I’m apt to think I’m the only one who didn’t know this lesson.
Maybe the grief myths I’ve been writing on this month aren’t news to you. Maybe you came into your season of grief much wiser than I did. Or you had fewer expectations – I’ve always been one to set these internal expectations for myself and then hold myself to them.
There was a time I thought loss was something you get over. Like getting over a broken leg, it would hurt hard for a while; it might even cause a slight limp, but there would be a time where it would heal and the once-wound only showed up in an internal scan.
That was before my heart broke. Of course, even in those first weeks, I had a vague notion that after the debilitating hard lifted – if we made it through that – wa-lah. We’d be healed.
When I read books on grief in those first weeks, I’d flip to the end first. I wanted to know how the widow was doing now. Was she remarried? Were her kids doing well? Was life good again?
Experientia magistra stultorum. Experience is the teacher of fools. How foolish I was. I understand now that loss is not something you get over.
You don’t get over loss. You learn to live with it.
We grieve because we love. Not lovED, but love. You don’t stop loving someone because they died.
Love that’s forged in all the struggles, the hopes, the vulnerable shared moments, the belly laughs through tears, the fights, the make-ups, the glorious everyday ordinary.
All of it so formative. All of it slowly, daily softening the hard edges, shaping who you even are.
That doesn’t disappear. You can’t just shut it like a read book and pull out a new one. You’ve been indelibly inscribed by the one you love and the one you grieve and there’s no erasing that. There’s no shelving it. Instead, you keep the book open and learn to live past the unexpected ellipsis . . .
Grief is not the cost of a love relationship; it’s part of the love relationship.
Though we don’t get over the loss, grief does change. It lessens and lightens and becomes part of you.
In the warm memories that begin to fill the hollow aching.
In the hard, good lessons you never would have known.
In stewarding the lives left and entrusted to you.
In honoring through stories and traditions and celebrations the amazing gift they were.
In finishing well.
Grief means learning to live with the love and without the loved one.
Feeling the loss three or five or 15 years later doesn’t mean you’re stuck or you’ve done it wrong; it means you love. Don’t let anyone try to convince you that you need to get over it.
When something triggers tears, it’s because you love. When my 10-year-old crawls on my lap for a story about her dad, it’s because she loves. When you long for one more conversation, one more hug or smile – it’s because we love. If we have a thousand good days and plunge on a sad day, it’s because we love.
That love is forever part of us. What a gift.
We get to carry it forward, past the ellipses that could have tripped us altogether, and into the fullness of the rest that God has for us. We, the grievers, of all people, are foolish no more – loss is the mark that we’ve been loved and the motive to lavish our love in every page God gives us.
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