Grieving Over Losses, Regrets and Disappointments: What I Learnt

Grieving Over Losses, Regrets and Disappointments: What I Learnt

The demise of her mother and the Covid-19 lockdown triggered an outpouring of lament over losses in her life, but Eliza Tan shares how she sees God’s grace and goodness in her grief.

Eliza Tan

After an eight-year battle with Alzhiemer’s disease that quickly robbed her of her cognitive ability, mobility, and strength, my mum succumbed to the disease in March 2020.

Grieving Over Losses, Regrets and Disappointments - What I Learnt

Soon after, Singapore started an eight-week Circuit Breaker with strict rules and restrictions on social gatherings, movements, and health measures.

Coming all at once, these drastic changes in my life left me feeling disoriented and grappling for answers.

Why did God allow my mum to be inflicted with such a disease that cut short her life? I haven’t had enough time to be a filial daughter.

How long is this lockdown going to last? I miss meeting my friends.

When can I return to the office? I feel so unproductive at home.

The loss of my mum, as well as that of my sense of normalcy, opened a floodgate of questions and if-onlys. Soon, I was grieving for many other regrets and disappointments in my life.

Why didn’t I seize the chance to pursue that vocation when it was first presented to me? When I had the opportunity to do so again, why didn’t God open the door?

I wish I had left my last job on my own terms rather than because of burnout.

If I could turn back time, would I reconsider that brother’s pursuit of me?

Why did God allow my mum to be inflicted with such a disease that cut short her life? I haven’t had enough time to be a filial daughter.

How long is this lockdown going to last? I miss meeting my friends.

When can I return to the office? I feel so unproductive at home.

The loss of my mum, as well as that of my sense of normalcy, opened a floodgate of questions and if-onlys. Soon, I was grieving for many other regrets and disappointments in my life.

Why didn’t I seize the chance to pursue that vocation when it was first presented to me? When I had the opportunity to do so again, why didn’t God open the door?

I wish I had left my last job on my own terms rather than because of burnout.

If I could turn back time, would I reconsider that brother’s pursuit of me?

The rumination over missed opportunities, stillborn dreams, and unmet desires led me to pour out my laments and tears to God.

Over the next two months, I grappled with my emotional turmoil, often breaking into tears as I considered how broken my life seemed to be. The struggle sapped my body of strength as unanswered questions filled my mind.

The rumination over missed opportunities, stillborn dreams, and unmet desires led me to pour out my laments and tears to God.

Over the next two months, I grappled with my emotional turmoil, often breaking into tears as I considered how broken my life seemed to be. The struggle sapped my body of strength as unanswered questions filled my mind.

Eventually, however, I slowly emerged from the dark valley, feeling that my grieving over the loss of life I wanted had led me closer to God.

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Here are some lessons that I’ve learnt.

We can come to God with our most honest feelings

During that season, I spent much time wrestling with God in prayer. “Where were You in those episodes of grief, regrets and disappointments?” I asked Him.

Grieving Over Losses, Regrets and Disappointments - What I Learnt
I laid out all the different emotions welling up within me before Him—anger, pain, confusion, everything. At some point, I even shook my fist at God and told Him how angry I was over how my life had turned out.
I laid out all the different emotions welling up within me before Him—anger, pain, confusion, everything. At some point, I even shook my fist at God and told Him how angry I was over how my life had turned out.

One of the books that ministered to me during this period was Philip Yancey’s Disappointment with God: Three Questions No One Asks Aloud. One particular section showed me that I could come before God honestly with my feelings. As Yancey noted, the Bible portrays many spiritual giants, like Job, contending with God.

“One bold message in the Book of Job is that you can say anything to God,” he writes. “Throw at him your grief, your anger, your doubt, your bitterness, your betrayal, your disappointment—He can absorb them all.”

The book of Psalms, too, shows us that it’s okay for God’s people to express disappointment, impatience, depression, and other difficult emotions to Him in prayer.

In fact, the laments in Psalms even offer us a blueprint on how to grieve. As we turn to God to pour out our innermost feelings, we can remember His promises and unfailing love, ask Him to act on our behalf, express our trust in God, and even praise Him in our pain.

To be sure, bringing our doubts and disappointments before God takes faith. He values this faith and will honour it. Our Heavenly Father desires to be close to the brokenhearted and to comfort those who mourn (Matthew 5:4). And He knows us intimately, bottling every tear we shed (Psalm 56:8).

To tell the truth, God did not answer my questions immediately. But in one of those moments of solitude that I had with Him, the Holy Spirit reminded me that He who is the same yesterday, today, and forever has never left me nor forsaken me (Hebrews 13:5,8).

He was with me throughout all those painful episodes, and throughout my grieving. He showed me that I could trust in a God that is good, loving, wise, and sovereign, even when I did not understand what He was doing.

Because God has revealed himself through His Word and has been faithful to me all these years, I know I can say with assurance: Yes, Abba Father, I trust You, even if life has not turned out to be what I’ve wanted.

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Grieving with others helps us in our healing

After the death of my mum, my friends and church mates frequently checked in on me, to ask me how I was coping. Though we were unable to meet during the Circuit Breaker, their calls and messages of prayers and regards gave me much consolation.

That was what Job’s three friends set out to do when they heard about what happened to him. They bemoaned his physical afflictions and losses, offered their presence, and grieved with him in silence for seven days and nights (Job 2:12-13).

Similarly, when King Jephthah made a foolish vow that set his only daughter apart—likely for a lifetime of service at the tabernacle—her friends mourned with her over her lifelong singlehood (Judges 11:38).

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By being open with close and trusted friends about our grief, we give them a chance to support us with their company, strength, and love.

By being open with close and trusted friends about our grief, we give them a chance to support us with their company, strength, and love.

Ironically, sharing our stories of grief and God’s work in us can also enable us, in turn, to be God’s instruments to comfort others.

When Our Daily Bread author Sheridan Voysey wrote about his and his wife’s struggle with infertility, he was surprised to discover how his book touched many readers. Some began confiding in the couple about their own disappointments with God.

“Through it all God seemed to help people find some hope and healing,” he writes, “God began transforming our suffering into comfort for others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).”

As a wise maxim observes: “Joy multiplies when it is shared among friends, but grief diminishes with every division.”

By showing up for others, we can allow God’s healing to flow through us and touch others.

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Our tears, sorrows, and mourning will pass in time

Because of sin, not only has man been suffering from our rebellion against God, but creation as a whole has also been groaning as it experiences decay (Romans 8:23).

One day, however, all the suffering and pain will come to an end.

Revelation 21:4 gives us hope that God himself will wipe every tear from the eyes of His people. He promises that there “will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Grieving Over Losses, Regrets and Disappointments - What I Learnt
Our moments of pain and grief serve to remind us that this world is not our home.
Our moments of pain and grief serve to remind us that this world is not our home.

While we may be hurting in our present time, we can place our hope in a better place that God has prepared for us.

Because of this hope, I now regularly repeat the prayer of Apostle John in Revelation 22:20, “Come, Lord Jesus”, and pray for my unbelieving loved ones to know Him before He returns.

Grieving is a precious gift that God uses to help His children grow.

Looking back, I thank God for that period of intimacy with Him, for through it, He gave me a renewed sense of perspective of what really matters in life.

Eliza Tan is known by many names, but her favourite is ‘My beloved child’. Though she eats to live rather than lives to eat, she still enjoys her food and wholeheartedly agrees with Ecclesiastes 3:13, “That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.”

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