About the time the divine anaesthetic
starts to wear off, the sense of isolation may begin to bite more
keenly. If this coincides with the phone and doorbell ringing less
often, new and most unwelcome challenges come our way. We realise
with a fresh intensity that we are no longer card-carrying members
of the ‘fit and well’ brigade!
All forms of grief are top heavy not
only with sorrow but also with embarrassment.16 It is so important
not to despair when people show us less than no understanding. I
have seen people rush to cross the road rather than stop to talk to
someone who has recently suffered a loss. This is how one friend set
about coping with such disorientating experiences:
I came to terms with this by realising that these people were unable
to put their own feelings to one side to minister to the grieving.
Effectively, they had not died to self. This helped me so much
because I ceased to be the problem.
The more complicated our circumstances, the more of a misfit we are
likely to feel. No wonder people pour out their lonely agonies in
poems and personal journals – like the beautiful Japanese poetess
Ono no Kamachi, over a thousand years ago, who wrote:
||So lonely am
my body is a floating weed severed at the roots.
Were there water to entice me,
I would follow it, I think.
The intense imagery in this stanza
from a first century Tamil poetess conveys a similar message.
||I grow lean
Like a water lily gnawed by a beetle.
The imagery of having one’s roots
severed, and finding oneself at the mercy of moving water, perfectly
reflects the isolation that the grief process induces – even though
these poems contain no pointers to the help the Lord is both able
and willing to provide. It is that above all which prevents our
sense of isolation from “petrifying” – that is, from turning to
In our shock and grief, we may feel
tempted to withdraw from fellowship. Necessary though this may be in
the short term, we dare not separate ourselves far from our
life-stream, lest we isolate ourselves still further and make a
shrine to what we have lost.
Too much time on our own risks
causing us to lose touch with our place in the world and our worth
as individuals. This is when we start making decisions in the light
of our imagined version of what is happening.
When we are obliged to spend much
time on our own, we will find the isolation easier to bear if we can
view it as “solitude” – which is, at best, a positive and sought out
quality – rather than the loneliness that we dread.
As we give God the great swathes of
time that now lie ahead, and seek to take such opportunities as He
sets before us, who knows what He will do? We may yet end up more
fully integrated in His Body and His purposes than we would ever
have dared to believe when we were first afflicted.17