Have you ever considered grief to be an expression of love? I don’t know about you but I had a different interpretation of grief. Grief is a universal and inescapable experience of human existence. We all experience grief. It is likely during this pandemic we have all lost something we hoped for or someone we dearly loved, which naturally creates sadness and longing. I know grief all too well, especially when it comes to losing a loved one. One big loss of my life was losing my brother in 2012, we were 8 months apart in age, and best friends. At the time I believed grief to be a short season of stages that occurred in a short time frame immediately after the loss. Honestly, I saw it as something you experienced and then checked off the list. What I have learned about grief is that it doesn’t occur in this predictable order, of sadness and then joy. It’s a mix of an unity of opposites. Sorrow and contentment, grief and beauty, longing and surrender coexist in the same realm through which we gain a new perspective of beauty and pain coexisting. Because after loss, the moments of great joy cohabits with the feeling of deep longing for our loved one’s presence in that moment. This is why grief is often explained as the most wild and raw form of love. It is our love for the lost one that resurfaces and is expressed in various ways throughout our lives. This unique “expression of love” serves as a reminder of what a deep love we had for them, and then sparks a call of love into action.
Just like the children’s book, We’re Going On a Bear Hunt, “We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, Oh no! We must go through it!”. This is all too relatable to grief. We try to avoid it, stuff it, deny or just get rid of it. The truth is we have to walk through it.
I am reminded of Psalm 23:4, “though I walk THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for YOU are WITH me”. God makes it clear we will walk through the valley and even reassures us that He will be with us!
So how do we do this well? How do we embrace these various expressions of love in the form of grief and walk through it?
Here are some practical thoughts to consider:
Give yourself the freedom and space to just cry or even journal about whatever emotion you are feeling. And/Or consider seeking counseling as a safe place to express your true feelings.
Is there a way you can honor the person? Possibly a ritual you can do every year with friends or family, or even more intimately by yourself.
Lastly, I want to encourage you to try this exercise I recently found in John Elredge’s book ALL THINGS NEW. Elredge writes that one day, at the restoration of all things with Jesus, he will restore all that was once lost and broken in your life. He then challenges his readers to imagine this day, the day everything is restored to you and then imagine Jesus walks up to you and he points out this gigantic treasure chest. You ask what it is, and he tells you to open them saying “these are the gifts I meant for you in your former life but were stolen from you.” The contents inside this treasure chest thrill your heart and redeem so much of what you have endured. As you work your way through this exercise, I encourage to ask the following questions: What fills your treasure chest? What has been lost to you that you long to be restored? Journal these thoughts.