Grief and Hope


(c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / eric1513

Everywhere we look in the world, no matter how remote or distant from us, we find the two great opposing forces of grief and hope. At times, especially when the grief is very near, our initial response at first tends toward the abandonment of hope. It really doesn’t matter if it arrives unexpectedly “out of the blue,” against all expectations, or after a prolonged period of expectation. When it strikes, if we are very near the event, it can tear into the very fabric of our lives. Anyone who has experienced grief of this sort can attest to the power such events can bring to the moment when it occurs, and to the seemingly impassable chasm it can produce between the ensuing grief and the expectation of hope to come.


Every parent in this country, and the many others around the world who have heard of the tragic loss of life in Connecticut this past week know something about this chasm. It doesn’t require being at the center of the tragedy to have a potent effect on the heart and spirit of anyone who has brought children into the world, or who may have grown up alongside other children, or who genuinely loved anyone to the same degree. It grips us all, no matter who we are or what our background might be. Our very humanity pulls at us when such awful events result in the loss that leads to grief. These events are not confined to America, although we seem lately to have suffered a great many such tragedies. There are children dying from violence all over the world. It never makes any sense no matter where it happens–from Connecticut to China, from Afghanistan to Africa, from Gaza to Syria–the innocent victims both young and old and their loved ones must endure this grief, and at some point, all of us–young and old and in between–need to find a way back to hope.


In response to a recent comment about such grief, I replied that “There are no easy answers to our most perplexing sorrows–none that will normally soothe us well while in the grip of such emotions–and so we seek comfort as we can, knowing full well that only time, distance, and the release one may find through acceptance or forgiveness–whichever it is that we need the most–only these few avenues offer any hope for solace.”


“Think of the experience of tending to the fire. Once the fire is fully blazing, either by design like a campfire, or by accident or mishap, when we are up against the flames or too close to the inferno, we feel the intense pain that can burn. If we step away or back off slowly from the source, the heat begins to subside, even though we can still feel the heat for some distance. If we cannot back off far enough to gain release from the heat at first, over time, the fuel is consumed, and the flames subside slowly, until there are only embers which may glow indefinitely. We have been burned by an intense flame of sorrow, and there is no one to blame, and no immediate detour from the pain. The flame will always burn if we are too close, but it will also light up the darkness, and save us from the bitter cold of the winter nights of sorrow.”

May those who grieve this week, no matter where or for whom, find solace in time, and eventually bridge the chasm back to hope.

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