A little more than three years ago I lost a nephew. He was nineteen years old and died suddenly. While at the university, he fainted, and by the time they got him to the hospital he had already passed away. That hurt me deeply. I looked for help in the Word of God, wanting to find an answer [for how this could happen], for my nephew was a medical student and was a good guy.

Even today, when the memories assault me, it hurts the same as on the day he died…. My fear is that I will offend God with my sadness, for there are people who tell me that the way I feel shows that I don’t trust in the promises of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dear Friend,

We are so sorry to hear about this great loss for you and your entire family. Losing a loved one so young and so suddenly is a horrible experience for anyone, and it is certainly understandable that you would suffer from immense grief.

Because of what others have told you, you fear that you might be offending God with your sadness. That idea probably comes from the teachings of the Apostle Paul.(1) He said that dying as a follower of Christ is very different from dying without knowing Christ. Those who have a personal relationship with Christ pass into an eternal place where they are with God. Paul said that even though we may miss those people, we should understand that we will join them some day in the presence of God. Therefore, we can look forward to seeing them again.

On the other hand, those who die without Christ do not have the eternal hope of living in Heaven, which means that they are lost to us forever. That causes a more extreme kind of grief and sorrow, for we have no hope of ever seeing them again.

You don’t say whether or not your nephew was a follower of Christ. If he was, then take the advice of Paul and focus your thoughts on how your nephew is now in the presence of God, enjoying peace and joy forever. But if your nephew was not a follower of Christ, then your prolonged period of grief is more understandable.

Either way, your feelings of sadness do not offend God. Feelings cannot be turned on and off at will. When you try to control feelings by reason or logic, you can actually make yourself physically or mentally sick. Instead of suppressing your grief, you need to find a safe place to talk about it with safe people. Many mental health clinics and churches have free grief support groups. We suggest that you find one of these and begin attending meetings. Expressing your feelings out loud and hearing other people share their similar emotions will gradually soften the pain, but you shouldn’t expect it to ever go away completely. When you accept the fact that the grief will never go away completely, you will be more comfortable with it.

We wish you well,

1 1 Th 4:13-14