All of us will experience grief and loss in our lifetime. No doubt many of us experience the love and support of loved ones and the church during our loss, but as most of us have experienced, it is not the immediate aftermath of grief that is a challenge but the months and years that follow. Many of us feel loneliness, anger, bewilderment, confusion and wave after wave of loss. Our society (and increasingly the church) has forgotten how to grieve. As Pastor Colin Smith says: ‘In recent years, it has become popular to redesignate a funeral service as a ‘celebration of life’. And it is not unusual for a bereaved person to insist that it should be an upbeat occasion. But if even a funeral is no longer a place to grieve, what place is left for the expression of sorrow and loss? This privatizing of grief is very different from the pattern God gives us in Lamentations where the sorrows of God’s people are shared and their stories of loss are heard.’
‘For All Who Grieve’ came to me for review after I lost my sister and dad in the space of six months and the book couldn’t have come at a better time. The format of the book is a little unusual: it combines the heart wrenching stories of six families who had lost children in very different circumstances, and how they had been brought together in a group to share their experiences. Pastor Colin Smith (of 'Unlocking the Bible') structured the group discussions in the much-neglected book of Lamentations. I have to confess that like Colin Smith Lamentations is a book I have hardly read, much less studied, over the years but after reading ‘For All Who Grieve’ I have been encouraged to return to this book and study it in greater depth.
Pastor Colin Smith beautifully weaves the stories of families who have experienced death and loss, sometimes in the most traumatic of circumstances, with six themes from the book of Lamentations: tears, talk, guilt, grievance, hope and healing. Sensitively and gently Colin Smith takes us from tragedy and loss in each chapter to the word of God where we find release, comfort and healing. The book confronts with all the horror of loss but is infused with gospel hope that God can cope with our tears, our grievance and can bring hope and healing.
This book would be a helpful book to give to anyone who is grieving and would be a particularly good book to use in a group setting with people who had experienced grief. At the end of each chapter there are questions for reflection and discussion. It is also an extremely helpful book for pastors and those of us seeking to bring comfort to those who have been bereaved. The book also has very helpful appendix on children who die in infancy, recommended resources on grief and loss and resources for studying Lamentations in more detail.
I found ‘For All Who Grieve’ a huge comfort in my own loss. It helped articulate so many of my own feelings that were hard to express. Most of all it led me to the best of all counsellors: Jesus Christ. As Colin Smith says: ‘God gave His people a counsellor who wept with them, put the pain of their loss into words, ministered to their guilt and grief, and brought hope and healing from the ashes of their loss.’
Andy Murray, Livingston Free Church