I know several people who are experiencing some gut-wrenching grief these days. I’m trying to give them the gift of just paying attention to their grief—validating it and being with them in it…not trying to “fix” it. I’m not sure I’m doing such a good job at it, but as I pray for them, I’m trying to keep in mind what they appear to be feeling and thinking at various points. Their thoughts and feelings appear to me to change from day-to-day, hour-to-hour, even minute-to-minute. Confusion is the word that comes to mind. Existential chaos. As I try to put myself in their shoes (which I can’t) this is what I hear, if imperfectly:
Something cherished and irreplaceable has been lost. How could life betray us so? How to make sense of the violent chaos of existence? How can the world at one time hold so much promise, hope—joy like the rhythm of the tide, a not unexpected ebb and flow—suddenly bring this tidal wave, a sea change of heartbreak whose tears could fill an ocean basin to overflowing? Who could have predicted the earthquake, this tragedy, this ground shifting under our feet?
Did you know, God? Did you know this would happen? If you did, where were you—and WHY DIDN’T YOU STOP IT!?
Blind-sided. That’s what we were. Blind-sided. And now we’re just…blind with tears.
My mother has lost her memory of me. She’s no longer home. Two months only. My father may pass any day now. He only has…maybe a few hours of lucidity left…and then at most a few days of just breathing...and we a few days of just praying the pain keeps at bay. My love isn’t herself anymore. I don’t know what I did. Did I do something to bring this on? I don’t think so, but I’m not sure of anything anymore. Was it all a lie? What do I do? Where do I turn? Do I remember happiness rightly? Was I ever happy? I feel dead, numb. I feel angry. I’m afraid. I feel betrayed, duped. I don’t want to be fooled again, but how can I ever be sure of anything anymore? Who can I trust? What should I do now? My son, my brother, my friend is gone. Just like that. No parent should outlive their child. So much promise! So much life! Gone. Just…gone. Let me collapse. Just let me fall. I can’t stand it. How is it I feel I can’t breathe? My stomach has risen to my throat and my heart sank to my gut. Why am I breathing like this? God, help me breathe. Fill these shallow lungs. Where is the wind now?
You left a hole that will never be filled—wait: Who am I talking to? You’re gone. Can I talk to a hole? I don’t think so. But I want to. Oh, my God, I want to talk to you. I want to hold you and smell your hair again. I want to hear you laugh again. I want to stroke your hand, listen to your voice.
Please say you are in these tears. So many tears, on my face, in my soul, so many tears. Please say you are there. I miss you. I hurt for you. I love you.
Father, I offer you these many griefs on behalf those I love who have lost so much. I have nothing to add but: Hear them! Carry them! Bear them on your shoulders, in your heart. Hear the cries they cannot put into words. And surround them with friends who can be with them in their pain as much as is possible. Do not leave them abandoned.