Grief is natural, and it is awful. It claims your identity and turns you into someone you no longer recognize.

Grief takes over your consciousness, filling it with questions and doubts. It invades your dreams with horrific panic and alternate realities. Tragedy is like a dark passenger that viciously reminds us there are things outside of our control. However, in the midst of tragedy, it is essential to understand that we have options. Although it seems as though control is completely taken out of our hands, options remain.

We can allow tragedy to defeat us or we can use it to find strength. Admittedly, finding strength is easier said than done. The natural thing to do is to give in to the pain and accept the misery of defeat and loss as a result. That feels right at the moment. It even makes sense when we allow our minds to follow the natural way of thinking. We tell ourselves we are honoring what we have lost. However, defeat is a lie that we must refuse to believe.

In the months following Ella’s death, viewed grief as an enemy. Over time, I have come to embrace grief as a friend. While this idea may seem ridiculous, it is something with which I have become well acquainted. If I try to fight grief, I lose every time. When I embrace it, I learn to use it to propel me forward. Instead of battling against my natural tendencies to suppress thoughts and feelings in order to avoid emotion, I allow them to surface. Of course, these are private times. I try not to display my meltdowns for the general public to witness. But anger and denial are worse when they are pent up. I have found that when I deal with them quickly, I am ready to move on to the next moment. When I suppress them, they are still there in the moments ahead.

Death is the absence of life. Ella will forever be a huge part of who I am; so a huge part of who I am died on October 7, 2016. I will never be the same person I was before that day. The comfort I find is that I don’t have to be that same person. I don’t have to be the person who had not yet learned to live with tragedy. I don’t have to be the dad who took for granted that his children would always be here. There is still life in me, and I will live that life to the full-est. If we face hardships and remain unchanged, we gain nothing from our losses. If we must dance with defeat, we need to choose to take the lead and let the spotlight shine as we find the beauty in the aftermath. There is a reason Earth is not called heaven. Tragedy is the very soil on which we walk in this life. While we may stumble over heartache and trial, healing and strength lay waiting to embrace us.

We have just released a new Bible Study based on Jeff Bumgardner and Dr. Stephen Cutchins new book. Green Hearts: God’s Goodness in the Worst of Times. This study is a reflection of grief and is response to the tragic loss of Jeff Bumgardner’s 10-year old daughter Ella.

These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.

Lessons include:

Lesson #1 — Grief
Lesson #2 — Pain
Lesson #3 — Questions
Lesson #4 — Answers
Lesson #5 — Surprises
Lesson #6 — Grace
Lesson #7 — Faith