“The Lord is more discerning than the sun: He sees the approaching end of those still alive on earth, and sees the beginning of life for those who have entered into rest. For Him who created the earth from nothing, and man’s body from the earth, there is no difference between the earth’s, or his body’s, being a man’s grave. Grain lying in the field or stored in a granary – what difference does this make to the householder, who is thinking in both cases of the grain, and not of the straw or the granary? Whether men are in the body or in the earth – what difference does this make to the Householder of men’s souls?” – St. Nikolai Velimirovich, “22. The Second Sunday After Easter: The Gospel on the Myrrh-Bearing Women,” Homilies Volume 1: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year
God has received my husband in eternal life. He isn’t swayed by sin any longer, he isn’t suffering in his flesh any longer, the perils of this world can no longer touch him. So what life did he not live if he is now experiencing the life eternal of which we all seek? All of this is not to say that the pain and sorrow one feels in the grieving process is not valid. Even Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus.
So, why do we experience grief?
“Grief itself is something of a mystery, for there doesn’t seem to be any obvious adaptive value to it in an evolutionary sense. It does not appear to increase an individual’s reproductive success. Whatever its value is, grief is the price of commitment, that wellspring of both happiness and sorrow.” -Marc Bekoff, PhD , Grief in animals: It’s arrogant to think we’re the only animals who mourn, Psychology Today
There may not be much evolutionary advantage to grief, but there must be a reason we grieve our loved ones when they leave us even when we know that they are made better in eternal life. I have felt the need to explore this as I navigate my own grief. From a Christian standpoint, I believe that death did not exist before sin. It was after sin that we experienced suffering and death. Only through Christ who, as the ultimate sacrifice for us, conquered death, can we experience eternal life without suffering and sorrow.
“The Lord Jesus, though, shed all His tears for His children, to the last drop – and all His blood to the last drop. Never, O sinner, will more precious tears be shed for you, neither living nor dead. Never will a mother, or wife, or children, or homeland, pay more for you than Christ the Saviour paid.” – St. Nikolai Velimirovich, “22. The Second Sunday After Easter: The Gospel on the Myrrh-Bearing Women,” Homilies Volume 1: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year
So as I believe that death did not exist before sin, perhaps grief has its place now as a way to ultimately express sorrow over sin itself. Like Jesus, we cry over the fall of humanity. Death was not supposed to be natural to us. It is because of the existence of sin that my husband suffered from cancer and passed away. It is because of sin that we experience pain and sickness and death. However, I should not be sorrowful for my husband or for myself. By God’s love for humanity, in Christ’s resurrection, Chris is now in a place of repose, and I while I miss him and my life with him, his support, and his love, I can’t forget to keep my trust in God and seek His support and love for me as I am left here on this earthly journey, before I am called too.
While I believe grief is a way creation laments over the existence of sin and death, I also believe it is a strange process of adaptation to the existence of our loved one that is no longer. In our humanity, we develop physical and emotional attachment, and dependence when we are with our spouse. We are creatures of habit and live in a linear world, so we grieve as we are essentially pitying ourselves and the hole that was created in our life when our loved one left us. This is the part I have struggled with greatly. The pain, the searing pain that cuts through me when I am reminded Chris can no longer return to me. What is this, though? The rational part of my being knows that I do not have to fear for Chris anymore. God called him and that in itself is enough for me to accept his passing. But the love we share here is a gift from God too, and that is something we should allow ourselves to grieve when it is lost.
My priest wrote me recently and I have read his words over and over.
“‘I miss the me I was, before I lost you…’ Saw this quote earlier today and it made me think of you and Christopher. It made me think how much it affirms the wholeness of one flesh that two people become when they are truly dissolved into each other. Some people are not dissolved and fully mixed in. Some folks are thrown together but they don’t mix and it’s easy to pull apart the bits that make them up. When two are truly dissolved into each other, there is no un-dissolving and the loss of one key ingredient makes what’s left unrecognizable as what it was before. That’s how to identify real, enduring, mature, and deeply rooted love. Yes, two folks in a marriage are distinct enough to be able to describe separately but when one is lost, then you take away the context [of the remaining spouse], and their identity is sort of lost. That is a sign of true love that reflects the perfect love of the Holy Trinity. We can speak of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit individually but there is no context for that identity outside of their perfect union which illuminated their distinctness.”
I see the truth in this. Through God, Chris and I loved and were made whole. We were made one with God and as a human being, in my flesh, I feel the pain of having to adapt to a life without Chris. But just like God allowed for our love and oneness, he also allowed for us to be saved in Christ’s resurrection and that is what I need to focus on. Sin and death may have ripped my husband away from me, but by the grace of God, he was called to Him.
We may be of the flesh, but we also have a mind made in the image and likeness of God, and with that, we can strive to push through our grief in peace knowing that we have eternal life to look forward to, and there, we will reunite with our loved ones. Chris and I will be together again, in a more perfect wholeness, and even more dissolved into each other.
So why do we grieve? I believe we grieve to show the world our sorrow over sin and death, and to adapt to an earthly life without the presence of our loved one. But knowing of the greater purpose of this life, we can push through as rational beings, as God intended, and strengthen our spiritual bond with God, and by that, our new spiritual bond with our loved one.
The pain of the stretch lessens as I remember that.