Our community has been hit hard by much grief in this New Year. We lost five beloved young people when a wrong-way driver slammed into their vehicle. A beloved sister to one of the young people—the mother of a two-year-old child—was murdered. And a beloved Colusa City Council member died suddenly at the early age of 51.
How do we face such loss? How do we bear such grief?
Let’s begin with an understanding of grief: Grief is a pain-filled, long-lasting, challenge to our lives in so many ways. Edgar Jackson puts it this way:
“Grief is the man so filled with shocked uncertainty and confusion that he strikes out at the nearest person.
“Grief is a mother walking daily to a nearby cemetery to stand quietly and alone a few minutes before going about the tasks of the day. She knows that part of her is in the cemetery, just as part of her is in her daily work.
“Grief is the silent, knife-like terror and sadness that comes a hundred times a day, when you start to speak to someone who is no longer there.
“Grief is teaching yourself to go to bed without saying good night to the one who has died.
“Grief is the helpless wishing that things were different when you know they are not and never will be again.
“Grief is a whole cluster of adjustments, apprehensions, and uncertainties that strike life in its forward progress and make it difficult to redirect the energies of life.”
Douglass Paddock shares a helpful perspective on grief, taken from a letter a former student sent to her seminary professor when the professor’s son died in a car accident: “Sorrow is more than an emotion; it is the innermost being expressing to both God and to the world—through sobs, tears, and aching silence—that it was glorious to have been loved and to have loved.”
What should we do with grief?
Let it out.
Earl Grollman explains, “Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.”
Be there with and for those who are hurting.
Joseph Bayly shares from his experience following the death of one of his children: “I was…torn by grief. Someone came and talked to me of God’s dealings, of why it happened, of hope beyond the grave. He talked constantly; he said things I knew were true. I was unmoved, except to wish he’d go away. He finally did. Another came and sat beside me. He didn’t talk. He didn’t ask leading questions. He just sat beside me for an hour and more, listening when I said something…prayed simply, left. I was moved. I was comforted. I hated to see him go.”
And love again.
Henri Nouwen counsels, “Do not hesitate to love and to love deeply. You might be afraid of the pain that deep love can cause…. But that should not hold you back from loving deeply. The pain that comes from deep love makes your love ever more fruitful. It is like a plow that breaks the ground to allow the seed to take root and grow into a strong plant. Every time you experience the pain of rejection, absence, or death, you are faced with a choice. You can become bitter and decide not to love again, or you can stand straight in your pain and let the soil on which you stand become richer and more able to give life to new seeds.
“The more you have loved and have allowed yourself to suffer because of your love, the more you will be able to let your heart grow wider and deeper.” ■
—Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa.