Have you ever been the victim of well-intentioned people who, in a time of grief, their hand on your shoulder and say, “Give it time, you’ll get over it.” I know they mean well and I understand that with the passage of time the moments of grief grow farther apart and, in some ways less intense, but how does one “get over” a thirty-four year marriage?
Lois died on September 11 and I am now doing the work of grieving. We were the closest of friends; she was my main advisor, and a trusted confidant. We were lovers and parents, teachers and leaders who shared values and priorities, pain and happiness, failure and success. We were partners who could talk for hours but be just as comfortable being quiet as long as we were together. In the 12,435 days which made up the years of our relationship there were only 67 days when we didn’t at least talk on the phone and those were times when I was in a foreign country where telephone service wasn’t available. Yes, I took the time to calculate the number. It’s part of the work of grieving for me.
How does one “get over” the absence of someone so close? I would be embarrassed to admit how many times the past few weeks I’ve had to stop myself from doing something ridiculous. I will share that numerous times I’ve ended a phone call and started to dial Lois’ phone to tell her about the “crazy call I just had!” Or, I’ve received an email and started up the steps to tell Lois who just sent a note. Sometimes in the middle of the night I wake up wondering why Lois isn’t in bed only to remember . . .
Working through all this is the tough work of grief. It’s not bad work and I’m not depressed or discouraged with the on-going task of grieving but I suspect that it would be easy to ignore the task and hope I “get over it.”
Losing a loved one does not mean the rest of us stop living. Nor does it mean we ignore that someone very significant has died. The tough work of grief drives us to God who guides and comforts us. Only God can begin to fill the void in our lives. Anything else we turn to fails to speak to the grief.
In the middle of sadness and loss there is ample evidence of God. That confirmation comes from the Bible in passages like Psalm 31 and Isaiah 51 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. There are also books that help us in this tough work. I find two especially helpful: “Good Grief” by Granger E. Westburg published by Augsburg, and “A Grace Disguised” by Jerry Sittser published by Zondervan.
God calls us to acknowledge that He is in control of everything – even the death of a loved one. The sadness and loss we experience is part of the fabric of life. Embracing the tough work of grief is part of His plan and, ultimately, its satisfying work.
What about you? How are you coping with the tough work of grieving in your life? Maybe you’ve lost a job or had a marriage end in divorce or experienced the failure of a business. All of us will be touched in some way by sadness and loss because we live in a broken, fallen world where bad things happen to good people. Grief comes to us in many forms and working through that grief is one of life’s most rewarding challenges.
Jesus said, "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for? Matthew 16:23-25 The Message