Vale of TearsSearching and Pining
Searching and Pining
In the natural word, graylag geese become desperately distressed if they are separated from each other.
The goose moves about restlessly by day and night, flying great distances and visiting places where the partner might be found, continuously making its penetrating, tri-syllabic, long-distance call . . .
The searching expeditions are extended farther and farther, and quite often the searcher itself gets lost, or succumbs to an accident.
You may never have compared yourself to a goose, but if you have lost a precious friend or partner, the chances are that you will relate to the distress geese go through when deprived of their mate.
Intense yearning in the aftermath of loss is an integral part of our quest to make sense of life as we now experience it. Colin Murray Parkes defines pining as,
A persistent and obtrusive wish for the person who is gone;
a preoccupation with thoughts that can only give pain.11
So many of our thoughts and feelings, as well as our actions, have been mentally directed to or around a particular person, and if they are no longer there to receive them, it is hardly surprising that we should feel like a ship that has been holed beneath the waterline, and that has been cast adrift on an uncertain sea.
Since we are unable to do what we most want to do, which is to spend time with the person we most want to be with, why be surprised if our subconscious continues to pine, as if the very intensity of our emotions could somehow rewrite reality. Grief is, as C. S. Lewis described it, a “suspense:” from the first hint that something is wrong through all that lies beyond.
This phase of searching and pining may well last a year or more. In its early stages, we are likely to experience many sharp “peaks” of grief, followed by an almost overwhelming series of rolling “waves.” These will decrease with the passing of time – though often very slowly.
Tempted though we may be to feel “past hope, past cure and past help” (to quote Alexander Pope’s trenchant words) it is always wise to direct our “searching” upwards to the Lord, rather than constantly backwards to what we have lost.
Although nobody can ever fully replace the person or project we have lost, there is no reason, God willing, why we should not eventually experience what the truth of John Ruskin’s comment that “When the Lord closes a door, He opens a window.”
Reflect and Pray
as I measure the full extent of my loss,
increase my heart’s hunger for You.
Lead me safely through
this phase of intense searching and pining,
and on to the people,
You have in mind for me to find.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
10 Lorenz, K. 1991. Here am I – Where are you? The Behaviour of the Graylag Goose. New York, and San Diego: A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
11 Parkes, C. Bereavement, Studies of Grief in Adult Life, Tavistock Publications.