The other night we had our annual service for the bereaved. Despite the weather, the dark and the cold, a good number of folk gathered not only to remember their dead but to pray for themselves and others as we remember the grief and pain that can still affect our hearts many years on from the loss of a loved one.
Often, we hear the phrase, ‘we must move on’ or ‘life must go on’ or some such. We can feel inadequate or guilty that we don’t seem to be able just to do that. However, we don’t move on from loss by ignoring it or forgetting about it. Acceptance is a long process and it’s not about just ‘getting on with it’ as though the love we shared or hoped for was worthless.
This time of year can be very painful as we remember those who used to be with us at Christmas and are no longer. We never ‘get over loss’, it becomes part of us. Yes, we can laugh, cry, have a good time and rediscover life in a new way, yet it will always be part of us.
‘For your faithful people, Lord, life is changed not ended’, says one of the prefaces for the dead, and that just doesn’t apply to the faithful departed but to those who are bereaved.
Grieving can make room in our hearts. Yes, it can be crippling, it can close people off, but with the grace of Christ working through others it can also open us up.
First of all, admitting grief drags it up in a good way. Deep wounds have to be healed from the inside out, and wounds of the heart have to be healed from deep inside us to the surface. This is what spiritual writers call purifying the heart. If we don’t admit our loss, and just ‘shut the basement door’, eventually there’ll be no more room in the basement and the stuff will come pouring out when we least expect it. Grieving makes room in the basement for more love to enter.
Most of us find we are much more compassionate towards others who are bereaved when we lose someone. We understand what they are going through. We are less afraid of speaking to them and we have something in common. we are better able to welcome others in pain. Even more than that is our belief in God-with-us, Jesus Christ, Immanuel. That’s the message of Christmas.
If you haven’t already this November, write down the names of those whom you have lost in your life, carefully, prayerfully, with thanks.
Spend some time giving each a thought and a prayer. Bring them to Christ and ask him to walk with you in your grief. Allow yourself some time each week to grieve and remember. Say a prayer of blessing on all those who have recently lost someone close to them. Pay attention to your heart, each time.