Intermittent Grief

Intermittent grief is the faithful tap-tap-tapping on the window of our soul that gets our attention and transports us to the place of personal grief forever reserved for the one we love. Long after the tears of shock subside and we begin to think that we are better, time and again grief reaches into our heart to remind us of our loss. It surprises us, especially when we are unprepared to deal with it.

Hidden in Plain Sight

Sometimes a new perspective on a single word or idea can penetrate our uneven grief emotions and get our attention in an unexpected way. It is the light bulb effect, the “aha” moment when we at last understand some deeper truth that gives us unexpected insight into the nature of God. When this happens, we are strengthened and inspired to move forward in our grief.

Where is God?

As we again bear witness to yet another act of predatory violence and share in the grief of parents and family, friends, educators, an entire community, and indeed the world, a sense of our own powerlessness seeps into every corner of life. Our helplessness tests the bedrock of our faith and shakes the very foundation of all we hold dear. From the depths of our mind and heart we ask, “Where is God?” We want to know. We insist on answers when there are none. We question, we probe our faith, and again ask, “Where is God?”

Don't Miss the Spring

At this time of unprecedented crisis the entire world is single-minded in its focus on the prevention and containment of the coronavirus. And while this daunting challenge may well stretch our healthcare resources and financial fortitude for an as yet unknown period of time, our innate survival instinct can easily overwhelm the rest of life still going on around us. We shop, stock up, and even hoard sufficient supplies to calm our momentary sense of helplessness at least for a while.

Confronting Fear

In his book A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis wrote, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” And though fear is a normal part of the experience of grief, most often grief magnifies our human capacity for fear. Eighteenth century philosopher and politician Edmund Burke wrote, “No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.” When we grieve, fear seems to ambush us when we are unprepared to defend ourselves. And when something as small as a microbe represents a threat to our global safety and well-being, we easily succumb to fear, anxiety and, in the worst case, a kind of subdued hysteria largely driven by irrational though very real questions such as "Am I going to die?" which are the inevitable subtext of catastrophic events.

Poured Love

The intangible, unseen nature of hope is sometimes elusive, especially when we grieve, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?” (Romans 8:24 NRSV). It takes spiritual energy, patience, and a certain faithful fortitude to hope, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24-25 NRSV). Often hope takes more imagination than we are able to muster. When we feel that all is lost, for a while we simply do not see the value of hope. We ask why we should reinvest in life if there is a chance our hope will again be disappointed, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God” (Psalm 42:11 NRSV).

Whole Life

We grow spiritually through the experience of grief when wholeness inspires not greater self-sufficiency, but rather deeper dependence on the faithful presence of God. Wholeness, then, is a by-product of trust that inspires gratitude and affirms without question or reservation God’s abiding presence in our lives.

Reconciliation

Reconciling ourselves to the death of one we love is one of the steepest and longest hills we climb on our journey through grief. Reconciliation is a continuous process of adjustment and acceptance, with a few stops and setbacks along the way.

The Orphans

The Dallas Arboretum is an urban oasis of both natural and man-made beauty on the banks of a lake not far from downtown. This beautiful place has been a refuge for me, especially since the death of my beloved husband. Before Leighton died we enjoyed going there together; after he died it became my grieving place. I can sit there “beside still waters” in every season of the year to think, journal, and remember. On a crisp December afternoon one year three days before Christmas, I went to the Arboretum to reflect on the season in a peaceful moment of “all is calm, all is bright.” When I left “my” bench I was refreshed by the exquisite beauty of the clear, cool day and the feeling of being far removed from the noise of the city and the season.

Into the Woods

In the first chapter of Luke we read, “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” We need God’s light and guidance on our journey of grief as we make our way through the vast forest of our spiritual and emotional pain. At Christmas, our thoughts and feelings are especially attuned to both the absence and the presence of the one we love and grieve.

A Future

When life as we know it has been brought to a standstill by the death of one we love, the future we once imagined, perhaps even relied upon as a certainty, is no more. Our hopes, our dreams, our inmost desire for fulness of life beyond the horizon of today are unalterably shaken. And though remnants of our ideal longings may survive the finality of death, the fragile ruins of the future we once envisioned become a commentary on our past.

Seeing Eyes

On a rainy Tuesday afternoon in December, I attended the funeral of a woman whose husband I knew and wanted to support. He was an adoring, loving spouse, in every way a faithful servant who cared for his wife throughout her long decline from Alzheimer’s disease. The service was a fitting tribute to a joyful life well-lived in love and service to her family, her church, and others.
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