Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Grieving of Loss - A Process or The End?

Max Lucado described grief as "the black bag of sorrow" and he puts forth so aptly...

Grief lingers. As silently as a cloud slides between you and the afternoon sun, memories drift between you and joy, leaving you in a chilly shadow. No warning. No notice. Just a whiff of the cologne he wore or a verse of the song she loved, and you are saying goodbye all over again. Why won't the sorrow leave you alone? Because you buried more than a person. You buried some of yourself. {Max Lucado ~ Travelling Light, pg.90}

When I was much younger, I experienced a sorrow that as a child I never really understood. I cried because I missed my dad. Everything around me reminded me of him. I am sure it was hundred times or thousand times worse for my mom. A large part of her probably died with him too.

Recently, a friend of mine experienced a similar loss. Her dearly beloved husband passed away due to cancer, a condition which took no more than 6 months of suffering and God took him home last week. Right now, I am sure that she is experiencing the similar feelings and thoughts that Max Lucado was writing about. In fact, I gathered from our common friends that she is suffering and experiencing a great sense of grief.

Where do I begin to comfort her? I found it hard to face her and yet to go and visit her. To me, death of a loved one was a period in time that I don't want to revisit. I find it hard to sit through a funeral wake without feeling detached or awkward. The truth is I find it hard to face grief without triggering my own. Of course, it has been a long time ago and I have received much help through counselling and healing from God. A part of my fear long buried away tends to surface whenever I encounter yet another funeral. I know that I am a deserter when it comes to grief. I struggle whenever I am asked to attend a funeral wake.

I can accept that death is God's way of telling us that it is time to go home. I imagine that my Christian friend in his last hour would have been looking towards Heaven and connecting with God. But his wife who is left behind is the one that have to face the empty and lonely days ahead. Who are we to tell these people to move on and get on with their lives? With all our good intentions, much to the chagrin of the grieving person, we become the cause of their deepened sorrow. Some people just take a longer time to grieve. For many people, they just have to walk through the long alley of loneliness and the tunnel of self pity before getting to the bridge of hope.

I guess if we can see this as a process and a much needed one, we stop all that talk about moving on quickly. By allowing the grieving person to move at their own pace through this much needed process, it allows her to take ownership of her own feelings and thoughts. It also gives her full authority to decide when the day of moving on will be. God has made us to be discerning people and He has given us the Holy Spirit to teach us everything we need to know (John 14:26). He has promised to be with us through it all (Rom 8:38-39).

So at the right time, my grieving friend will move on with the help of the Holy Spirit. For now, I just have to sit next to her, hold her hand, let her cry and let her talk about her grief. Most of all, I will pray that she recognizes God's presence in those lonely moments of her life when no one is around with her.

Can you understand? Will you do the same for someone else?