“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night.”
— Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892–1950)
As a new parent-to-be (after nearly 15 years since my last child was born) I have found myself strangely cognisant of the fact that I can prepare for the baby’s birth, yet, in some ways, I will be inadequately prepared, come what may. The same revelation hits the person who has lost a dear one to a prolonged battle; a wife or husband, a child, or a parent; a best friend. Such losses we have time to prepare for, but there is no preparing for what it might be like when they are actually gone.
The experience of loss, as captured in the quote above, is a void where we have no way of imagining the loved one as gone—in reality.
Here today, gone tomorrow.
That’s about as clinical as our understanding gets. And whilst it is a relief for many to have said their goodbyes, there is always the anguish of missing these dear ones. With time and love we have access to healing, and best of all is the remembrance of their lives and the impact they made on us and others.
The Finality of Death
It seems so obvious to state that death is final, and we know no better truth throughout our lives than this, but experiencing death as a final and lasting phenomenon always shocks our human sensibility.
We can know that God is behind all creation and our existence by the fact that we are mortal; that there is nothing we can do about our living, breathing life spans.
When, for one of many reasons, we die, our deaths proclaim evidence of the Lord. Because our lives are given to us as gifts, and are taken away with just as much lack of control on our parts, our lives are given (and taken) by a Higher Power—God.
However long we live will not change one fact: we will never get used to the idea of death. It will continue to confound us, unless we, with God, accept the mysteries abounding in death. We need to surrender all our ill-feeling to our compassionate God.
The ‘Why’ of Grief
Many people want to know why we experience grief.
It’s because we are inherently emotional beings; thinking, feeling individuals with not only the capacity for love, but the eternal design to love. It’s because of love that we grieve so much. If we were able to not love, the pain of grief could be overcome easily.
With an eternal design wired biologically into us (Ecclesiastes 3:11), we have no choice but to love, unless we would have our consciences seared, and that is no safe alternative.
We are ‘condemned’ to grieve because of love, but such a thing is not really a condemnation; love simply forces us to grow, and where we can’t grow we can’t belong to love. Remaining in fear is an inferior choice, but love requires courage; we can manage just one day at a time.
Many losses we cannot prepare for, even those losses connected with terminal illnesses. Grief, we see, is a product of love, and, because we can’t help but love, we will grieve our losses terribly. But God is in this with us, growing us toward him in the healing.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.