|Posted on June 1, 2017 at 10:30 AM|
Most of our holidays, especially those involving a three-day weekend, are an occasion of joyous celebrations and relaxation with families and friends. Memorial Day, however, is a solemn day of remembrance and national mourning. For those who have suffered the loss of friends and family it is a time of bitter-sweet memories that stir the profound emotions of grief which often linger on well after the weekend. For me Memorial Day is like a funeral service. The grief doesn’t end with the burial, but must be faced and endured for some time thereafter.
Grief is one of the most complex experience known to the human condition. It is a mixture of some very intense emotions including feelings of sadness, despair, anger, hatred, and fear just to name a few. Research indicates a fairly predictable course over a period of 18 months to 2 years after the loss. In addition, grief is cumulative meaning that a recent loss may occasion the grief responses from all previous losses. Some have postulated that grief may be a primary cause in the aging process. The longer one lives the more losses and attending grief is experienced which leads to the natural disengagement of old age. Clearly, grief is a devastating emotion experienced by all to some extent.
In seeking to comfort those who were in grief the apostle Paul writes, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others, which have no hope”. (1 Thessalonians 4: 13) In this passage he presents the key to coping with our grief as being hope. Although writing to believers he is seeking to comfort those whose loved ones are “asleep” (biblical term for dead) suggesting that there is a future awakening and reunion coming. Even as believers we must experience grief due to the loss, but we do not have to sorrow “as others which have no hope”. That which mitigates our grief is the hope (confident and joyful expectation of our future) we have when trusting the promise of a glorious reunion in the Lord.
This hope is not to be confused with happiness. Happiness is based on our circumstances in life. If we experience good happenings, we are happy. If we experience bad happenings we are unhappy. Hope is not based on happenings but comes as a fruit of the Spirit especially in times of turmoil. The loss of a loved one will certainly make us unhappy and fill us with sorrow. But it is in our grief that we may experience the hope that allows us to work through the pain and come to a place of acceptance. The quiet, inward confidence of knowing that it will get better allows us to face the intense emotions believing we will not lose.
A common problem with any loss is its association with failure and the resulting sense of shame. Assigning blame to ourselves or others for the loss leads to intense guilt on the one hand or hatred on the other. The hope that eases our grief is not just based on believing in a glorious reunion in the future, but also in trusting our heavenly Father in the present. Honestly expressing our grief (and all its feelings) to the Father and allowing him to affirm his love for us provides us with the comfort we need to make it through today. Taking one day at a time in faith gives us the hope we need to love others despite our loss.