Perhaps one of the hardest moments in life is losing a loved one. Regardless of age—and the knowledge that no one escapes death—mortality still sneaks up and steals our breath; its strike leaves puncture-wounds on us, collateral damage caused by the taking of someone dear. As our grief pours out, we seem to diminish—becoming changed by death and removal, physical proximity no longer being our companion. But that lessening isn’t permanent. That lessening is really lessoning; a teaching of our nature, one final instruction of the heart that never ceases, continuing to mold us into the next version of ourselves.
Many of you are experiencing loss, right now. Your family members, friends and/or loved ones have died, leaving you behind to sort out what your life will be like without their presence. There are few words, if any, that can aid in these first steps of healing. Anger, denial and betrayal run can rampant at the onset, seemingly forming an unbreakable wall between you and your past, you and your ‘normal’ and you and your God. This is a possibility, not an inevitability, and yet many of us struggle with it nonetheless. The first stage of grief is—for most people—unconsciously set and traveled with little regard for hope of the future. Food turns to ash, sights lose their color, sounds become muffled and numbness diminishes our extremities in these first months.
But hope remains.
In what seems like a distant cell, locked away for safekeeping, hope burns like a candle with a skinny wick—hope for understanding, hope for pain relief, hope for the presence of God. But hope remains for us to seek it out, to unlock its prison and set it free in our hearts. The trick? We can’t do it alone. Just like no one makes it out of life alive, no one makes it out of grief, alone. Companionship may seem counter-intuitive to some of you during grief. If anything, the thought of having a conversation about a lost loved-one with a present loved-one is daunting and formidable. Do it, anyway. Allow yourselves to be loved. Spending too much time in the confines of your own head disables your heart to break and mend effectively. You can’t think your way through grief—not solely—just as you can’t emote your way through grief, either. And neither of those actions will aid you if you don’t pray through grief.
Your church community is so much more than a building, a space for occasional worship. Within this family you have people who genuinely care for you, who desire your wholeness, who seek your joy to be returned. I am one of them, but one of many. If you find yourself locked away or feeling disconnected, please reach out. Church isn’t a static place for complacency; church is a vehicle within which we can congregate and take the finite physical journey through life together, arriving at the infinite gates of beloved immortality given to us by God. God gave us one another to see the spark of divinity created within, a small flecking that can be urged to a roaring flame when fed by support, love and the freeing knowledge that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Let not your hearts be troubled for too long; the grief within which you dwell is not a permanent dwelling place. Your loved ones no longer seen are still with you; they have joined the great cloud of witnesses that create the rain of joyful tears upon being reunited at last. When your own tears of loss restrict you to the dark corners of your mind, remember that they loved you and that you were made better because of that love.
So live. Live for yourself, live for them, and live a life committed to continuing that love to others still present. Together, we can overcome grief. Together we can grow. And with God’s help, together we can rise in glory.