Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Things Grief Writes

This fall, I’ve been following the story of an FLI alumnus who lost his 33-year-old wife to a perfect storm of epileptic seizures and cardiac arrest in early October.

I. Can’t. Even. Imagine.

Grief is one thing. Grief of that kind is just beyond me.

There are so many things I could say in response to Brad’s story, and I have hesitated to write anything, because I don’t want to exploit it. But here’s something that keeps coming back: I noticed a long time ago that writing that comes out of grief is different from any other kind of writing. To be precise, I guess most people in deep grief don't write. At least not publicly. And those who dare to put their feelings on a page spew everything from disbelief to sadness to rage. But there is a quality about their words that is often more raw and real than most other things we read or write.

Have you ever read A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis? It’s a very raw travelogue through his grief after the death of his wife Joy. He kind of goes crazy in it. That, and his theology gets pretty bad. It’s that book that made me realize that, at times like that, good theology is not really the point. Relationship with God is. And we have a God who can handle all of the wild emotion we can throw at Him in our grief. Thank goodness.

Maybe my favorite treatment of grief ever is Sheldon VanAuken’s in A Severe Mercy. He also loses his wife, and rather than writing in the midst of his grief, he looks back years later on the process of grieving and shares how he walked through that season of his life. It is beautiful. One of the most beautiful things I have ever read.

While I’m on the topic, the song “Hard to Get” by Rich Mullins isn’t specifically about grief, but it is amazing. And I know of at least two people for whom this song was very cathartic when they were going through seasons of painful loss.

I say all of that to say this former student, Brad, has been blogging about his story, and I think that some of the things he has written are right up there with the pieces I just mentioned as far as a biblical, heartfelt, really honest treatment of grief goes. (If you want to read the story, the posts about losing Stephanie start on October 4. Or just click on the heading "Stephanie.") I particularly like the entries Can’t and Emotions. (OK, maybe "like" isn’t the right word. But they are good. Very good.)

Brad and his kids Brady and Halle have been on my mind and in my prayers a lot this fall. For their sake—and all of our sakes—I am thankful that God made grief as the process by which he heals us after a loss. A lot of times I think, Why that process? Couldn’t there be something easier? Or more pleasant? Or that made more sense? But, mysterious and maddening as it may be, grief is what he gives us, so it’s what we’re stuck with. And, thanks be to God, it does bring healing if we let him have his way in us through our grief.

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