Earlier this week I posted about the way a marriage transitions from honeymoon to real life. The emotional high of getting married inevitably fades with time as it becomes normal. Everything is awesome at first because it all feels so amazing, but feelings aren’t enough in the longterm. You must fight to honor God and your spouse even when you don’t feel it anymore.
It got me thinking. Grief is the same way. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Very much like the first few months after a wedding, when you are grieving, there are overwhelmingly intense emotions that seem like they will last forever. They don’t. Facing the death of someone you love is also like getting married in that maybe the hardest part is what happens when things start to quiet down.
In the initial aftermath of grief everything is on fire. There is such wild, extreme, blinding pain that at times you can’t believe it’s possible to feel so bad and it’s hard to imagine you will ever feel good again. This slowly subsides. This is where it gets truly challenging though. Shock and surprise act like an emotional anesthesia, and as they wear off you feel everything.
The torrent of pain, as horrendous as it can be, is almost comforting though. There is a beauty to the agony. How you feel is in line with what you have lost. In those early days as I would long for Lenya to crawl into my lap so I could snuggle her and read her a book; the smell of her hair in my nose, my arms tightly around her, the sound of her laughter rising like bubbles, I would physically feel my soul hurt. It would cause me to collapse on the floor and be unable to rise. As strange as it sounds, it felt right.
Now, seven and a half months down this bitter journey, there are occasional moments where I flashback or get hit by a rogue wave of sorrow that brings me that low, but they aren’t as frequent. It’s not that the pain has gotten any lighter, I just feel that God has made me stronger. I suppose it would be impossible to cope with that kind of intensity longterm and in God’s mercy He covers and coats those exposed emotional nerves with layer after layer of grace.
In time a new challenge emerges. Regular life. Birthdays. Holidays. Traditions. The earth keeps turning. There are events to put on, trips to take and work to be done. All with a newfound difficulty to it. Your heart aches as much as ever but now you don’t have the adrenaline or the blinding pain. You eventually run out of tears. As good days come you feel conflicted for not feeling as bad as you once did. When you least expect it you will sink low out of nowhere.
The important thing to remember is that we aren’t called to walk by sight. We are called to walk by faith. Faith is the compass that keeps our souls pointed in the right direction. Through faith in God and stubborn belief in His promises we can be obedient and cling to Him regardless of what we feel or don’t feel. Just as a newly married couple must not rely on the butterflies in the longterm, so in grief you must daily call on God and find new strength in His Spirit. There is no method to the madness, but there is grace to help in time of need at the throne of grace.
“For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.” 1 John 3:20