There is no greater storm than the loss of someone we love, and moving through that storm is difficult. Often, it seems like we’ll never get through it — and sometimes we feel as if this storm surge of grief will swallow us up entirely.
One of the things I often say about grief is that it almost always surprises us. It manifests in ways we don’t expect. It can be a constant knot in our stomach or it can hit us out of the blue. In many ways it is like the ocean, with depths we can’t even see on the surface. On some days it knocks us off our feet; others it may gently swirl around our feet; and then, when we least expect it, slam us face down in the sand.
And also like the ocean, you can’t go around it. You can’t ignore it and pretend it isn’t there or isn’t as powerful as it is. You have to move through it — one way or another — to get to the other side.
This week as we continue our churchwide worship series, Facing Life’s Storms with “When Someone you Love Dies,” we’re going to unpack the imagery of this, among the fiercest of life storms — and the aftermath that is often even more difficult than the storm itself.
Years ago, I did a series on atheism, and one of the atheists who came to the sessions said, if Christians believe in life after death, then why do you grieve?
“Oh, come on,” I replied. “It’s loss. We all grieve loss. It is the loss of the presence of someone who has always been there. Of course we grieve. The difference is that we don’t grieve without hope.”
This is a conversation I’ve had in one form or another with many people. It’s one I’ve had with myself when I have faced the loss of a love one. No, it doesn’t take the pain of our loss away — and it doesn’t really change how we feel as we try to swim this ocean, but it does offer a perspective than can, eventually, bring us a great deal of comfort. The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” We grieve. But we grieve with hope, because we believe that death does not have the last word.
So how do you weather this kind of storm? How can you find the will and strength to cross that unpredictably fierce ocean of grief?
One of the things that helps us move through that kind of grief is the presence of people in our lives who care. Another is cherishing the memories we have, and taking time to revisit them.
Contrary to what some may think, one of the best things to do is talk about the person, include them in day-to-day conversation and family gatherings by remembering together the times and the love you’ve shared. When we do this with those who have lost someone, there is a sense in which that person continues to be a part of us, of our everyday experiences, and of our lives as we continue to remember them.
When you have been tossed in this storm of loss, where did you find comfort? As people of faith, we know that death does not have the last word. How can we grieve with hope as a vessel for crossing that ocean?
We look forward to exploring these ideas and emotions with you this Sunday at First Church.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster