top of page

Permission to Grieve

Grief can startle us with its severity. Natasha Smith offers us the permission we might need to thoroughly grieve our losses.


Permission to Grieve

By Natasha Smith

While my sister Sharon lay dying in the hospital, the dates approached for a work training that I was scheduled to attend several states away. The flight had been booked, the hotel confirmed, and registration paid for by my company. My boss and colleagues expected me to be there, to attend the training and then bring the information back to share with them. But there was no way I could make the trip. The doctors gave fifty-fifty chances for possible treatments to be effective for my sister. I knew I couldn’t leave, and I didn’t leave.

I missed the training, my sister died, and I received three days of bereavement leave. Was that enough? Absolutely not. What’s more, because of the expectations of my job, I felt guilty for staying with my sister. Coworkers offered condolences but attending another paid training was not an option. I felt company policies punished me for something out of my control.

Culture can influence the way we choose to grieve and the time we take to grieve. The culture surrounding us affects the extent to which grieving is considered necessary.

We live in a fast-paced culture that cares about making the world go around and not about how you feel. In our culture, there is no time to grieve. Maybe the way our culture brushes over loss and grief causes us to fear how we respond to grief. I’ve been in groups where someone became visibly upset with tears and you could tangibly feel the discomfort in the room. Tears or emotions are often unwelcome in most environments.

There is no surprise then, that in our “hurry up and get over it” culture, grieving becomes a lonely journey, a journey only the grieving participate in—and even they, they are not willing participants. Some jobs offer only, at most, a few days off from work for an immediate family loss. But what about a close friend, family pet, or a home? Those losses are unrecognized and go uncovered. They are not included in our times of grief—as if this world isn’t set up to give us the time nor the space to grieve.

Sadly, there are no workplace policies that allow grievers to take leave when they experience a loss, with the exceptions of a baby and infant loss, or when a soldier is killed at war. Further, institutions put constraints around who can grieve and for how long, almost deciding for the griever which losses matter and which do not. Our world minimizes and trivializes grief. For instance, leave is not allowed for the loss of an aunt or uncle—even one who may have raised you—because they aren’t immediate family.

The Bible’s Take on Grief

When it comes to how people in the Bible grieved, people of the Old Testament were given weeks and months to grieve. The children of Israel mourned over the death of Moses for thirty days, and the Egyptians mourned seventy days for Jacob. The Bible tells us that grieving is normal. You have permission to grieve.

Giving ourselves permission to grieve means allowing ourselves space and grace to heal. One example is self-care—mentally, physically, and spiritually; we need to take care of ourselves during times of grief. It is okay to need both Jesus and a therapist. Often, we are held captive by the opinions of others, including their ideas about the need to seek help during grief. But talking about loss and emotions helps with the healing process. Friends, grieving takes time. But, praise God, he is with us, no matter how long it takes. So we need never navigate it alone.

The book of Psalms is filled with conversations with God, with the writer asking him for help in times of pain, suffering, and grief. The psalmist reminds us:

My tears have been my food day and night,

While people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:3)

Calling and crying out to God in our grief should be as natural as breathing in the life of the believer. The Bible tells us to cast our cares on him for he cares for us (see 1 Peter 5:7). Thus, we do not need permission to come to him. God is our safe place, and we can come boldly before him because he cares for us.

Grieving can feel awkward because it goes against social norms, what you may have been taught, or what you may have seen modeled. You may feel awkward and nervous to lean into your grief, not knowing where your emotions may lead. But God, who created you, fully knows who you are, and he knows how to handle all of you, including your emotions.

Lord, I thank you for creating me in your image with a spirit, soul, and body. I thank you for being with me as I navigate through loss. I thank you for being my comforter and friend. I thank you for loving me. I am thankful that I can bring my feelings and emotions to you no matter whether anger, pain, or joy; you can handle it all. I am thankful that as my emotions surface, you will give me wisdom and discernment to navigate through them, to bring me to a place of healing that only comes from you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Adapted from Can You Just Sit with Me?: Healthy Grieving for the Losses of Life by Natasha Smith. ©2023 by Natasha Smith. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press.

Natasha Smith is a wife, mother, and writer from North Carolina. She is the author of the newly released, Can You Just Sit with Me? Healthy Grieving for the Losses in Life. Her work has appeared on Her View from Home, Focus on the Family, and TODAY Parents. Connect with her at


bottom of page