Essays on Faith: Overcoming grief

Essential reporting in volatile times.

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The sun was shining for the first time in days as I drove home from my recent appointment. It had been only a few days since my world was turned upside down and it was merely by the Grace of God that I was able to function.

Alone in the car, feeling somewhat guilty for being alive — for enjoying anything — I asked these questions of myself, “What right have I to enjoy this day?”

“Why should I savor the warmth of sunshine on my face or drink in the beauty of a clear, blue sky?”

“Why should I derive pleasure from spring’s mild temperatures and colorful flowers parading along the highway?”

“I reject these gifts; let them roll off like beads of rain.”

“I deserve nothing!”

“I’ve already lived 20 years longer than the handsome son that was just taken from me. Why was it him instead of me? He was so good; enjoyed life, loved to laugh.”

“Why did this beautiful soul have to suffer for more than three years and finally give up his life while I, his mother, who has lived a long, satisfying life, am left behind to mourn his loss?”

I realize I’m not the first mother ever to lose a child.

I participated in a group discussion a while back where a woman expressed great sadness because she simply could not understand why God had taken her beloved daughter even though she had prayed fervently for her life. She’d had unbending faith that He’d answer her prayers and let her daughter live. “But the answer was no,” she told us tearfully.

None of us could offer an explanation. We had all lost loved ones — fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and extended family members, but only one other person had suffered the loss of a child. After the meeting was over, this kind man hugged the woman and said, “I know how you feel.” The rest of us sympathized, but until you’ve experienced such a loss, one cannot truly know the intensity of pain another endures when losing a child.

As a parent, the death of a child at any age goes against the natural order of things. You always expect your children to outlive you. You invest so much of yourself in them that losing a child is like losing a part of yourself.

Furthermore, no matter how hard you pray, it seems inadequate.

“The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just that time when God can’t give it: you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.” — C.S. Lewis, “A Grief Observed”

“So how do I go on with this sick, empty feeling in my heart and soul?” I ask.

And the still, small voice answers: First, thank God for good friends and acquaintances.

Besides the many cards, messages and flowers we’ve received from caring people, we had a phone call today from an old friend who lives in another state. He’s in the ministry and was very helpful. He said, “You may feel like things will never be normal again but be assured that a sense of purpose and meaning does return and the pain does lessen.” These weren’t idle words. This man spoke from the experience of one who has also lost an adult child.

God moves through each of us as an expression of empathy and connection with each other. When I’m feeling sad, I can find comfort in a warm hug, a listening ear or simply the presence of another.

I can open my heart to receive the gift of God’s love through the countless, willing beings all around me.

Thank you, God, for sending your comforters just when I need them.

I do not have to meet grief alone. God strengthens me beyond my own human strength. My heart finds peace in knowing that I will move through this experience bravely and courageously because I am not alone. God is with me.

I can trust in divine love and the power of God to heal my heart and restore my peace. I don’t need to know when or how circumstances will change. I simply open my heart to God’s presence and move forward with my life — out of the valley of darkness and into the light. I am grateful for the healing comfort of God’s presence.

Assured that I am always united in mind and heart with the people I love, I give thanks for treasured memories and for love that never ends.

“Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.” — Matthew 5:4

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