“Grief seems to create losses within us that reach beyond our awareness — we feel as if we’re missing something that was invisible and unknown to us while we had it, but now painfully gone.”
BRAKES fully locked, life finds us spinning dangerously out of control through a hairpin bend of grief. At its simplest it’s just the one massive loss — a partner, a child, a parent, a family member, a marriage, a career — lost, gone. There are so many kinds of loss. And within every loss there are many splinters of loss that ripple outward, and all of these losses are grief-worthy of the own right, let alone the actual loss itself.
What I want to explore here is twofold: 1) the fact that grief, though its source seems obvious, can be a hard thing to pinpoint; and hence, 2) recovery from grief, with all good intent, can seem like trying to escape from a confounding labyrinth.
Grief rattles not only our conscious reality of life, it pulverises our identities. We doubt who we were and we’re not sure we like who we’ve now come to be.
In our losses it’s not just us who’s affected, it’s those who rely on us — those who depend on us — who are affected. We get anxious about how others are affected, and depressed because we cannot help them as we’d like to be able to. In our losses, we have to get used to the end of something we never actually contemplated would end. It’s only in our losses that we find our identities were fused to something that could be, and now is, lost. We may feel confused about, disappointed with, or angry at God, or all of the above. Not only is our world shaken, so too is our faith. Our losses bring to an end hopes that would not have appeared to be under threat, but now are; some of which are now gone. And loss brings us to a point where life — the life that was — can no longer be — as it was. It’s now forever redefined. That alone can bring incredible heartache.
There is a presence in the loss that hardly ever seemed real in real life, as it was, but which now feels untenably cogent — a loss of something that never was but felt like it was. And the maddening thing is it probably was.
Something I’ve tended to ask all those I counsel through grief is to make a list of losses, and to work on such a list until they feel it’s complete. It makes the losses more tangible. Just knowing all the varied losses and the areas of life that have been affected helps because we’re able to compartmentalise grief better over the longer haul. This is good forwards work when we’re feeling up to it.
Nobody wants to be forever defined by grief. Everyone wants to move through and out of it. If we’re diligent in identifying what losses we’ve suffered we’re more readily able to process each loss with time.
On the other side of grief love shelters the grief of loss, and newfound compassion swells life exponentially.
God compensates our journey through grief through our gradual acquisition of empathy, warmth, and genuineness.
Grief’s best compensation is a life we never had before; a life we never dreamt we might create. Now we can.
Grief seems like hell at the time, but God brings heaven out of it.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.