Most grief recovery efforts naturally include helping grievers to mourn loved ones who have died…but what if the person you are mourning is still alive?
To have once enjoyed a great, solid, rich relationship with a loved one—and then no longer have a good relationship (or to then have a drastically changed relationship or no relationship at all)—this terribly and horribly breaks a heart in a very unique, painful way.
When drastic change occurs, or a difficult situation or relationship develops, it can cause excruciating heartache, loss, and sadness. It truly can feel as though someone you deeply love has died, and you are forced to go through a silent funeral inside of your heart every single day.
There are many reasons why this can happen:
- Spouses commit adultery or file for divorce, or a significant other leaves or betrays you
- Children react to parents due to divorce or co-parenting challenges…sometimes parents react back
- A parent has an affair or gets remarried and then chooses to distance or remove themselves from the relationship with their child(ren)
- Children react to an adulterous affair a parent had or children react to how the affair victim/parent handled an affair
- A loved one battles debilitating mental illness, severe depression, dementia, Alzheimer’s, or a loved one goes through the longterm effects of a traumatic brain injury or serious injury— and these circumstances completely change the dynamics of the relationship
- Parents react to children and children react to parents on “life” issues, moral decisions, or spiritual issues
- A parent, step parent, or other family member spitefully pits a child, parent, step parent or family member against one another
- Custody or visitation issues, foster care challenges, or family conflicts cause deep heartache…even estrangement
- Spouses return home deeply wounded emotionally, physically, spiritually or mentally from serving in the military…or spouses betray the spouse who is away serving
- A spouse, child, or family member goes through a serious medical challenge, experiences deep grief, or another terrible life event or life challenge and they drastically change or become a completely different person
- Parents abandon their children, and/or children rebel against or abandon their parents
- Siblings, or other family members, deeply change and are no longer close
- A family member battles addiction—or another stronghold or wrong thinking—and you can’t get through to them
- Relationship issues due to mistreating or reacting to one another…and one or both people aren’t willing to repair or improve things
- An adult child can enter into a romantic relationship (or marriage) and their parent doesn’t approve or isn’t willing to respect their child’s partner, spouse, and/or marriage…or vice versa
- Friendships heartbreakingly dissolve
- Physical, mental, or emotional abuse issues create hardships, family division, and heartache
- A family relationship, friendship, or church relationship dissolves due to a betrayal, a lack of understanding, conflict, or deep hurts
- Family members or in-laws are mistreated due to another family members/in-laws dysfunction
- Bitterness and an unwillingness to forgive or work on the relationship takes root
- Some sever ties to “make a point” or to intentionally inflict heartache in reaction to their own pride or pain
- A family member becomes a prodigal
- A sibling, parent, child or other family member marries someone who isn’t respectful of sibling/parent/child/family relationships…so to avoid arguing with their romantic partner, they choose to “keep the peace,” and choose their significant other over longterm relationships…or a parent chooses their significant other over their children
- Ultimately, a lack of respect, genuine love, honor, boundaries, and commitment – and ultimately a lack of good character – can wreck major havoc on relationships and families
- Lots and lots of other reasons
Anytime a relationship changes for the worse, abruptly changes, or becomes fractured or shattered, it is very, very painful. And many times, the result is to feel helpless, as though you have run out of options.
When this happens, what can you do?
- Pray. Pour your heart out to God and ask for Him to intervene in the relationship and situation. Pray God touches your loved ones heart…pray God will show them a deep love for them, Him, (and you), and conviction for any sin that is in their life. Pray God pours His love, kindness, and provision into their life…anything that will help them to realize how much God and you love them.
- Possibly prepare for God to ask you to make a change or to do something uncomfortable.
- As much as depends on you, apologize and ask for forgiveness for your part…knowing that the other person may never humble their self by apologizing back to you.
- Place your loved one and the entire situation in God’s Hands….and take your hands off (and out of) the situation. Realize God can do more in one MOMENT than you could ever hope to do in an entire LIFETIME.
- KEEP YOUR NOSE CLEAN…meaning, do the right thing and choose to show genuine love no matter what. Take the higher ground. Be completely loving, Christ-like, and kind. Close your mouth (this can be very hard to do!) and do your God-given responsibilities. This will be extremely hard, but remember: God’s got this! He needs for you to reflect His character, love, and glory. It will be very helpful to memorize and recite these scriptures when you’re tempted to put your hands back in the situation or for the times you’re tempted to not keep your nose clean: Exodus 14:14, Ephesians 6:11-13, 1 Samuel 17:47, Psalm 34:18. This does NOT mean be a doormat, but for God to accomplish His greatest work, it’s very important to get out of God’s way and to fully obey God.
- Seek and find what helps to heal your heart. It might be going to therapy, talking to a pastor, or working through all of the emotions and grieving through your tough situation.
- Have faith and fully expect God to work in the situation. It may or may not be how you had in mind, but God will definitely be working in the situation (and working out the best outcome) as you genuinely trust in Him to do so.
- Ask God to provide you with a strong, loving support system: trusted family, trusted friends, trusted pastors/counselors, trusted support groups/biblical community…keyword here is TRUSTED. To get through the toughest times in life, a strong support system is vital. Accountability partners can also be very important. Work on yourself and do your own self-work with the Lord’s help. Consider your individual relationship with the Lord, your joy and life purpose apart from the situation, consider your part in the situation, look soberly at your own faults and possible blind spots – both in and out of the situation, and seek to improve yourself as you love and serve God to the fullest as you wait on Him. (Psalm 46:10, Matthew 6:9-15, Matthew 6:33-34, Proverbs 3:5-6)
- . There is a huge difference between peacemaking/compromise and allowing yourself to be manipulated/degraded. God never made anyone to be a doormat. For a relationship to be healthy, both people need to do the right thing. Relationships are like a swinging door… If it’s constantly opening for one person, but slamming shut in the other persons face, that’s never going to work long-term. Be careful allowing yourself to be degraded instead of creating healthy compromise.￼￼ If genuine repentance and change do not occur, you’re always going to have conflict. It will just be a different situation and a different circumstance. Heart change is needed for lasting results.￼.. otherwise you’re just putting a Band-Aid on something that they’re gonna rip off and hurt you again.￼
- Delight in God (Psalm 37:4). When we go through hardships, it becomes easy to become impatient, worry, have anxiety, or become fearful or bitter. We can even be tempted to doubt God’s goodness or become greatly upset with Him. God has a better way! Delight yourself in God, learn to trust and lean on Him, and extravagantly love Him as He carries you through your grief and the storm you are in the middle of. He knows your heart, loves your heart (and knows and loves your loved one’s heart!), and no matter what happens in your situation, He will carry you, heal your broken heart, and love you back to life…no matter what! He will NEVER leave you!! In fact, other than our relationship with our own self, God is the ONLY relationship we are guaranteed to continually have here on earth. We can NEVER lose His love!
Whatever situation or relationship you are grieving or experiencing deep heartache in, please realize there is hope! I agree with you in prayer for God to heal, encourage, and help you and your loved one(s) through whatever you are going through. I pray God works mightily in each relationship, heart, mind, spirit, and situation! If a positive outcome is not possible due to a permanent, toxic, or debilitating situation, I pray God grants you the gifts of grace and His peace that passes understanding…and the ability to truly press forward and heal. God DOES love you, He greatly values you, and He already knows how He plans to help you – and every situation of grief you are facing or will ever face!
Even if a relationship never finds peace or reconciliation again, realize it does NOT diminish your value. Before you were ever a family member, spouse, child, parent, or a friend, you were God’s. He will always unconditionally love you, because you are totally valuable and “enough” to Him. Yes, you will go through incredible heartache if reconciliation does not take place, but God will be there for you every single day—especially on your toughest days!
There is always hope and your life is precious! Please never forget that!❤️
Gratitude, healing, love, & many blessings,
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Oh my word. Yes, yes, yes to all of this. Every word. I found this post and your site via a general search about “how to heal when the person you’re mourning is still alive.” This post was at the top of the results, and thank God it was. I think I will read it every day. My heart truly breaks for so many people just in my little slice of life who are grieving those they’ve lost to death. I am not trying to “compare” types of grief or to rank them. But to lose someone you love due to, as you so perfectly put it, “a lack of respect, lack of genuine love, and a lack of honor” is (as you also so perfectly put it) “excruciating.” And if our American society is bad at dealing with grief that’s the result of death, it’s even worse at dealing with grief that’s the result of intentional leaving or unloving. Thank you for your words and your site, which I am now following and which I shared (minutes after I found it) with a friend currently grieving the loss of her mom. Bless you.
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and heart, and thank you for following this blog and sharing it with others.
Grief is so very tough, I’m sorry for all you’ve been through. I hope the writings on the Grief Bites blog will continue to encourage your heart! May God bless you with hope, encouragement, and healing!
I LOVE JESUS, but I can feel my heart grow cold after almost 5 years of rejection from an adult son. I sat down at my computer and found this article. It has helped me…I am going to meditate on the verses as I go walk my dog. You said it feels like your heart breaks every day…it is so true. Bringing my broken heart once again to JESUS. I find myself wondering all the time…..how did JESUS feel while he walked this turf? I think HE must have felt this way but even more deeply. HE can see in our hearts and all the doubt and hate. THANK YOU JESUS FOR YOUR PERFECT LOVE THAT WILL HEAL.
Rejection from a loved one – especially a child – is very, very tough! There is hope, because God can truly heal and restore. I pray God will heal and restore your relationship with your son.
Looking at the situation from the viewpoint of how Jesus must feel is a very good idea. I often wonder how He must feel through situations, too.
Hang in there…God truly does care!
I hope this verse encourages you:
“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.” ~Joel 2:25
I pray God doesn’t just heal and restore for you, but that He will also restore the years of close fellowship that were lost as well!
Take care and know God loves you!
I find myself estranged from my adult son through lack of respect, lack of genuine love and lack of honor. It started when he married a woman with deep insecurities, I believe, from a troubled and lonely childhood. Placing this situation in God’s hands is the only hope for peace because I cannot say or do anything that is not wrong in their eyes. There are three grandchildren whom I love more than life that I rarely see and they are at an age where I can hear the confusion and distance in their voices.
This is an excruciating and on going pain. I pray that God gives me the direction to continue a relationship with them and the strength to keep it light and loving.
Your article was everything I needed at this time as I find this situation all encompassing and I am spiraling downward with grief and hopelessness.
I am placing it in God’s hands and will accept the outcome. He didn’t promise an easy journey but He did promise to be always at our side.
My heart sure does hurt for you!
I’m so sorry you’re going through this…it is a very painful road to walk. I am praying for you & your family right now. Please never give up hope! God truly cares about all you are going through! Praying God will bring sources of encouragement into your life as you walk this terribly heartbreaking path!
I suspect that I am writing this is in vain and I will never hear from you – I will explain shortly – and it is OK if your beliefs prevent you from answering or responding to me.
Tonight I found your article after a Google search “mourning those who are still alive”. You see I am a man mourning the loss of a man whom I have loved for most of my adult life. We were together for 22.5 years and it seemed as if everything in life we had in common. Both of us loved the Lord with all of our hearts and we never forgot to thank God for bringing us together – ever. There was not a single thing that we did not have in common with exception to beets – he loved to eat them and they disgust me – all else was complete and utter heaven on earth. We both worked in the same professional field and actually worked for the same company. We bought ranches together and learned new things everyday together that we never knew a thing about and laughed each day. I cannot remember a fight or argument anytime in the first 20-years. I could look across the room or sit in the back of the room and hear him give a presentation and my heart literally melted with pride and love. We traveled all over the US, Mexico, and Europe together and all we ever talked about was retirement and spending each hour and minute together. It was a dream that we never gave up on.
About 2-years ago he met a woman who was 19-years older than him, recently divorced for the third time, and a self proclaimed atheist. He asked me if she could move into our home (guest bedroom) as she had no place to live after her divorce and he wanted her to help him with a political campaign and other items he was behind on. I said sure, no problem.
Within a month she begin to control him and his thoughts and slowly begin to take him away from everything and anyone on my side of the family. After he had left for work one morning she told me that he “only loved her” and it escalated to her then telling me that if I wanted to communicate with him I needed to do it through her. I thought she was crazy. I would ask him and he would call me a liar and he would confront her and then she denied he ever said any of these things.
One morning I had to get up early to take a relative to the hospital for her first round of cancer treatment and he told me that morning that he loved me and he would be with me every step of the way. When I arrived home around 6 that evening he had moved out and from that moment on refused to speak with me by phone, text, email etc. He refused to come to work if I was in the office, refused to answer even company emails and then changed his telephone # and cut all ties to me.
Her daughter called me about three weeks after this and told me that she loves her mother, but at the same time will never speak to her mother again a day in her life for the things that she did to her dad while she was growing up – to include bringing men into the house and then the daughter was supposed to sit at the dinner table shortly thereafter with her father knowing what had happened earlier in the house. She told me also that a service man came to the house one day that was about her age (daughters age) and the mother slept with him. She said “my mother’s main weapon with men is sex”.
I suspect that the day that I took my relative to her cancer treatment this lady threatened to expose our relationship if he did not move out. Do I know this, the answer is no. I just know that we had a great life before she entered.
I have tried everything in my physical being to move forward, but I simply have not found a way too. I am a man that was not searching for a long-term relationship with a man and neither was he when this all started – it just found us. I do not want another relationship with another man!
At present, I seek to find closure however closure is. In my heart I know he is hurting every bit as much as I am. I just can’t reach him. She monitors his emails, texts, and trips etc. I have since left the employment and he has returned – but customers have called me and said that on most trips – she makes these with him and they find this odd.
I have prayed and sought prayer. I went to a local pastor who I have known in my area for 35-years and opened my heart to him and he was shocked and said as much. He never knew the two of us had a personal relationship. He told me that God was punishing me and at some point my punishment would come to an end and only then would I be able to move on. I left there so heartbroken, because then I felt betrayed by both the man I had loved for so long and the God I had never turned my back on.
My heart is tired now and I want closure – even if it means death for me. I simply feel that I cannot suffer anymore and I have come to learn that mourning the loss of someone still living is the hardest of all mourning.
Sent from my empty heart and empty soul,
I can assure you that God deeply loves you and still has big plans for your life!
I imagine this entire situation has brought excruciating grief to your heart!
Mourning someone who is still alive is a very cruel circumstance. It can eat your soul alive. I am sorry for your pain! 😦
I know it may not feel true right now, but God can redeem anything we go through. I encourage you to seek God’s heart and pour your heart out to Him. He’s there and He cares for you!
Several years ago, when I was struggling with mourning someone who was still alive, a very good friend gave me some great advice: “read the entire Bible and get to know God for yourself.”
Doing this dramatically changed my life, direction, and my heart! Anytime you get down about this situation, use that as a signal to spend time with God and allow Him to love you back to life!
If there is something I wish someone would’ve told me back then, it’d be this: “Your best days may not have even happened yet…give God all of the pieces, seek to fully love and obey him, and ask Him to build something new in your life.”
I encourage you to find a qualified counselor and share with them how sad and down you are. Please get the help for your hurting heart that you need asap! Even though you are in a terrible chapter of your life, God isn’t through with your life story yet! Spend some time with God and ask Him to guide and direct your steps. Also ask Him to direct you to the right counselor to help you. Never forget that God loves you very much!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” ~Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV
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