Chapter 22 » 22.89


Few things make us feel more inadequate than being faced with another’s grief. Although every grief is unique yet there are feelings common to many or all griefs. It helps us to be ready to stand by someone in [their] loss if we know a little of what to expect… Grieving is a necessary and arduous task. It should not be a state but a process; but the griever needs courage and support from others to go right through it and not get ‘stuck’ at some point.

Death comes in so many forms. Some deaths leave us sad for a time but do not really upset the balance of our lives, especially if the death was of an elderly person, quietly rounding off a full and happy life… Whilst waiting a long time for an expected death can be a great strain, it does give the people involved time to adjust and work through some of their feelings. On the other hand, sudden death can bring an overwhelming shock. The survivors are left with a great sense of the precariousness of existence; the experience can be shattering, a permanent alteration of life. Some are broken by it completely, and in the desire to help it is as well to be aware of this possibility.

However much a death has been expected and prepared for, it is still a shock when the moment comes. This shock produces a numbness at first which is merciful. It may enable the bereaved person to carry out the practical tasks which follow a death. But it may not. If we are sensitive we will see what help the bereaved person needs… How often we hear people say in those early days, ‘She is being marvellous’. But this stage passes, and a period of great inner chaos can follow… [The] loss of one’s partner can be one of the severest forms of psychological stress. The emotions can be quite overwhelming. Some say it feels like insanity…

Slowly life can be found to have meaning again, and at the heart of that meaning lies the word ‘love’. ‘Growth into true life’, wrote one widow, ‘lies in love of one another. We have the choice of letting grief shadow our lives or growing from it.’ This healing love is beyond us and within us, and continually seeks us out. Those whose privilege it has been to come right through grief know this in a deep and personal way. They can in their turn reach out to others in distress. The true meaning of the word ‘compassion’ is ‘suffering together with someone’. Perhaps they have discovered for themselves that the sense of the absence of God which came with the depression made them know how much they need God.

Diana Lampen, 1979

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