Grief, Loss, and the Power of Lament in the Third Third of Life

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This article is part of The Third Third of Life Toolkit—a collection of resources for ministry to and with people ages 55 and over, brought to you by two ministries of the Christian Reformed Church in North America: Disability Concerns and Faith Formation Ministries.

“Why, God?” It’s a question most people have cried out—sometimes in whispers, sometimes in sobs, sometimes in screams. It’s a question that can and should lead to lamenting, to baring our soul to God and pleading for assurance and comfort. 

On this page you will find resources for church leaders and the broader community that focus on walking with people through periods of grief and loss and helping them discover the power of lament.

Articles

  • The Gift of Shared Grief by Margaret Renkl stresses the importance of words—either spoken or written—after a death or other loss.

  • In How to Help a Grieving Person, Kari Poortinga offers advice on what type of support is most meaningful.

  • In Living the Life You Never Wanted, author Joyce Kane reflects on living the life we’ve been given, complete with its pain, struggle, disappointment, and loneliness.

  • Loss and Simplification by Robert Ritzema acknowledges the many losses that come in the third third of life and offers suggestions about how simplification can help.

  • In 5 Surprising Truths about Grief, Ruth Davis Konigsberg describes some of the latest discoveries about what grief looks like when a person loses a spouse.

  • In The Deepest Part of the River, Carolyn D. Gardner shares a personal account of her husband's death.

  • In The Art of Lament, Christian philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff explains what lament is and why it’s such an important part of our grieving and our conversation with God. 

  • In Loving the Broken, Sandi Altena challenges us to share in the lament of the broken and hurting people we encounter.

  • In The Art of Aging Gracefully, Bret Lamsma discusses the importance of grieving and lamenting our losses as we age.

  • A Luminous Mystery shares J. Todd Billings’s poignant journey through grief and lament to faith and acceptance following a terminal-cancer diagnosis.

Videos

  • Grieving a Spouse is a helpful conversation that offers suggestions for how to cope with losing a spouse and how to move through grief to wellness.

  • In What Not to Say to Someone Who’s Grieving, Kay Warren, who lost a son, offers examples of what not to say when someone is grieving.

  • Christian Grief is a video that focuses on how Christian grief is different from the grief of people who don’t know God.

Especially for Worship Planners

  • A five-week worship series on life’s toughest questions: 

Why Aren’t My Prayers Being Answered?

What’s the Point of Life?

Why Isn’t Life More Fair?

How Do I Handle My Times of Doubt?

Why Should I Work So Hard?

FOR THOUGHT OR DISCUSSION

  • How can the church share in lamenting with people who are grieving?

  • Take a look at several psalms of lament, such as Psalms 13, 22, and 44. At what times in your life might you pray some of these honest words?

QUESTIONS?

If you’re part of the Christian Reformed Church in North America and you have questions about how to strengthen your church’s ministry to and with people in the third third of life, one of Faith Formation Ministries’ Regional Catalyzers would love to talk with you about ideas and strategies.

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