Vale of TearsBreaking Grief's Isolation
Breaking Grief’s Isolation
An odd by-product of my loss is that I’m aware of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet. Perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in special settlements like lepers!
C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
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 I,
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 in loneliness
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 stone.
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
Reflect and Pray
Lord, this is a real-life drama
that You have caused me to be living!
Even though You have allowed episodes and scenes
that I would much rather have cut out,
You know exactly how this story will unfurl.
Scriptwriter Supreme and Peerless Director,
break the grip of Grief’s isolation,
and link me to the people and places
who will further Your purposes for my life.
May neither my embarrassment,
nor other people’s indifference,
cause me to miss Your purposes for my life.
Where fellowship is not coming my way,
grant me the energy to reach out to others,
and not lose heart on this flat becalmed sea
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
16 Parents of children with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) grow used to this when bystanders, who know nothing of their true condition, urge them to keep their children under better control. It is no wonder if these parents learn to cope by “burying” their grief beneath the sheer weight of getting on with day-to-day practicalities rather than facing up to their own personal needs.
17 Many Scriptures point to the truth of this, for instance Psalm 119:67,71