The overarching emotion of grief is a kind of pervasive, relentless sadness. Though sadness is often our first reaction to ordinary losses and disappointments in life, sadness takes on a new, sometimes overwhelming dimension when one we love dies.
Since grief is personal, no one can tell us how long we will feel sad—perhaps a few months, or maybe even for several years. When we grieve, sadness can become a comfortable habit. In the worst moments of grief sometimes we tiptoe to the edge of depression. When sadness overtakes our life, we feel a gaping emptiness, a despair and hopelessness that only a persistent faith and determined hope for the future can surmount.
One of the reasons we feel sad when we grieve is that we are lonely. We miss our loved one. The absence of his or her presence has taken from us something essential and life-giving—love, the physical expression of affection and devotion, friendship, and life’s shared joy. It hurts to be alone in body and spirit. We are sad when we start to speak to someone who is no longer there. We are sad because our hopes and dreams for the future will never be as we once imagined and planned. Though one day we will reorganize and go on with our life, we are sad that life will never be the same again without the one we love and grieve.
We experience sadness in hundreds of little things—going to bed without saying goodnight to the one we love, an empty chair at the table, wandering around a too-large house, reminded with every step of so many of life’s best and worst memories. Though in our sadness we may rage and demand answers to the “why?’ of death, somewhere within our heart we feel the love and peace of God. When we receive the gifts of God’s comfort, at least for the moment, we are not as sad.
After my husband Leighton died everywhere I looked I saw couples. Some held hands and seemed very married, as we were, others seemed disconnected, living parallel yet apart. As I observed and reflected on the nature and dynamic of relationships, I wondered why some couples live together into old age, and why I was alone. I wondered why some seemed merely to tolerate each other yet stayed together in marriage. I wondered why I was without my beloved. All my wondering did nothing to explain my loss, rather it only fed my sadness—wishing things were as they used to be, yet knowing they would never be the same again.
If your grief is more about feelings of worthlessness, inadequacy, and lack of self-confidence than the normal, understandable sadness of loss and sorrow, you may want to seek the perspective of a confidential, non-judgmental counselor, therapist, or minister. A caring professional will listen thoughtfully and guide you away from possible depression to better understand the sadness of your grief.
It is a natural part of grief and grieving that our sadness slowly diminishes over time. One of the gifts of grief is that one day we find that our sadness has turned into grateful, warm memories of the one now lost to us in death. When we weigh sadness against the blessing of being alive, grief teaches us that it is not a betrayal of our loved one to be joyful again in life.
Yet resuming a life of joy may be another matter. Often we find that joy requires a certain discipline of spirit—we must practice joy and re-learn what it feels like to experience joy, to feel joy, to be joyful. At its essence joy comes from within. Joy is an inexplicable gift of God’s grace that revives and restores our soul. Though in some corner of our soul there will always be a certain sadness for the one we love and now grieve, beyond this moment of sadness one day we dare to live again in fullness of life and fullness of joy, “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5 NRSV).
So you have pain now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.