From time to time, those whose grief is much newer than mine ask me hope-filled questions about what life is like on the other side of grief. There’s often a quiet urgency in their need for assurance that there’s something more than the searing pain of death and grief. They want to know that they, too, will experience joy again in their lives.
It’s easy to question whether grief will leave us permanently damaged. Seldom do we imagine - really, how could we? - that grief just might bear some gifts along the way. What would it be like to live with a richer, more mature faith? Reconciling our experience of loss and sorrow with the grace of our faith inevitably leads us slowly but surely to the other side of grief.
And when we take a backward glance and see where we’ve been and what we’ve been through, often we find that we’re spiritually rounder and emotionally more agile than before. We’ve grown, we’ve changed, we’re more resilient, we’re more understanding, we’re more tolerant. Grief can have a unique effect on our soul and spirit if we’re attentive and receptive to its gifts - heightened compassion and greater humanity toward everyday life and love and death.
When we’re on the other side of grief are we suddenly “over the rainbow”? No, life’s not instantly all better again, but we’re most certainly in a different place. We see the rainbow with new appreciation for its beauty because we’ve lived in the dark place of grief for a while. We glory in each vibrant color of the spectrum, grateful for eyes to see and for the very breath of life. Where we are at that place, in that moment is beyond the broken heart. Though our heart has grieved and, in some small corner will always grieve the one we so dearly love, at last we are again at one with ourselves, with life, and with God. We are whole.
From the limited sightline of our mortality, on the other side of grief we better appreciate the dimensions of God’s love, “I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19 NRSV). God alone is large enough and great enough to see us through our grief and bring us to this better place of peace and joy.
And after we have grieved for a while - however long that may be for you or for me - we see the light of new life that beckons us forward toward the other side of grief. Resolutely we move into the light, determined to claim new life for ourselves. Thanks be to God for the victory over death. Thanks be to God for the precious gift of life in all its fullness.
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!
Psalm 118:1 NRSV
Keep me this day, O God, in the grace of your being. Amen.