Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
March 7, 2021
Grief Work Need Not Be Done Alone
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.
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!”
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
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.
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:
little knew the day that
was going to call your name.
life we loved you dearly,
death we do the same.
broke our hearts to lose you
you didn’t go alone.
part of us went with you
day God called you home.
left us peaceful memories,
love is still our guide,
though we cannot see you
are always at our side.
family chain is broken
nothing seems the same,
as God calls us one by one
chain will link again.
Oh yes, that hope makes my grief work so much easier
to handle! + + +