Grief and loss are a significant part of the human experience. When we are young, we lose a grandparent or beloved pet. We move and have to say good bye to people we’ve come to know. When we experienced those kind of losses, how we handled it was certainly influenced by those around us, particularly our parents. Did they allow us to feel the pain of the loss, or did they tell us to pick our chin up? Did they listen to our questions or did they say “it must have been God’s plan” and cut off conversation?
The older we get, the more loss and grief we face in our lives. Sometimes it can be overwhelming and we try to block out the uncomfortable feelings. Sometimes we allow ourselves to feel the pain and loss. Sometimes we try to figure out why the loss? Who is to blame? How could it have been prevented? Sometimes we shut ourselves off from others so we don’t have to feel the pain of more loss.
Grief is a process, and it is ongoing. When we grieve, we remember the person or the place or situation and what it meant to us. We remember the gifts we received from the person or situation. But there can also be hard memories. Few relationships or life circumstances are all joy and delight. Usually there are difficult times and challenges, and that can be even harder to allow ourselves to remember and feel. Maybe it seems as though we should only remember the good. But life is full of ups and downs and it is okay to remember the whole range and to thank God for the challenging times as well as the joys.
Epperly quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Only a suffering God can save.” (p.188). Those words do provide comfort. They assert that not only are we surrounded by a whole race of people who suffer, grieve and experience loss (the human race), but we live in the presence of a God who knows our suffering and suffers with us. As we get closer to Good Friday, the day Jesus died on the cross, we realize that surely God suffered as Jesus suffered. Surely God is not removed from our weakness and pain, but transforms it into new life and promise.