“We always think we have more time than we do.”
I spoke those words to my wife as she sat on the couch with me while I looked across the room with a blank stare on my face, memories flooding my mind, and tears running down my cheeks. I had just finished a phone call with my mother. My grandfather’s health has taken a sudden and rapid decline. It won’t be long now.
“What do you need from me?” she asked.
What a wonderful question. It offers no assumptions.
No ‘I’ll fix this’.
No ‘This will make you feel better’.
It’s a question that makes a statement. It says,
‘I am in this with you all the way to the end. You are not alone. I am not going anywhere you are not.’
It offers all of oneself without condition. It is a great first question to ask someone who is experiencing grief.
When it comes to grief, I have come to see that the answer to such empathy is not a uniform one. We all need different things during such seasons. I am not certain why, but when I grieve I don’t want to be comforted. Many want to bypass the pain and skip to the healing, but not me. I want to feel the pain and embrace it fully.
I want to leverage the pain that I might be refined by it, learning whatever lessons I can in order to become a better version of me.
However, with this recent news regarding my grandfather, I have come to learn something else about how I grieve:
I don’t want to be alone.
I told my wife what I need is for her to just be present. Journey with me.
The path of grief is never a short one. I’m not even sure it is one we completely finish walking. When we do learn to ‘move on’ we discover that wrestling with grief causes us to walk with a limp. Once we experience death and loss, nothing is ever really the same again. It takes some special people to be willing to journey with us down such a difficult, life-changing road.
Yet, as I enter this season of grief, I am faced with an unexpected challenge: isolation. Our state is currently under a stay at home order that robs me of the very company I need to help me process my grief. Those who may want to come and sit with me in silence are not able to do so.
There is no gathering of family and friends to collectively mourn our loss.
No comfort from being together.
For the time being, I must learn a new lesson: how to grieve in isolation.
What We Can Learn From Grief
It seems unnatural. We were not meant to be alone. God made us for relationship and community. When we can’t have connection with one another it feels like something is missing. But grief will not be put on hold. We dam grief at our peril. So how do we walk the path of grief while in isolation?
So far here is what I have learned:
- Pain that makes us better is good pain. The more we embrace it the better it will refine us. Try not to see it as an enemy… Even if we must (for now) face it alone.
- Muster the courage to allow grief to lead you for a while. Give it permission to reveal your heart to you. There are difficult and wonderful things we can discover about ourselves if we are willing to go beneath the surface.
- Let grief stir the warm memories of your loved one. Let it remind you of all the life-lessons you have learned together. Remember all the things that made the one you are grieving over so special to you. Take a minute to write them down. They are the things that have helped shape who you are today. Hold tightly to them.
- Make God your first, your last, your only. Even when we are not in isolation there will never be anyone we can turn to who understands our grief better than Jesus. If there is anyone who can sit with us, hurt with us, and journey through our grief with us, anytime we need someone, it is him. For he draws from his own experience of grief, pain, and suffering to teach us how we can find our way home through our difficult season of life into the comforting embrace of the almighty God.
I will miss my grandfather. The absence of his amazing influence in my life will be felt deeply. I do not know who I will call on when I need some counsel. I feel like there is more wisdom I could learn from him but he will not be here to pass it down any longer.
My heart literally aches and yet, while I am hurting deeply, I am also comforted by the knowledge that he is a man who walks with the Lord. Soon it will be face to face.
Matt Kennedy is a senior pastor in Fort Wayne, Indiana area, and host of The Matt Kennedy Podcast.
Listen to our full discussion on his podcast below.