Because grief is like a physical blow,
none of us knows for sure how we will cope when it comes our way.
Some who normally crumple at the slightest setback surprise us by
their robustness, whilst others, renowned for their resilience, find
themselves all but paralysed by sorrow.
Selwyn Hughes, a well known Bible
teacher, was so disorientated when his wife finally died after a
long illness that he stood for ages at a service station, unable to
remember how to fill his tank with petrol. Another newly widowed
person told me that she felt as vulnerable walking the aisles in a
supermarket as if she had been crossing a minefield!
Like a damaged CD randomly skipping
tracks, the grief-stricken mind performs erratically. There is
nothing in the least bit unusual about a bereaved person
absentmindedly pouring a cup of tea for someone who is no longer
As the grief and tension go round and
round in search of relief, why be surprised if symptoms such as
muscular pains, excessive fatigue and difficulty in breathing
develop?7 Or if headaches, dizziness, digestive problems, rapid
weight loss, embarrassing forgetfulness and an almost overwhelming
desire to sigh and groan combine with a greatly reduced ability to
Bereavement especially can leave us
feeling as though we have suffered an amputation. After all, when
someone loses a spouse, they lose a lover, friend and confidante all
rolled into one. No wonder, then, if they feel less than half a
person without the child, spouse, friend, parent or even the role in
life that has meant so much to them. Writing candidly about his
reaction when his wife died, C. S. Lewis protested,
where is God?
This is one of the most disquieting symptoms.
When you are happy,
if you . . . turn to Him with gratitude and praise,
you will be – or so it feels – welcomed with open arms.
But go to Him when your need is desperate,
when all other help is in vain, and what do you find?
A door slammed in your face,
and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside.
After that, silence.
C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
Elsewhere, Lewis observed that, “Her
absence is like the sky, spread over everything.” If we are one in
spirit with our partner, how can we not feel as though our heart has
been torn in two? As we shall see in the next section, some of us do
experience a special sense of being “carried” in the immediate
aftermath of a major loss, but others are too distraught to be able
to discern much if anything of the Lord’s presence at such times.
When his brother died, St Ambrose wrote:
||Not all weeping proceeds
from unbelief or weakness.
Natural grief is one thing; distrustful sadness is another.
We should not judge our relationship
with the Lord by how we feel during those terrible days when the
thought of reading the Bible appals us, and prayer feels altogether
too painful to contemplate. The Lord has not turned against us. This
is what one friend wrote to me after going through such a time:
husband left me, I had a real feeling of being abandoned by
God. The pain was so great that when I fell into bed I
called out to Jesus, “Lord, I keep looking up to see You,
but You just aren’t there.
I can’t see You!” One night I heard these words clearly:
“The everlasting arms of the Lord are underneath you.” The
comfort that came with these words was immense. I felt like
I was being rocked in the Father’s arms. My despair was
never as great again after that experience.