When someone dies unexpectedly or when they hurt us by walking away from a family, from a friendship, from church, from God…we often try to comfort ourselves with the thought that everything will be okay. And it will. But it will never be the same. Because people are not replaceable. People are not like a pair of shoes or a sofa or a new microwave…people are individually designed by God with unique personalities and quirks. People create huge gaps when they are removed from our lives.
Last night I was dead-heading some snapdragons. As I looked at the bed, the plant right in the middle had died. I had seen it struggling but wasn’t quite sure what to do. I couldn’t really figure out what was wrong, since the plants around it were so healthy. Last night I finally did the inevitable. I pulled it out. And it left a large gap right in the middle of my snapdragon bed. A gap that I can’t really do anything about, since the flowers at the markets and nurseries are long gone. I will need to look at that gap until this fall when I rip them all out and can start again next spring. As I ripped that plant out I thought about how much that plant is like a person who has unexpectedly left those who love him.
Oftentimes we have no idea why…why did the flower wilt and die in the middle of healthy plants? Why did that person walk away? Why did God allow that person to die? Just like that large hole left by my snapdragon, people leave large gaps that can’t be filled. We cope, we hurt, and eventually it gets better…less painful. But every time we walk by that flower bed in our mind, we grieve. Eventually, we can focus on the other beautiful snapdragons around the gap. And, thankfully, we have the wonderful gift of memory…and we can remember the snapdragon bed when it was whole and full of bright, happy flowers.
But life changes. A lot. And there just aren’t a lot of fairytale endings. Many of us have watched our marriages wilt, our churches split, a friendship fade away, and loved ones grow sick. This is the world we are in. How we grieve…how we cope…how we move on is critical to our own health and well-being…and often the well-being of our families, as well.
So, how do you grieve in a healthy way? I am not sure I know the answer to that. It is probably a dark, lonely, rocky path we all need to walk alone and it is probably a little bit different for all of us. But a healthy start is probably acknowledging that we have a huge gap in our life left by someone we loved very much…someone who cannot be replaced. And then facing it head-on, accepting this change, and working through that loss without bitterness. Easy to write…a bit harder to live.