This phrase is far more than the partial title of a famous song from Boyz II Men. It’s perhaps one of the most basic truths we encounter. Goodbyes can be rough. First, let me be clear, I’m not talking about the casual ‘byes we exchange with friends and family on a routine basis. I mean the ones that signify the end of something, or at the very least, a season of separation, of being apart. These goodbyes are typically more serious, packed with mixed emotions. Both parties may be excited for the changes coming but are still sad for the current ending. Then there are those goodbyes filled with sadness and loss. This last category is what I chose to focus on for this piece.
Unfortunately, I’ve had to attend some wakes recently. Though the individuals we were honoring were older and had lived good, full lives, it’s still sad. We who are left behind find ourselves wanting just one more day with the person. We don’t know how to say goodbye. It’s so hard.
Over the past few years, I lost several important people in my life, including my two parents. It felt like the hits just kept coming. I’d barely be recovering from one loss when another one would happen. I really can’t believe they’re gone. There are still times when I want to tell my Dad a crazy story or show something to my Mom. Gratefully, I was able to say my goodbyes to them, but it still wasn’t enough. In my opinion, it’s never enough.
Grief is a strange, shapeshifting creature.
In my first book, I included a chapter called Woulda Coulda Shoulda. A similar title could have been Gravesite Regret. When someone passes away, everything stops. We now have no way to change or improve our relationship with that person. We can’t tell them one more story or share one more memory. We can’t get clarity on any outstanding issues. We can still choose to forgive, but we can no longer seek forgiveness.
In this same chapter I covered how there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting barreling down a dark, self-destructive path is a great idea; it isn’t. But I don’t believe anyone gets to dictate how we should grieve or for how long. No two people may grieve the same way. I even notice I’m mourning my Dad’s passing differently from my Mom’s. They were both my parents. They were both loving and supportive, yet my grief for each of them is different. They were individuals and my relationship with each was unique. It makes sense, therefore, that I’d have separate, distinct expressions of my loss.
You can never predict when something might trigger your grief.
I don’t know how many times I started crying for no apparent reason. At first it was unsettling. I began to wonder if I might be losing it altogether. I’d be going about my day: in the car, at the store, any and everywhere and boom! The waterworks would start and I couldn’t stop them. Believe me, I tried. I came to realize I needed to just pray through it and ride it out.
Grief doesn’t know how to tell time.
I believe there are acute and chronic phases of grief, but no timetable is ever observed. There’s its initial invasion when the loss first happens and includes the days and weeks shortly thereafter. For some, it can be the most devastating phase, particularly if the loss was unexpected or sudden. For others, there may be business to attend to: making arrangements, hosting, possibly handling estate matters, etc. There’s no room for grief. There’s too much to be done, too many distractions.
Grief will not be ignored or denied for too long.
Whether we feel its impact right away or some time later, grief will make its presence known. Though I’m certainly not going to tell you how to grieve, my best advice is to make room for it when it shows up.
I would also suggest you try not to isolate. After the initial influx of people and support, things can get very quiet and lonely. People need to get back to their lives and routines. It’s not their fault, but then you may feel left to grieve alone. In those moments, please reach out to someone. If you can’t, please consider reaching out to God. He’s always there to take your call.
Will we ever see our lost loved ones again?
As a Christian, we are fortunate to have hope amid great loss and sorrow. I know I will see my loved ones again. I am certain of it. For believers, we see death as a transition from one plane of existence to another–from this life to the next. We believe we are spirit. Though our natural bodies perish, our spirit lives on. Our years spent on this planet are but a blink of an eye compared to the eternity that awaits us.
You know I brought receipts. (Any and all bible references, unless otherwise indicated, are from biblegateway.com NIV, emphasis added.)
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (1 John 5:11)
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;” (John 11:25)
What these verses so powerfully demonstrate is how Jesus conquered the grave. His sacrificial death and resurrection offers us the opportunity for eternal life. All that is required of us is to accept the gift He gave. You doubt me? Great! Check this out:
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)
My prayer to you, dear reader, is if you don’t know Him, let today be the day you do. If you do know Him and you’re struggling with grief and loss, my prayer is He would send His Comforter (the Holy Spirit) to help you navigate the rough seas.
But how can God understand my loss, my grief, my pain?
Jesus lived on this earth fully divine and fully human. He experienced every emotion and temptation we face. He did not give in to sin, but he was tempted. He felt everything, just as we do. You doubt me again? Great! Check this out:
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. (Isaiah 53:3)
God knows what you’re going through. You don’t have to go through it alone.
As I mentioned earlier, I struggled but I am grateful. No matter what I faced (or will face), I have a Father in heaven who hears me, loves me and will always be there for me from now through eternity. And I have His promise that I will be reunited with my loved ones one fine day. May God’s love comfort you in every difficult situation and goodbye you face.
Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know. And please remember there is One who will never say goodbye to you.
Look forward to hearing from you,