“True love between two human beings puts you more in touch with your deepest self. The pain you experience from the death of the person you love calls you to a deeper knowledge of God’s love. The God who lives in you can speak to the God in the other. This is deep speaking to deep, a mutuality in the heart of God, who embraces both of you.” (Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love)
Grief. Most of us try our very hardest to shy away, or even run away from it. We question what to say when someone is grieving. We are unsure how often or even if to “bring it up” once life supposedly goes “back to normal.” We don’t know what to expect from ourselves or what the other might need from us. Should we come close or give the other space? It can be a very confusing time for everyone. And truthfully, if I can speak candidly about myself, I don’t like to be in pain or be with others in pain. It’s just downright uncomfortable.
The past couple of years have been filled with family and friends who are grieving. And like most things in my life, I am not an avoider. I want to throw myself headlong into the process, engage in it, learn from it, deal with it. After all, it’s fairly new to me and I’ve heard that it’s horrible, sacred, beautiful intimate, and gut-wrenching all at the same time.
I lost my own sister-in-law, just under a year ago, after a year-and-a-half long battle with colon cancer. My brother and 19-year-old niece are left to raise my nine- and ten-year-old nephew and niece, along with the help of their grandparents.
My friend lost her precious brother to suicide. He has left behind a wife, three children and two grandchildren and her heart is broken.
Our friend and former babysitter lost both her dad and her husband to cancer during her two pregnancies and she is left to raise two young children alone.
I reconnected with someone on Facebook who lost her only son to teen suicide. This was the second time she lost a child, the other, a daughter, in early infancy.
A friend from church battled kidney cancer for many years. His wife faithfully cared for him, only to lose him. He missed his step-daughter’s wedding by only three short months.
One of my best friends from high school lost both of her daughters, her only children, in a tragic car accident on Good Friday. They were only 19 and 20 years old, absolutely stunning girls, one only 10 days away from her college graduation.
You have your own stories. So much horror. So much sadness. Grief multiplied.
This is probably where you want to click off, log out, go find puppy videos on the internet. Me too. At times. But not today. Come with me. Lean in. Learn along side of me. Today, we will catch just a glimpse inside the world of my friend, Annie, who lost her baby brother to suicide at just 51 years old. I promise you that it’s not all horrible.
When she first shared this journal entry with me, my heart was filled with horror, joy, sorrow, connection, injustice and comfort. Yes. All of those things. Loss feels raw and sad and terrible and wrong, but also sacred and beautiful and precious. Entering in to the pain allows our hearts to be touched with a deeper knowing and beauty that we will miss if we click away. I ask that you would read on.
Annie’s Journal Entry on 6/17/2017. Four months later.
Steven is gone. He is gone. He is gone from me. How can this be? How can he be gone, just gone? I don’t feel disconnected from him . . . but definitely disengaged. He is not here to hope, or dream, or plan for a future together. All those things are gone.
My connection to a future here that includes him is gone, and nothing will take its place. It is an empty space…and it will stay empty. It is a space that holds his absence and my missing him. My own future will always hold this empty space. I am suffering. I will suffer, but I will not be destroyed or left desolate by an empty space.
This empty space where Steven is missing is a sacred place. I would rather have this sacred, empty space than no space at all. Our love and connection to each other created a space for our future together. If there had been no love and connection, there would be no space – – and I am thankful for it, for our empty space . . . for my empty space.
I am thankful for all the other spaces, the other spaces that are full – – beautiful, cherished spaces filled to bursting with love and life and memories. Memories of the two of us. All the precious moments we had together and apart-but-connected. All the treasured memories we had together with others. Those spaces are filled up and will stay full . . .
nothing will change that.
I don’t have you with me now my Steve, my beloved Steven, but I am forever grateful for you – my one time little brother, my forever friend.