Consolation in Grief

Widows Grief Luncheon- 11-3-21    LHUMC

I want to place a word before you today that you may not have thought about:   Consolation 

  •  The comfort received by a person after a loss or disappointment.
  •  Lots of synonyms exist…. You may have reached for or found comfort in some of them, like: : 

solace                            sympathy

compassion                        pity

commiseration                    relief

help                            aid

support                        moral support

cheer                            encouragement

reassurance                        fortification

soothing                        easement



There is a another aspect of consolation…..    an additional round of competition or a contest for entrants who have been eliminated before the finals of a competitive tournament, often used to determine third and fourth place.


When a loved one is absent from our lives, it can feel like anything in life that comes to us now is a consolation prize…. We may have lost our sense of place, our sense of being or identity, our partner in life, our routine, one whom we served or one who served us, or our sense of safety and security.  We may feel uprooted or squashed in some ways…..  so much seems to be missing from life after such a loss… 


It can be difficult to find our footing and begin to craft a new rhythm for life that feels joyful and full again.   Long standing patterns, places, practices or even people may press in on us with memories that prolong or exacerbate one’s grief and sense of loss.


But there is another way we may think about consolation,  as a person or thing providing comfort to one who has suffered.  You may have heard the phrase, “Consolation of the Holy Spirit.” 



Consolation is actually the presence of “a deep sense of life-giving connection with God, with others, and with the person whom God created one herself to be. It is the sense that in some deep knowing way things are already or can be restored to being right with the world, that we are embraced by God in love even in pain and crisis.” The opposite of consolation is desolation, the loss of a sense of God’s presence. “One may feel out of touch with God, with others, and with the person whom God made her to be”, feeling “off-center, full of turmoil and confusion, and maybe even in rebellion.” 


These two experiences in relationship to God- consolation and desolation – can help us with checking our framework for thinking and decision making as we consider how to move forward from where we have been.we may seek biblical counsel on a subject or a choice under consideration, engage in prayerfulness about choices that we are contemplating, and consult with godly friends, we can look to how the options before us contribute to or diminish our sense of connection to God. 

Ruth Barton, a writer who has explored issues of moving forward from grief and emotional displacement suggests that, in making decisions, one can undertake a simple exercise. In choosing between two alternative choices or strategies, pick one option and imagine you’ve already set your mind on it. Walk around with that choice for two or three days in your mind and notice the presence of consolation or desolation. Do you feel in tune with God and who you are in Him? Then, switch options and walk around with the other choice in your mind. Do you feel less or more connection to God or who you are in Him? Are you sad? Is your energy drained?  Or does one option bring energy, creativity, new possibilities and hopefulness?  

Two and a half months after Bill’s death I was surprised to find myself in a state of discontent in the Deerpoint Lake home we had enjoyed for 16 years and that I had thought of as my sanctuary and final residence for my remaining years.  So I was surprised to have this vague, generalized feeling of discontent arise.  But as I reflected on it and prayed about it and talked to my sister and a couple of close friends, I realized I was feeling saddled with sole responsibility for a home and yard that I had always shared with Bill.  I felt uncertain about my ability to manage all the maintenance and upkeep alone.  And not only my ability to manage it all, but my desire to do so, as well.  As I considered options, I realized I wanted to be less tied to the demands of what now felt like an outsized space and responsibility.  As I prayed, I felt God remind me that I have loved every home in which Bill and I had ever lived.  It was not about the size or style or location of the home, it was that it was home and God was with us in each of them.  In my prayers and reflection God reassured me that He would continue to be wherever I was.  It was not about a physical place.  It was about the people in my life and my sense of purposefulness in what God had for me to do.   It gave me the courage, impetus and motivation to downsize, relocate out across Hathaway Bridge near where my son’s family had relocated after their home at Deerpoint Lake had been destroyed by Hurricane Michael.  I had counsel and encouragement through the process of buying a home alone for the first time, moving, getting rid of things that no longer fit my needs, and more.  When it was all said and done, by the time I came to the one year anniversary of Bill’s death I could marvel at how I had made the transition to an altogether different lifestyle and find joy and contentment even in it.  

One thing that God did that was particularly sweet was a dream I had after I had been in the PC Beach townhome for about 3-4 weeks.  I dreamed I was in the kitchen cooking and I heard the front door open.  Bill and his good friend of 50 years, Pete, who often visited us from Tennessee, were coming in the door, laughing and chatting as if they had just come from a ballgame or a round of golf.  I stepped into the hallway and greeted them, coming in as if they were fully at home there with me, too.  It reassured me that the memories of my life with Bill could make the transitions with me and would remain fresh and comfortable.  That dream comforted me and strengthened my sense of Bill’s continued presence with me, solidifying my sense of being “at home” in my new surroundings.   

We can cultivate stillness and quiet in order to get in touch with a sense of God’s presence, to know His consolation in the midst of even profoundly changed circumstances, thoughts and actions. Barton suggests 5 to 10 minutes of silence in the morning, reflecting on God, his presence and provision,  and His will for you in the activities and interactions for the day ahead.  Also, at the end of the day, take a few minutes and invite God to review the day’s activities with you, asking Him to show you when and how He was present and speaking to you that you may have been unaware of hearing or feeling at the time.   

The point of such a reflective practice is to recognize and respond to God in the moment, throughout the day, as we learn to consistently be aware of His presence with and guidance to us. 

The consolation of God’s Holy Spirit can restore a feeling of security and purposefulness and being “at home” even in lives rocked by loss.  

Have we made a conscious choice for how we will live?   With consolation or desolation?   Seeing our loss as the defining experience of our lives or seeing God’s presence with us as the defining force that accompanies us as we move forward?   

We are glad you have come today.  We will continue our conversations about how we may invite God to redefine our lives and be our consolation.  


We have a brief list of possible activities that we at LHUMC may undertake to form stronger connections with one another and the Lord in our changed circumstances.  Please take a few minutes to provide some feedback and let us know how we can help foster greater relational opportunities for you.