Don’t assume that a person’s faith will get them through a loss. Don’t judge if they express anger towards God. Don’t try to fix it or make it better. Instead, help them to explore their feelings. They will come to their own answers that make sense to them and it is imperative that he is she is not made to feel guilty or shame in any way.
There are a number of ways that we can lose faith. When someone disappoints or betrays us, we lose faith in them. Individuals experiencing the death of a loved or a significant loss (e.g. job loss) may also say they have lost faith in God, the world, society-at-large, or in people they know. This is a challenging place to be. In my humble opinion, if we have faith in ‘nothing’ then it is going to be very difficult to move forward in life. It’s not for me to determine what or who people should have faith in, but I believe that part of the healing is to reconcile the loss of faith too.
It’s okay to question God when a loved one dies. He expects it.
Those with a strong faith-base and connection through a church, community group, or spiritual gathering often draw upon their faith and those connections after a loss. They find comfort and strength in their beliefs. They also have a built-in network of support through friends and family who may also be a part of this community and this helps them feel safe.
Sometimes people push their faith away in protest of what has happened. You may have heard someone say, “How can a just and loving God allow something like this to happen?” Or they ask, “Why?” “Why me?” “Why us?” “Why now?” Don’t interpret these questions as a loss in faith. More often than not, they are searching for meaning… attempting to make sense of what has happened. This is common following loss. When people ask God “why” they are searching for meaning and trying to make sense out of what has happened to them.
Asking God “why” facilitates a search for meaning after loss. It’s normal.
If you are supporting a friend or family member, it’s important for you to understand that you do not have to answer the question “why”. It’s important though to be present and allow the person to explore their faith. It takes time. Do not judge their questioning of God. Do not attempt to persuade or dissuade them as they explore their feelings. Just be. They will do the work if given a safe, non-judgmental space to do it in. It’s important for YOU to have faith that the bereaved will come to a place in their faith that is right for them.
The terms faith, belief, and spirituality may have a different meaning for you after a loss.