We do not get over death; we get through it. There is no other way to live with the circumstance and certainties of death that accompany us on life’s journey than to allow the pain of loss to wash over us and trust that the sun will rise and the waters of pain will recede until another tide.
Death takes away life. Death takes away our parents, our friends, our spouses, our children in circumstances that are beyond our control. Consequences of living in a material world that is corrupted by human choices and acts of nature carry blessing and benefit, suffering and death as twins. Wisdom teaches that the sun shines and the rain falls; this is the way of the world.
Death may take away the life of someone dear to us, but still we are alive to deal with the sorrow and pain. We are alive, but are we living through it so that death does not take two lives in a single blow?
There are no easy answers for complicated grief, grief that continues to steal life from the living. Platitudes are often empty and dismissive of the depth of pain grief brings.
As a pastor, I have seen responses to death in a variety of ways. I have seen people whose elderly spouses, riddled with disease, suffering in every day be so distraught in their grief when their spouse dies that they can barely live on themselves. I have also seen people who have lost a spouse, a sibling, a child, who remember their loss, find a way to walk with grief that in time allows them to return to their lives beyond the grief. What makes the difference? I don’t have an easy answer for that one.
What my faith tells me, and what I believe is found in John 14, Jesus’ words of comfort as he is preparing his disciples for his own death. “I go to prepare a place for you that where I am, you shall be also.” Jesus has already told them that his time on earth – all of it – was a call to abundant life. That abundant life is beyond the ills and hurts of the world, above and beyond the circumstances of a broken world to a life that is expectant in hope, bathed in light, washed in joy. This is the promise of Christ; this is the healing balm for the broken-hearted.
Claiming that promise is the hard work of faith. Jesus’ promise is not an empty promise or a platitude to be easily dismissed. Rather it is a promise to be reckoned with and prayed over and wrestled with. Mustering faith is sometimes like trying to set a fire with wet wood. A period of drying out, and a little lightwood, and a squirt of lighter fluid might shorten the stoking time. Where is the lightwood of your life; who are your fire starters? Find them. Enjoin them in your healing. Trust that the sun will rise and face it with hope. Amen.