Posts Tagged ‘loss’

The Way of Grief

August 25th, 2010

He’d just lost his wife, the woman he’d loved for years, the one he’d shared everything with. He described the early stages of his grief this way:

“How could things go on when the world had come to an end? How could things–how could I–go on in this void? How could one person, not very big, leave an emptiness that was galaxy-wide? Everything–every object–was pervaded by the void. I could teach my classes smilingly, even to calmly reading a poem about loss…But that first day of teaching after the St. Stephen’s night, when I left the class to go home, I saw the MG, small and somehow forlorn, invaded by that void, and I was barely able to get off campus before the tears came….There were, though, thousands of other things and memories, each of which must be seen once in that piercingly bleak emptiness.”
~Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy

I read the words and identify with them. I know that void, the blankness of imagining life without, the reality that life will be–now is–without. I walked to classes, turned in assignments, taught my students, carried on with life. To the outside observer, I was fine. People commented on “how well I was taking it.”

I wasn’t taking it well at all. I continued in the routines of day to day life, but every step was now pervaded by the void.

Then as now, I shook myself and said I couldn’t be experiencing what I was. To say that my experience was anything like Vanauken’s is to make light of the depth of his grief. It’s like the pet owner who compares the adoption of his pet to the difficult process his neighbor is going through to adopt a child.

Yes, I had reason to sorrow. But grief? Grief like this?

A woman I know lost her husband of more than a quarter century at about the same time as I experienced my loss. She had reason to grieve. I–I was overreacting, clearly.

I was shamed when I wrote of the difficulties of day to day living–of living through my pain. She commented, identified, encouraged me to trust God amidst it all. How could she be identifying with my grief? She had reason to grieve–much more reason than I. I should be comforting her, not she comforting me.

Yet however small my loss may have been compared to the losses of others, I was grieving in the same way.

The same void. The same questions. The same need to trust God just to make it through the next moment. The same little things that set off fountains of tears. The same pain that can’t be put into words.

Long months have passed, months where it took all my energy to merely cling to Christ. Months where I’ve barely been able to see through the tears, through the void. The sun peeks out from behind the clouds every now and again. I begin to think that my grieving days may be numbered.

Then I read of grief like Vanauken’s and the grief rushes back into my soul. My heart aches as I read of the intimacy he shared with his wife, the years they spent together, the years he lost. My heart aches to think of the memories I don’t have, the time I didn’t share, the stories I can’t tell.

I am crying again, grieving again, feeling my loss with such intensity.

And again, I think, what right have I to grieve? My loss is so very small–Vanauken’s loss, Annette’s loss so great. How can I dare to grieve over so little, so long?

I don’t know, except to say that grief does not know the measures of reason.

“How could one person, not very big, leave an emptiness that was galaxy-wide?”

I don’t know, except to say that this is the way of grief.

Missing Mommy

July 25th, 2010

Little John misses his mom. I sit him on my lap until he feels he can function again. He ventures away to play. I move on to new tasks. I hear a couple of deeply drawn breaths and ask my compatriot whether she’d heard a cry coming on. She hadn’t, but when John starts crying again, she looks at me and suggests that I’m telepathic. I’m not. I’m just attune to his sorrow.

Jarell misses his mommy too–but my lap isn’t enough to calm this little fellow. He wraps his arms around my chest and buries his head in my shoulder. He wants to be as close as he can be. I understand the feeling. I hold him close and let him take comfort in my nearness. It takes him almost half an hour, but eventually, he is ready to move forward, returning every so often to remind himself that I’m still here.

Cooper is generally stoic, playing happily with the other children. Today, he plays almost as usual, except that he periodically turns to me to say “I miss my mommy.” His little lower lip quivers as I respond: “I know. It’s hard missing someone.” I know.

McKenna asks me if her mommy will be back soon. I tell her it will be a while. A couple minutes later, she’ll be back to ask me again. She misses her mother, she wants her back. She cannot comprehend the scale I see, the hands of the clock ticking away the minutes. “I know it’s hard,” I tell her, “but trust me. She’ll be back.”

I am McKenna, Cooper, Jarell, and John–sometimes almost unaffected, sometimes incapacitated by the pain. I don’t understand what’s going on outside the walls of my nursery. “Where is my mommy? What is she doing? When will she be back?”

God, omniscient, knows what’s going on even when I don’t. He watches the clock, knowing the time when my suffering will end. “I know it’s hard,” He says, “but trust Me. It won’t be long.” Still, every few minutes I ask when the pain will be gone.

Does He feel my pain as I feel theirs?

Certainly He knows of me what I know of them–that this present suffering is only momentary.

And thus He calls me to rest, to trust, and to enjoy the place I’m at right now.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
~II Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV)

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