We’ve all experienced grief in some form. The loss of a loved one. The loss of a job, of a home. The loss of an opportunity. The loss of …
Modern psychology and psychiatry asserts that there are necessary stages of grief that we must go through if we hope to ever come out the other side with a semblance of functionality. And it is further asserted that some of these stages could be so severe—such as depression—that the individual needs extended therapy or even psychotropic drugs to just cope with the injurious effects. This view has also permeated the media and institutions—these perspectives being promoted any time there is a tragic event at home or abroad.
And then there is also the popularly held belief that we never really get over the loss—the expectation being that we just manage to struggle forward in our lives with a permanent wound that tears at the fiber of our being whenever the anniversary or other associative elements trigger the recollection of the event. This pronouncement avers that these images and pain will forever echo for the duration of our life and beyond.
But are these claims really true? Are there actual stages of thought that we each must go through to just cope or to manage in order to progress?
Are these really universal laws that we are all bound to?
Or are these simply materially-based, empirical observations that the carnal or mortal mind insists are essential and which it costumes in the robes of rightness and nobility—suggesting that if we are to honor the individual or situation that is lost, we can do nothing other than grieve?
We need to honestly ask ourselves if grief really does demonstrate our love for another, or is it more a fear in a subtle form of selfishness. Are the underlying questions/motives beneath grief instead: “What happens to me now?” “What am I going to do?” “How will I survive?” “What if …?”
This I know: Grief is definitely not sent to us by our all-good and all-loving God, and we therefore can and need to challenge, refute, and be healed of its effects—effects that would attempt to capture and hold us prisoner. Effects that would attempt to keep us from continuing to express divine Love’s freedom that is inherently ours as God’s image and likeness.
In my work as a Christian Science practitioner, and in my own life, I’ve seen far too many people whose lives have been bound in chains by the assertions of grief. And I know from first-hand experience that this doesn’t have to be the case. Indeed, we can be freed of these insidious effects without any dishonor to our loved ones.
When my second wife, Margaret, passed away it was, as you can imagine, a horrific shock. I loved her deeply and still do. She had been ill for a while, but we each expected her full recovery and return to our normal lives. And then, I received a call from the care facility where she was recuperating that she was passing on. I am extremely grateful that I was able to be with her at that moment.
Immediately afterward I felt this crippling emotional blow and this overwhelming sense of grief.
You might be thinking that my response was normal and natural. And perhaps, to a degree, it was, but this doesn’t mean it was right. I instantly felt the need to urgently pray about this because I knew from my study of Christian Science and subsequent spiritual understanding, and my own experience, that death was not a reality—that it could not terminate my wife’s or anyone’s existence since each and every one of us are the image and reflection of immortal Life, of God. I was certain that my dear and precious Margaret was continuing on and was in truth untouched by this event.
The feeling of grief, though, was just so intensely palpable and tenacious. Yet at the same time, it became absolutely clear to me that this wasn’t being generated from my own thinking. It was instead an intrusion—an imposition, if you will—on my thought by the general consensus of the world’s thinking.
I should add this all occurred during the week before Christmas—a usually vibrant and joyous time, but one which was now moving towards a very different significance. I enlisted the help of a Christian Science practitioner to support me in my prayers. I felt impelled to quickly resume my work as well as make all of the necessary arrangements associated with someone’s passing. The list was long.
On the third day—while still fighting off this onslaught of grief that was trying to engulf me—I suddenly saw what was for me the underlying “button” or fear that had triggered it all. I wondered if I had done all that I could have possibly done to help her—to save her. And immediately, on the heels of this, came the clear and uplifting spiritual realization that I had in fact—humanly and spiritually—done all that I could for her.
And with that, the cloud of grief instantly lifted and never returned.
Well—you might be thinking—“Good for you, but what of everyone else?”
As I contacted people that knew Margaret, or as they got in touch with me, a wonderful blessing happened for them, also. Their conversations initially began in tears and deep grief, but when they heard, saw, and felt how sure I was about Margaret’s everlasting life, they immediately were lifted out of that state of thought. Even the minister who had married us and called to console me told me that by the end of our phone conversation my words had instead removed the grief that he was feeling.
Shortly afterward, my life suddenly, and quite to my surprise, took a turn that I would never have expected—all as the result of deep and consecrated prayer to do whatever God wanted me to do with my life. What was it? The woman who would become my third wife, Carolyn, and I intersected. I won’t go into details here, but if you’re interested, Carolyn and I wrote an article for the March 8, 2006 Christian Science Sentinel, “Turning to God led us to each other” which you can read on JSH-Online. What I can tell you is that the ensuing 18-plus years, have been the best of my life!
Do I still think of Margaret? Of course, but it’s always with a profound love and gratitude for her and the time we had together.
Mary Baker Eddy wrote in Science and Health (p. 386):
So, when our friends pass from our sight and we lament, that lamentation is needless and causeless. We shall perceive this to be true when we grow into the understanding of Life, and know that there is no death.
Friends, God is Life and is our life—not grief!