The Pain of Loss
Author Lance Phelps - 8 Minute Read
I have a strange fascination with loss. Not to say that I look forward to it. But it seems to be such an overlooked thing. I feel like it is the ax wielding murderer in the room that no one is acknowledging is there. But he is there waiting to strike at any moment (or should I say she is there? Who knows what sex the of the vision of death might be).
This topic can be divided into two subtopics: the loss itself, such as the death of a loved one, and how we respond to loss. The topic of how we respond to loss is relevant to more people than just those who have lost a loved one to death. Those who have suffered a great injustice go through something similar to the grief of loss. When you loose a spouse to divorce the pain cuts to the core. This pain, however, has a more severe component to it: injustice. We know, as Paul tells us in Romans 1, that major sins such as the abandonment of a spouse is sin. It is hard enough to watch a loved one succumb to the cancer that they fought for years, and one might try to say that there is some sort of cosmic injustice to this. But enduring willful sin is much harder in some ways. Yes, there is the possibility of repentance, and in that way this type of grief is easier. Yet sin always leaves a scar, even after repentance, and someone meant to do it. There was a heart behind the act. The scars of these sins will only be healed when all things are made new by Jesus when he comes back.
Enduring The Pain Of Loss
Here we are trapped in a world full of sin and death. I would like here to take a look at the second category of grief: suffering the pain of loss. I remember when I read my first book dealing with the death of a loved one, A Grief Observed by C S Lewis. I have since read other treatments of the pain of loss. But C. S. Lewis’ raw words as captured in his journals, that he never meant to be published, have resonated loudest in my mind. Though a close second and actually harder to read book would be Nicholas Wolterstorff book A Lament for a Son. In this book Wolterstorff puts on public display the pain of the loss of his son.
I think that one of the hardest thing about loss is coping with the seemingly endless internal pain. And this pain is not like other pains. It is ethereal and ever present. The pain surges back into view by simply living your life. When you brake your arm, you set it, get a cast put around it, hang it in a sling and guard it from further harm. The pain seems to make perfect sense: you were foolish enough to let one of your bones break. But the pain of loss is a broken soul. And who broke it? Who was careless? No one. Yet it hurts at the core.
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.
At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.”
― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
When I first read this I was taken aback. Fear is so common and what are we afraid of? I think that is the point. This only serves to illustrate the way we suffer when we endure grief. It seems senseless. The pain of grief is a force that moves against our hearts not our flesh. It seeps into our emotional state and runs a muck so that even our desire to commune with others is hampered. Can they even help? They do not know what you are going through. They are on the outside of this pain, this fog. They cannot know so they cannot help. But, as C S Lewis writes above, they can help by just being there. This gives us another clue about the nature of grief: we must simply endure it. It will fade but it will never completely go away. The one who grieves will be able to breath again. But it might be years.
This may seem like an odd question at first. Can we really avoid the pain of grief? I guess we could if we cut all ties to other people. This is not who we are called to be by God though. You see God himself has not done this. Once we sinned grief entered the world. At this moment God could have simply left us to take his wrath and he would not have suffered. Yet God chose to suffer. God sent his only son to die on a cross and take all of the sins of his bride, place them on his son, and crush his son with his wrath. I think Wolterstorff has the word on this one:
“But we all suffer. For we all prize and love; and in this present existence of ours, prizing and loving yield suffering. Love in our world is suffering love. Some do not suffer much, though, for they do not love much. Suffering is for the loving. This, said Jesus, is the command of the Holy One: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." In commanding us to love, God invites us to suffer.”
― Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son