I deleted my mom’s contact information from my phone recently.

Two Christmases, and a year and a half without her in my life, and a small but important action which needed to be taken was taken.

Grief is difficult for most folks and there are good reasons why this is true. Grief is also a journey, and there are good reasons for that as well.

My faith tells me I was created for relationships. Most folks instinctively know that.

It begins before birth as the fetus develops in the mother’s womb surrounded by the sounds and sensations of the awakening person within.

After birth, the child is drawn to the mother (most are) and the mother to the child (hopefully most are). Such begins a journey of connections and attachments which last across the lifespan.

We are relation-seeking and relation-building persons.

People, pets and even inanimate objects are the recipients of a bond we build, maintain and retain until separation. When that separation happens, a reaction is triggered which we call grief and loss.

Recently, a client became emotional thinking about the death of his cat. The cat was relatively young, healthy and had no foreseeable events which might cause his passing. Yet, the client became tearful just thinking about the possibility.

Why is grief so hard? Why does it last so long? What if anything can be done to make it less painful?

All good questions. Let me attempt to give some answers.

First, because we are created for relationships, we make connections that for good or ill become a part of us.

We make room in our heart, head and world for these connections. It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that we ingest these connections, and they become part of the inner matrix of our lives.

Such connections have the power to help us with an existential loneliness which is a part of being an embodied soul in a big world in a bigger universe. We feel less alone.

These connections give us reassurance, security and comfort when they are healthy connections. Unhealthy connections inject anxiety, insecurity and discomfort. However, the main idea is that no connection leaves us as we were before that connection was formed.

Grief is simply the response we make when such a connection is severed or lost. The depth of grief is measured in the energy and investment we poured into that connection.

When a natural disaster happens and the media rushes in to get the reactions of those on whom the tragedy befell, it is an interesting experience to see what losses trigger the deepest grief.

For some, it could be a person, home, pet or cherished possession. However, the depth of the loss correlates to the investment we have in what we have lost.

So, why does grief seem to last so long?

Grief is the time and healing necessary to move on beyond the loss, and that period varies based on the relationship that ends.

Losing an old car because we traded it in for a better, more modern machine will likely not evoke a lot of grief. Other relationships or connections of our inner world are powerfully present and, when taken away, there can be an epic sense of loss.

All too often, years later, I have heard the painful memory of an adult whose beloved parent died when they were a child. One can sense that the loss has left a reminder within of what was taken.

Erich Lindamann, an esteemed psychiatrist who focused his research on bereavement, said that grief is a process of cutting the ties that bind one to the deceased. Additionally, it is a reorientation of the person to a world in which the one or the thing which has been lost is no longer present. Finally, grief is about forming new relationships.

All of that takes time, Lindamann said, as one sifts and grieves, breaks bond after bond which connected one to what or whom has been lost, reorients oneself to a different world, and in time makes new connections.

Tragically, Americans often are too rushed and too busy to both grieve and allow others the time to grieve.

However, in the depths of grief, the Bible gives us some way markers that can lead us through our valley overshadowed by grief and loss.

First, we can know God is with us.

The season of Christmas/Advent puts flesh on the name “Immanuel: God with Us.” Loss is difficult, often unpredictable, and it catches us emotionally unprepared, but in our loss, we are not alone.

Second, the notion of “God with us” means we are not left alone to find our own way in the midst of our loss.

God goes with us, never leaving or forsaking us. God is tireless in being present and offering comfort.

Finally, Paul points us to a kingdom reality that we have come to call “grieving in hope.”

“We do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like those who have no hope,” he wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:13.

In seeking to help his readers understand and cherish the hope beyond this life when God’s people will be together again, he emphasized that connections broken now will be restored and redeemed.

Into a two-year struggle against a pandemic that has cost so many so much, it helps to be reminded that it will not always be this way.

Share This