The death of a loved one leaves an indelible mark upon your heart, and forevermore there is something that you carry around with you; it can feel heavy, or dark, and it’s especially around festive periods that the loss can feel most prevalent. As families come together to celebrate, you become even more aware that there’s someone who will be missing.
Now there’s little point in attempting to write a “five ways of dealing with…” post when it comes to such an intimate and personal event. An event which inevitably shakes up your life, often leaving you feeling lost, confused, and angry.
So let this serve not as an article to tell you “how to cope” during this time, but as a personal witness to grief, sorrow, and ultimately, joy.
My sister died when she was seventeen. Nobody knew that she was ill, and nobody expected it. One day she was there, and then the next she was gone.
I remember the morning I found out; I was eight and just like most mornings I went to her room to see her, except instead of finding her in her bed as usual, I found her twin sister laying there in floods of tears. At a young age I saw my family shaken right down to its foundations and the effects have stayed with me since.
Earlier this year – on her birthday – I wrote this poem, titled Nikki.
©Poem by Benedict Hince; Image by Fran Reizl
With the death of my sister I focussed on everything that wasn’t. I thought of all the things that she wouldn’t do, wouldn’t say, wouldn’t see. And in doing so, I completely missed all that she was.
And this for me needed to become the important thing; you see, we can see life as the writing of a symphony. We live and breathe all the delicate notes and melodies, right up until the moment when God finally calls us home – as God called my sister home. And the focus is not that she will no longer add any more to her symphony, rather that we should recognize her symphony is now complete!
In His ultimate goodness and benevolence, God does the one thing that we could never do. He completes our symphony for us, the last note is His, and it’s the most beautiful note in the whole piece.
Because what is a symphony if it never ends? If it never enters into that great silence in which we contemplate ultimate reality, where we become aware of the totality of life that we have just witnessed, and to which we can only respond by filling the hall with applause.
The death of a loved one is hard, it’s painful, and there is no way to get over it. But really, it isn’t something that we need to get over, and that’s because it doesn’t have to be seen as just a darkness or burden.
How could I possibly feel darkness when I know the beautiful melody that was a life dear to me? How could I carry in my heart only sadness when the world was gifted with such an incredible burst of sunshine? Of course, the sadness will stay, and it will be real, but there is a much greater joy which must be recognized, the joy of a life – a life which I was privileged enough to be a part of and to know.
It’s particularly in times of festivity – when many feel the pain of loss all the more – that we should learn to rejoice. For to celebrate a feast, as Pieper said, is to willingly accept the ultimate truth. In spite of the world’s riddles, and even when this truth is beheld through the veil of our own tears, we become aware of our harmony and unity with all that is real.
This includes the reality of Christ’s death and resurrection. It includes the reality of salvation. And it includes the reality of the life of the world to come.
I trust in God. And I pray that anyone who has experienced the loss of someone dear to them finds comfort in knowing that God is in control, that He loves you, and that He loves that person which you loved so dearly, more than you could ever imagine. He called them home to rejoice with Him, and He calls you to rejoice too.