There are few good things that I can attribute to grief. Before I delve into these things, let me say first that this is an observation regarding my experience with many different types of grief. It is not a judgment of those who have not experienced severe, devastating grief of various types. It is my reflections on myself, my grief, and how others may or may not have been affected by grief.
I believe that I am fairly mature spiritually, with the knowledge that I am continually striving to be more like Christ. We are all at different points on the continuum that is our walk with Christ.
I have suffered the loss of a marriage, a dear friend, some family members(though they are still living), severe financial hardship, and the loss of my only child, my beautiful son.
What can I say I have gained from these various encounters with grief? Well, a broken heart for sure. “A broken and contrite heart the Lord will not despise.”(See Psalm 51) Thank you, Jesus, that you have taken my broken heart and begun to repair it. The heart surgery the Lord is conducting on me is a journey in and of itself.
Though my heart be many pieces pasted together with the adhesive that is only Jesus, I pray it is more beautiful and more full than before each loss.
At first, it might appear that the incredible love I wish to give to others is just a function of neediness – a desperate desire to love and be loved. But instead, it is a desire to GIVE love in a way I have never been able to give to others before.
I have seen different qualities in some of those closest to me, some of those who love me the ‘best.’ When I say they love me the ‘best,’ I mean that there love is unconditional. And, praise God, there are a couple that indeed love me with this boundless love! The differences I see in these people, I believe stems from either their experience with grief, or the lack thereof.
Among some of those that love me unconditionally, specifically some who have not experienced the types of loss I have enumerated above, there is a disconnect. The disconnect comes from an inability to conceptualize the degree of loss. The disconnect continues with the inability to empathize. Where does this lack of conceptualization and empathy lead? Not to a lack of love or heartfelt concern, but to a lack of action.
This lack of action keeps the person in good wishes for you, but no action. Picture this scenario: you have a friend who is physically starving. The disconnected person is afraid for them, concerned for them, prays for them, but offers no sustenance. The overall sentiment is concern, but what is perceived by the one grieving and in loss is a sense that the disconnected friend is saying, “Bummer dude – good luck with that.”
I also believe that some people who have this disconnect do so because, lacking the familiarity with loss, they have remained safely within the emotional and spiritual confines they have set for themselves and those closest to them. The disconnected ones are not overly concerned about anyone outside their safety zone — at least not to a degree that inspires action.
I believe that familiarity with severe, debilitating loss and grief does one of two things to you in the long run. 1) It either leaves you defeated and expecting that others take care of you(a position I have never been in); or, 2) Once the heartache of each episode has begun to pass, it leaves you with a spiritual radar that picks up on grief wherever it exists around you. This radar makes it impossible to remain within your own safe shell, concerned only with your good and those closest to you.
I have friends within my sphere of influence who both step out of their safety zone to act as Christ in helping others, and I have those who remain within the confines of the safety zone, offering prayers and good wishes, but nothing additionally.
After I reflected on how familiarity with grief affects people, I offered prayers of thankfulness to the Lord. I thanked him for the empathy that pain and a broken heart brings. This empathy makes me strong, not weak.
I promised the Lord that I will always reach out and ‘do’ something for those in my realm of influence, even if it is something small. As I rebuild my life, I will ‘stockpile’ certain amenities, so that I WILL ALWAYS have something to give to my friend or acquaintance. I never want to offer the prayers and well wishes and send my friend away starving.
I want to close this reflection on grief by affirming again that I know each and every one of us is at his own point on the continuum which is our walk with Christ. I cannot judge or be angry about where others are in their walk, because then I would be filled with hate and resentment. And, this is not the way of Christ.
I am thankful that grief has given me a heart abounding with love I cannot wait to give. I am grateful to the Lord that grief has opened my eyes to what I must do(as much or as little as I am able) — I must do something when others are despairing and in need.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for what you have taught me through grief. But oh, Jesus, how I wouldn’t like a long, long reprieve from this School of Grief.