Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Some Thoughts on Grief

by Ben Hein

All our attempts to put grief into words seems to us…inadequate. At the very time when grief and our verbalizings of it bring us to tears, we find ourselves feeling that our grief is really too deep for tears and too agonizing for words. As we struggle with the ache of loss, the grip of our grief imposes a kind of relational paralysis. It hurts like hell, we say; perhaps it is a true reflection of hell, where the ache of losing God and all good, including the good of community, will be endless; be that as it may, a most painful part of the pain of grief is the sense that no one, however sympathetic and supportive in intention, can share what we are feeling, and it would be a betrayal of our love for the lost one to pretend otherwise. So we grieve alone, and the agony is unbelievable.

J.I. Packer

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
Ps. 34:18

Grief is an unbidden guest, but it need not be an unwelcome one. In the Father’s hands, it is a means of healing those parts of ourselves that have long gone unseen and unheard.

Resisting grief is like trying to swim upstream against white waters. We are the movable object; grief is the unstoppable force. We may be able to stay put and fight for a time, only to be overcome with exhaustion. What then? Follow the torrential waters wherever the Lord brings you, trusting that he will not allow them to overtake you.

He has set me on the Rock. I stand firm even when all else gives way.

Grief has a way of magnifying those emotions which were already there. An uneven temper becomes full-blown anger; moderate anxiety turns into sleepless nights.

Yet he makes his blessings known to the brokenhearted: greater joy in those we love, happiness among the communion of saints, and gratitude for Christ and his benefits.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Many people told me how hard it would be to make friends in a new city. Few people mentioned how much grief there would be in leaving behind the community we loved.

Ted Lasso said that there is something worse than being sad, and that is being alone and sad.

He was right.

But what about grieving among strangers? Nothing can be lonelier than the absence of connection among a crowd of people. Yet this too can be its own blessing, when the hearts of those you don’t know are moved to enter into grief with you.

Like when two strangers traveled all day to come to my father’s funeral. You know who you are. A gesture of solidarity I will never forget.

Looking for friendship in seasons of grief has accentuated loneliness while drawing my heart closer and deeper to new friends faster than ever before.

This too is among God’s blessings, which are too great to number.

Speaking of strangers, I’m so grateful I was able to worship with my church family at Shady Grove Presbyterian Church two days after my father died. That was the Lord’s grace to me.

But why did so few fellow presbyters reach out? We had labored together for nearly 5 years. Where were you?

Maybe this is just the grief talking. You’ll forgive me if I feel estranged, and don’t believe you when you say the PCA is worth fighting for.

The Professor said, “To love at all is to be vulnerable.”

This has been a vulnerable year, filled with love.

I’m thankful for the “transforming safety of the gospel” so evident at Redeemer Indianapolis.

I’ve never felt less like myself than in this year. All those strengths which I formerly relied on – strategizing, planning, thinking, communicating – all seem nearly absent.

Thank you for being gentle with me in my weakness.

There are two people who can crush your spirits; three who will break your heart:

an advisor who tells you how you ought to feel,
a friend who runs when times are hard,
a person who wields your grief against you.

Few things have the power to tear apart families like grief does. Guard your heart and trust it to the Lord.

My dog loved to swim, and he had several opportunities to (safely) try and swim upstream against currents too strong for him. He loved it. That’s where the image above comes from.

I miss him.

This is Us was a gift which, in many ways, prepared me to grieve well. I’m thankful. You should watch it. Don’t be afraid to cry.

New grief has a way of bringing out old grief that never healed. This, too, can be a place for the soothing care of the Lord to be received.

The most intense feelings of grief have been not over what was, but what could’ve been. I ache for my children who will, at best, only grow up with faint memories of my father. What a loss.

I often find myself asking the “What if?” questions:

What if my father hadn’t died?
How different would this last year have been?
What memories would still be in store to make with our children?
What if my brother hadn’t died?
Who would he be today?
How many kids would he have?
What would “family” mean to us?

Fantasies which haunt me, reminding me that death is not the way it is supposed to be.

Many high hopes – many dreams unfulfilled;
Many blunders made and, in the sharpness of our anguish,
We would turn back the wheels of time and try again.
-Howard Thurman

People grieve differently. That’s ok. Our marriage has sweetened as we’ve learned this together.

The faithful presence of my wife, the pure love of my children, and the opportunity to delight in them all has been greater than any gift I could know to ask for.

Every good gift comes from our Father in heaven.

Jesus is a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief.
Though my tears have been my food, you have collected them in bottles.

This is too great for me to understand.
Teach me to sing your praises.

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Christine Brinson June 8, 2022 - 11:41 pm

I really appreciate you sharing your emotions and thoughts and hope in the Lord. Your transparency and vulnerability are very refreshing!

Kate Brumbaugh June 9, 2022 - 10:33 am

Ben, aching with you as we reflect on this past year and the hopes that you had in coming to Indy and being closer to your dad in Michigan. But also seeing beauty that comes with someone who is well acquainted with grief and sorrow and the way you can walk with people who are in pain. The church and the world need more of these kinds of friends, who bottle up our tears, and listen and sit with us in the darkness.


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