4) give us a greater appreciation of the hope we have in Christ (see Rom 5:3-4). Mourners can emerge from a winter of grief into the glorious spring of a hope-filled life.

Mourners must take care of themselves throughout the grief process. Solicit the help and support of others. Eat well. Seek needed medical and professional help. Get proper sleep and exercise. Avoid making big decisions too early.

Mourners must eventually join the human race again. Remain or get actively involved with others.

Embrace the hope we have in Christ. Remember: "Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning" (Ps 30:5, NIV).


Freda Crews is a licensed professional counselor. She is also the host of Time for Hope, a faith-based, mental-health talk show, and the author of Get Off Your Own Back (Destiny Image).

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