Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
March 7, 2021
Grief Work Need Not Be Done Alone
Someone said: “You alone can do your grief work, but you do not have to do it alone.” That is wise counsel. Successful grief work is well-nigh impossible without the help of others. So, I am thankful that during recent weeks of wrestling with the grief of my wife’s death, I have not had to do my grief work alone.
Yes, though I am usually alone physically, I am constantly cheered by the thought that my friends and family members are “with” me. They make their presence known by calling, writing or coming by day after day. There are no words adequate to describe the difference this has made during my journey in sorrow. Joy floods my soul when I answer the phone and hear a friend say, “I just want to hear the sound of your voice and tell you that I love you!”
There is great comfort in the awareness that you are not alone as you grieve. The loving counsel of others who have “been there” has helped me enormously. Their testimony reminds me that my situation is not unique. Everyone experiences suffering, sorrow and death. Troubles and sorrows come to us all. Many of my dearest friends have endured the loss of a spouse and their heroic spirit inspires me to believe that I too can handle grief victoriously.
Helen Keller was right: “We bereaved are not alone. We belong to the largest company in all the world – the company of those who have known suffering.”
In the famous book by John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress, the pilgrim “Christian” is making his way from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. His pilgrimage involves one challenge after another such as climbing Difficulty Hill and making his way through the Valley of Humiliation. Caught in a storm, he stumbles onto the grounds of Doubting Castle where he is caught, imprisoned and beaten by the Giant Despair. He and his companion, Hopeful, use the key of Promise to escape from prison and continue their pilgrimage.
Finally, Christian makes it to the Celestial City but what is crystal clear in the story is that he would not have made it without the help of his friends Hopeful and Faithful. In recent days I know how Christian felt for I ran into the Giant Despair and he tried his best to lock me up in his Doubting prison. But, like Christian, I managed to escape with the help of my friends. Their love and encouragement made all the difference as I have found hope and healing and resumed my own personal pilgrimage toward the eternal City of God.
Friends help by assuring us that it is alright for grief to stay with us for the long haul. We are not pushed to “get over” grief and move on. Grief now is “part of the package” but it is manageable. I like the way Elizabeth Kubler-Ross explains it: “The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”
Friends remind us to avoid excessive grief and to let God help us use our sorrows. Great love results in great grief but the God who suffers with us will show us how to let our suffering make us more compassionate for others who are hurting. God helps us become better and not bitter. And in the Army of God, it is usually the wounded who serve best. In the words of E. Stanley Jones, “If God redeems the world through a cross, then I can make my sorrows redemptive to myself and others.” Yes, we can.
Jesus, of course, is the most wonderful of all our friends. It must have been a golden moment for the disciples when Jesus said to them, “I have called you friends.” Their Master, the Messiah, called them his friends! No wonder the songwriter wrote the beloved song, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” In my grief I have been blessed by the constant presence of Christ. He lives in me and I live in Him. I love the idea of trying to live so that others will think of me as one of Jesus’ friends! What comfort it is to know that no matter the depth of my sorrow, the One who calls me his friend is with me! And one day, because He lives, I too shall live with Him and be reunited with Dean in the Father’s House.
In going through her papers, I continue to discover little clippings of poems, prayers and quotes that I am sure Dean left for me to find. Here is one that my best friend, Dean, left for me to find and enjoy:
The Broken Chain
We little knew the day that
God was going to call your name.
In life we loved you dearly,
In death we do the same.
It broke our hearts to lose you
But you didn’t go alone.
For part of us went with you
The day God called you home.
You left us peaceful memories,
Your love is still our guide,
And though we cannot see you
You are always at our side.
Our family chain is broken
and nothing seems the same,
but as God calls us one by one
the chain will link again.
Oh yes, that hope makes my grief work so much easier to handle! + + +