Vale of Tears

The Disorientation Loss Brings



The Disorientation Loss Brings

How small and selfish sorrow is –
but it bangs one about until one is senseless.
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (6)

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 there.

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 concentrate?

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,

Meanwhile, 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:

After my 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.

Reflect and Pray

They say, “God has abandoned him . . .
There is no one to help him now.”
O God, don’t stay away; please hurry to help me . . .
I will keep on hoping for You to help me;
Psalm 31:11,12,14

Lord, at this time of profound disorientation,
we entrust into Your safekeeping
the person or thing we miss most of all –
or most fear losing.
In Jesus’ name,
transform even these fears and regrets
into something meaningful. Amen.

6 Following the death of her husband, George VI in 1952
7 eg Psalms 6:2-3, 31:10, 42:10. 102:3-5, cf Proverbs 3:8, 12:4