Bereavement

prayer_bereavementI consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things…
Phil3:8

Bereavement takes many forms. Even moving from one stage of life to another is a form of bereavement. Chronic illness that wears one out is a form of bereavement as is retirement, redundancy – resulting perhaps in a feeling of worthlessness.

Grief is a gift God gives us to heal us in our loss. Few things expand the soul as much as honest grieving. Bereavement is a process of going through loss. It is very personal – no two people cope with bereavement in the same way. The bereaved person has feelings of sadness, isolation, confusion, pain. The bereaved person needs somebody to listen to him/her, but people eventually get tired of listening, and hope you’ll move on. Bereaved people try to describe how they feel – sometimes it may be a feeling of being in a deep, dark pit. The feeling is palpable. One cannot reason a person out of bereavement – there is no logic in grieving, it’s all to do with emotions, and emotions have a life of their own.

There are certain broad stages in bereavement, though people may not experience all these stages. There is a feeling of disbelief – what has happened seems unreal. There could be feelings of shock and numbness. One cannot settle down, one becomes restless. There could be feelings of anger: one may become angry with God, with nurses or doctors. Guilt is not uncommon – you begin to blame yourself or there are things you might have said before the person died. Despair, loneliness or depression may take over: you lose interest in everyday things. You feel vulnerable and raw. There may also be a physical aspect to bereavement: you lack energy and concentration, and you tire easily, especially if you suffer from sleeplessness.

There are many strangers in our midst today – people who have had to leave their homeland for one reason or another. It is important to realise that these people also are in a sense bereaved – bereft of their families, their culture, their language – all that was familiar and dear to them. Their plight finds an echo in Psalm 137:

“By the rivers of Babylon

there we sat and wept,

remembering Zion.”

After the death of his wife, C.S. Lewis feels there’s nothing left except “darkness, and silence, and the pain that cries like a child.” (‘Shadowlands’ by William Nicholson). He concludes: “God loves us, so He makes us the gift of suffering. Through suffering we release our hold on the toys of this world, and know our true good lies in another world… The suffering in the world is not the failure of God’s love for us; it is that love in action.”