Monday, June 11, 2012

On Grief and Love

At times like this, everyone (myself included) is asking the same question: how do we grieve?  How do we appropriately weave loss into our lives?

It's not easy.

Just as we often don't know what to say to the family, to the loved ones, to those left standing in these times, we don't often know what to say to ourselves, either.  There are books, studies, 'experts' on the subject, words that attempt to tell you what grief is, what it feels like, why the pain is so great, and how to 'overcome' it.  Or for those less brazen, how to 'work through' grief.

That's all honky.  Bull-honky.  I will not claim to know any more about grief than the next person.  I don't.  But what I'm finding in these past few days is working me through it (notice the difference.  I'm not working through it; grief is working through me).  I wanted to share some of the thoughts I have been having in the hopes that it might help you in some way.

Remember that grief is rooted in love.  It is love.  You cannot be stricken by the loss of something you never allowed to strike a chord in you in the first place.  We grieve because we gave up a place in our hearts to something else, and that something else is now passed on.  What are we to do with the heart that we'd given away?

Loss rips a little piece of love out of us.  It has to.  That is grief by its very nature.  With our loss goes a little piece of our very heart, and as it rips out of us, it leaves a loss-shaped hole that nothing else is going to fill.  There will never be another love just like that.

That piece of us is never coming back.  There is a great deal to mourn as we see what we can never be again - not the two of us.  It can't be any more.  The memories we were going to make together, the adventures we were going to take, the journey we were going to walk, the hours we were going to talk...the piece of us that we'd given to that, to building that, is gone.  Because the one is gone, so is the tomorrow of the two.  And we feel that grief in the void.  In the piece of our heart that once bore the image of a love shared that is now nothing.  In this case, the Harold-shaped piece of our love is gone, and our hearts feel that hole.  It hurts.

Some may never figure out how to fill that void, what to do with the empty space where love used to live.  It becomes a portal into our deeper heart if we just leave it, a place where the smallest chips of the world sneak in and penetrate our core.  Some may try to shove another love in that place, something that never fits because it's not the right shape.  Some may let the void scab over and they, in turn, grow crusty.  Some reach out and take their heart back, squeezing it into the empty space in an attempt at wholeness.  Some preserve the object of loss and carry it around with them so that it fills that hole with the shape of the loved one.  But this is a burden, for though the shape is there, the love is not.  It becomes a heavy weight to try to live for the two of you for the sake of the one piece of your heart ripped away.  These are, I think, the standard 'phases' of grief that all of those experts will try to sell you on even while admitting not everyone will go through them in any particular order or predictably at all.  We just don't know a lot about grief; we only know how people react, and some people will react this way.

This isn't grief.  True grief acknowledges the void and doesn't feel a need to fill it right away.  It honors the place in our hearts we've given away by admitting it hurts, by admitting it feels empty, by admitting that the stinging pain makes us a little numb.  It admits that it doesn't know what to do with that place any more and waits for love to answer.  Knowing that love will.  For grief - honest-to-God, honoring grief - is guided by love.  Not by pity.  Not by misery.  Not by hopelessness.  Not by depression.  Grief is guided by love.

Grief is love working its way through us, weaving a new patchwork into our story.  Grief is our process of taking the love that was the two of us and honoring the contribution of both by finding a way to fill our void with a new kind of love.  It is taking a little bit of the love we gave away and sewing it back into our hearts with a thread of the love given to us by the one now gone.  This new love is true to our heart and backed by the inspiration of having known love.  It is a place inside us that takes to give, that draws on the love we knew in order to give a greater love.

This is how our loss - our loss of love woven into a new love - shapes us moving forward.  And it's important to find, with each loss, what that looks like for you.  That's why there's no formula for grief; it's always different.  Every love is different, so every loss is different, so every grief is different, and every new love is going to be different.  That's the miracle of how God has put us in each others' stories, in each others' hearts.  It's beautiful.

The thing to remember in tough times, in pain and in loss, is to be fully honest with it.  Don't rush to answers.  Don't listen to 'experts.'  Don't think there's a right way and a wrong way.  Grief isn't some dense forest we're supposed to bushwhack our way through, cut a path across, and walk through to greener pastures.  Grief is love.  And it's going to look different for each of us.  

The other thing to remember in times such as these is to be honest with yourself.  We should never abandon who we are to meet grief somewhere; even our loved one would never want that.  We should let grief leave us open to reckless abandon as it shapes and forms us, as it works its way through us guided by love.  Look for the way to honor your loss without losing yourself; in that, you will honor the both of you.

And the most important thing to remember in grief is to be honest with your God.  Tell Him you feel empty.  Tell Him it stings.  Tell Him, "Lord, I wasn't done with that Harold yet."  Tell Him you're're waiting to see how He's going to weave love together from a love that was and will never be (in the same way) again into a love that so far wasn't but now will be in a way that treasures what was, honors what is, and hopes for all that is to come.  Tell God you're're waiting to see how Love answers grief.  Tell God you're're just waiting...

I don't know how to do grief.  My heart, like so many, just hurts.  But I know how to do love.  And somewhere in love, my heart finds the answer I think my grief is looking for.

1 comment: